Book Inspiration #4: “How I Look, For My AGE”

As you read through “The Invitation: Rich and Raw Conversations about Aging, Death & Dying” you will discover many inspirational ideas. You’ll also notice themes that will make you reflect about your own aging, death and dying.

One theme that came up in several interviews is How I Look, For My AGE. Not surprisingly, it was mentioned primarily by female participants.

Emily said, “For the most part, I think I’ve aged well. I am 78, but people tell me I look younger. How should I know? I look at myself, and to me, that’s what 78 looks like.

Gabriele, at 67, “I don’t have a problem with saying my age, and — I’m being brutally honest here — it’s because people don’t believe me. So it’s sort of a compliment, but I’ll probably get to the point where I look as old as I am chronologically.”

I also experienced it, especially in my 40s, when I was age-shamed for having lines and grey hair. Listening to someone tell me what I could buy and use to conceal signs of aging, I thought to myself, why would I want to do that? It frustrated me enough that I wanted to do something to explore this societal further, so seven years ago I started the interview project called “Our Thoughts on Aging” which evolved into this book.

Photo credit: Thomas Hafeneth via Unsplash

Photo credit: Thomas Hafeneth via Unsplash

How we look, for our AGE is a negative, ageist message that costs us extraordinary amounts of money. How much money does it cost?

According to Zion market Research, in 2015 we spent US$140.3 BILLION globally on anti-aging products, devices and services intended to hide and deny our age. It estimates that the anti-aging market will surge to US$216.52 billion by 2021 globally.

It also costs us our connection with other women and our sense of community. We are encouraged to compare ourselves to other women, to each other, me and you. It costs us experiencing connection, inclusion and compassion for each other. Let’s dismantle this unrealistic attitude about ourselves and each other.

Do you know how much money you spend on anti-aging products, services and devices? This includes what you spend on skincare, makeup, hair colour, clothing, footwear, accessories, magazines, fitness and diet, entertainment and recreation, etc. intended to help you conceal your age. We are the bread and butter for many of these industries.

Who are we trying to look young(er) for: Our employer, our colleagues, for our career and work, for our spouse, for family, for our community, for our self-image? It’s time to discuss these negative messages that deny our bodies, our histories and our selves. It’s time to talk about our fears of being devalued, loneliness, abandonment, and ugliness and how we spend money on hair colour, skin serums, fillers and polishers, and makeup to stay relevant. It’s time to challenge the anti-aging messages that impact us every day of our adult lives.

One thing we can all do to not say “How I/you/they look, for my/your/their AGE.”

Ageism is not new. Age-related stigma and ageist messages can easily become internalized beliefs about ourselves. If you find that you are scared of looking old or fearful of aging, consider spending time and money on personal growth work. With a therapist, counsellor or life coach, you can grow to understand the internal and external gremlins that natter to you about how (old, ugly, unattractive, etc.) you look. As you become aware of your personal triggers and self-limiting beliefs, you'll be able to shield off judgments and criticism, and abusive comments won’t matter to you. Self-acceptance and self-compassion are tremendous powerhouses against trolls. So is a supportive community of allies and friends, of all ages.

We need to start having conversations about our fear of aging: at home, with our spouse, at work, with friends, with our hair colour technician, with skincare specialists. The Invitation has a chapter filled with reflective questions and ideas for conversation starters.

In her New York Times article, Working to Disarm Women’s Anti-Aging Demon, Ashton Applewhite writes:
“Join forces against ageism the way we mobilized against sexism in the 1960s and ‘70s. For movements to have power, their members have to embrace the thing that is stigmatized, whether it’s being black, loving someone of the same sex, or growing old. That means moving from denying aging to accepting it, and even to embracing it.”

Join my colleague and friend, Allyson Woodrooffe, and me for a conversation about these topics and much more at our free webinar on Tuesday, November 21, at 7:30 pm ET (Canada) through Zoom. It promises to be a great conversation. Register today, there are only a few spots left!