I recall being very excited on the eve of my 30th birthday when so many of my friends were dreading theirs. The reason? I honestly believed once I hit 30 I would ‘just know it’. All the jumbled up pieces would fall into place. Aging would provide all the answers. I would be welcomed with open-arms into that ‘knowledge-club’ belonging to those confident, self-assured post-20s women, whom I so aspired to be. You know the type – they positively ooze confidence from their very pores!
An older friend scoffed at my naivety, but let me bask in my momentary madness anyway.
Imagine my disappointment on waking the next day only to discover not a thing had changed! Not one single thing. Except I was older.CLAIRE
Why did it take me into my 40s to acquire this knowledge and self confidence?
Or, indeed, to become a more accepting version of me? And why do some women positively dread their birthdays? Age is just a number, right? When I am asked my age these days I have to stop and think about it and do the maths. Not because my memory fails me, but because I genuinely do not give a hoot how old/young I am. I do care about how I feel though. And with my current post-exercise pulled-muscle dodgy shoulder, I have to admit to feeling older than I care to. So does how we think of ourselves impact our age?
To Age gracefully or not?
To illustrate this point let me tell you about a couple of my friends. They look after themselves in very different ways. They are both around 50. One is a self-confessed exercise junkie. She regularly works out and works hard at it. She spends lots of money on her appearance and invests plenty of time in herself. She’s a bit like me – sees herself as a work in progress. She admits despite enjoying the process, its all rather a lot of hard work though and expresses this in frowns across her brow!
The second lady is a polar opposite. She’s almost an old hippy (her words not mine!). She has never seen the inside of a gym and is what you may call ‘a natural beauty’. Her long grey hair has a kind of wildness to it, but it suits her somehow. She breezes around with a smile on her face like she hasn’t a care in the world and has an enviable serenity about her. She may have deeper wrinkles than my other friend but they are in all the right places and tell her story. I’d go so far to say they add to the grace with which she carries herself.
Bizarrely, despite her wrinkles, she seems somewhat ageless. I think it’s because her eyes are bright with life and her smile infectious. She is having fun aging and is clearly enjoying herself and her life. She looks like she has attained that elusive, inner confidence we all strive for. You know the kind : The ‘I am confident in my own skin and don’t give a fig what anyone thinks’ type.
A negative mindset
I regularly see a lady on the school run whom I don’t doubt that lady luck may have failed to grace her with her presence and that maybe she’s made some life choices which have proved not very beneficial to her. But every single time I see her, my cheery “Hello” is always met with a “You’ll never guess what’s happened now…” To the point where my spirits dip when I see her. I was very surprised to learn she was several years younger than me – in fact, she looks at least 10 years older than her actual age. I know stress can play a major part in how we look and that it not only ages the face but ravages the body too. But more than anything it’s her attitude which ages her.
As an example, I shall throw myself into the mix. When my daughter was only 3 she spent so much time in the local hospital I was convinced we were going to get investigated by social services! She had several rather serious accidents (front teeth knocked to 90 degrees – twice, badly scalded shoulder…). Let’s just say if an accident is going to happen it will happen to her!
Amidst all these accidents and trips to the hospital she developed a serious swollen knee which made her look like she had one elephant leg and one super skinny one. Over the course of 6 months, my husband and I almost took residence in the hospital as we worked our way around all the departments trying to figure out what was going on with her leg.
The impact of stress
Eventually, she was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Arthritis! She was 3! That’s a condition old people get isn’t it? Actually no, it’s a lot more common in children than we think. The day we were told, not only did the whole world stop turning and cave in on us, we also aged 10 years – there and then.
To cut a long story short, she underwent an operation followed by Physio Therapy and regular check up examinations for 9 years and is due to be completely signed off at her next check up. Yippee! (I can’t thank the brilliant NHS Consultant and the dedicated, diligent staff of Wythenshawe Hospital and the Royal Eye Infirmary, Manchester enough – they are utterly fabulous!)
The stress we underwent during this time not only aged me in appearance, but, unbeknownst to me, it had ravaged my body internally too. I held that stress in my body, without realising it, for 2 years afterwards and suffered 2 miscarriages as a side affect. It is often said stress is a silent killer and it really is. The key is to try to manage any stress you are feeling before it runs riot in your body and causes illness.
It was my positive, half glass full mentality which got me through. Even in our darkest moments, there was I scrambling around to find the positive as I firmly believe theres a positive in every negative. Through our experience, we learnt the incredibly valuable lessons of resilience and unity. We’re an incredibly close little unit.
So, bearing all this in mind, it makes me think: Is aging all in the mind?
Personally, I think it’s a bit of both. Obviously there are other contributing factors: namely, diet and lifestyle. But life’s stresses do play their part, right? I still believe if you think yourself younger, you act younger and appear younger. What’s your take? Should we care about aging? Does how we think of ourselves – how confident we are in our own skins – impact how others see us? If that’s the case, then I am seriously going to give my mindset some TLC and try to channel that youthful, energetic 28 year old carefree dancing queen I once was (before the kids came along!), if only in an attempt to shake off this tiresome bad shoulder injury!
Care to join me?
Let me know your take on this by sending in your comments…