How to Stop Letting Perceptions about Time & Age Paralyze You

The concept of time is a funny thing. I don’t mean to get philosophical so quickly here, but have you ever thought about how humans are the only species on the planet who keep track of time in the way that we do? We keep a calendar and associate important events in our lives and in history to certain dates. We structure almost all of our daily tasks around times of the day and give ourselves deadlines like our lives depend on it. We even “spring forward” or “fall back” as seasons change, and adjust our clocks twice a year in order to make better use of daylight. Sure, other mammals and species might have routines that they complete at certain times of the year for their survival, but you don’t see a lion looking at a watch and telling himself to go hunting zebra for dinner before sundown.

True to form, mankind’s attitudes towards time are just as obsessive when keeping track of our own personal clocks. Our society puts so much emphasis on age. From the moment we are born, we are held to benchmarks and expectations about what we should be doing and by when. “Your baby should be crawling within 6-12 months!” “He/she should be talking after a year!” When you really think about how early on it starts and how long it lasts, it’s actually mind-blowing.

When Did It Get So Trendy to Call Ourselves Old?

I’m not totally sure why, but it feels like the pressures surrounding age and time have become more magnified now in today’s social-media driven world, even though life expectancy in the U.S. is longer than ever and we’re able to do so much more with our time than generations before us. It’s become trendy to call ourselves old. It’s become funny to say that our backs and knees hurt because we’re “over 30.” I even see people in their 20s calling themselves old on TikTok and encouraging others to start getting Botox or fillers to preventatively fight “aging.” Nothing wrong with Botox or filler, but…does that topic really need to be a priority for someone so young? Aren’t there so many other things someone in their 20s could be talking about and focusing on? Most importantly, since when was being in your 20s considered old?!

What’s even more unfortunate to me is that I see more girls and women talking about “being old” rather than men. These women have so much to offer, yet they’re harping on things like age and sabotaging themselves for no reason. We already know that society is less sympathetic to women in almost every way, especially when it comes to aging. So many women are further perpetuating those bullshit expectations and letting it weigh on them, instead of standing up to them, doing their own thing, and thriving. As a fellow woman and a personal coach who helps women build confidence, break limiting beliefs and accomplish their goals, it’s frustrating to see.

5 Concepts to Rewire Your Perceptions About Time

I could go on and on about this problem, but I enjoy finding (or creating) solutions. How do we not let perceptions about age paralyze us or make us feel like we are behind? How do we put an end to the self-deprecating humor and stop secretly believing that we are so much older than we are? Read on for a few concepts and prompts that might help you change this mindset.

Time and age are more abstract than we think.

Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are.

Muhammad Ali

We already established that humans are the ones that keep track of time so obsessively. Sure, there are basic things that dictate time, like sunrise and sundown, or our own biological clocks that affect everything from fertility to sleep cycles. I’m not discounting science or Mother Nature, and we’ll get back to the biological clock in a moment. But in regards to our universally-used Gregorian calendar, we could straight up be in another decade or century and not even know it. Time and subsequently, age, are man-made concepts, and therefore come with man-made barriers and limitations. What if you were to think of the concept as something more fluid and abstract?

Let’s say you just turned 45. We associate meaning to these milestones, but does it actually mean anything? Can you see 45? Can you feel 45? Maybe in some physical ways, but does it have anything to do with the actual number? What if your 45 doesn’t look or feel like another person’s 45? Ask yourself these questions before letting your mind spiral. I know it’s uncomfortable at first, because it goes against one of the most fundamental things we’ve been taught since we could process information. But the more you start thinking this way, the more natural it will feel and the more open you will be to this fluid frame of thought.

Constant fear of getting “old” means we stop looking forward to anything in the future.

Imagine how awful that must feel? There is so much to look forward to in all phases of life, but if we’re constantly stressing about getting older and our age, we can’t possibly enjoy much in the moment or look forward to what lies ahead. Do you honestly want that for yourself? Life doesn’t peak at 17. You don’t experience your happiest memories by 30. There is still so much to look forward to! Find solace in that fact and let yourself feel excited for the things that haven’t even happened yet.

Alternatives exist all around us. Train yourself to be open to more than one possibility.

Let’s circle back to our biological clocks, specifically in regards to women and our fertility. Yes, it does exist. No, it doesn’t exist in the rigid confines that society likes to portray, as explained in this great article by You are not suddenly infertile the day you turn 35. Through modern scientific research, we’ve realized that there likely is more time than one might think to conceive naturally. There are also reasons other than age that might impact a woman’s fertility. Furthermore, there are so many more options available today for a woman to have children later, if that’s what she wants.

The idea is to be open-minded. And this goes for anything in life. Staying open-minded and keeping expectations fluid (there’s that word again) is the key to happiness and peace of mind. Maybe you thought you’d have kids by 25. But you ended up landing an amazing job and having the opportunity to travel around the world for several years instead. You’re 40 now, but in a stable, loving relationship and feel truly ready to have children. Adjust your expectations and be open to the possibilities. Enjoy the process. You’re exactly where you should be, and you have options.

Imagine calling yourself old in front of a 90-year old.

Seriously, though, imagine calling yourself old in front of someone who’s actually old. How bizarre and borderline offensive would that be?! Would you even dare to do so? Probably not. The next time you’re tempted to tell yourself you can’t do something because of your age, or you want to make fun of yourself in front of others for “getting old,” picture an actual old person listening to you talk. I can’t think of a better motivator to kindly STFU and appreciate how much time you actually have left.

Your clock is your clock. Your life is your life.

We hear this everywhere, but the key is to actually believe it. Visualize that every person on the planet has a personal clock in their back pocket that is ticking to their own timeline. Your timeline can look radically different from another person’s timeline, and that’s okay. Pursue the things you want, do not stress about the things you don’t have yet, and enjoy the process of living life and of becoming. Getting older shouldn’t hold you back. If anything, it should make you more eager to get going.

Additional Thoughts

If you need another boost to help you rethink your perceptions about age, here’s a list of 7 celebrity women who found success and/or love after the age of 30:

  • Amal Clooney was 36 when she married George.
  • Anna Wintour didn’t land her job at Vogue until age 39.
  • Rihanna got pregnant with her first child at 33.
  • Vera Wang debuted her first dress designs at age 40.
  • Maya Angelou was 41 when she published her first autobiography.
  • Sofia Vergara landed her role in “Modern Family” at 37 (and married Joe Manganiello at 43).
  • Martha Stewart got her own TV show at age 52.

So there you have it. I implore you to stop giving into the current trends and self-deprecating humor of calling yourself old when you still have so much life to live. Even if you’re reading this and you’re older than 50, you still have time. Let yourself have things to look forward to. Be open to new paths and possibilities. Pursue what you want and fuck society’s expectations and silly timelines. One day, if you have the privilege, you will actually be old. Do you want to look back on your life and realize you spent most of it calling yourself old instead of actually doing things with your time?

“The way I see it, every year can be a brand new journey. Think about it: You get one chance to be 25, 38, 44, 61 and every age before and between. Why wouldn’t you want to experience all the wonder in each step on your path?”

Oprah Winfrey
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