When I was a young kid, I remember wondering why women on TV and in movies would make jokes about lying about their age or not wanting to admit their age. I thought it was so stupid; who cares how old you are? I completely, totally did not comprehend why it was a bad thing to admit your age as an adult woman.
Well, now that I’ve been on the wrong side of 30 for a while, I get it. For me, the age hesitation is not because I’m ashamed or don’t want people to know. It’s more like I personally can’t believe how old I am! How did this happen? When did I become old!? Also, I don’t want people to judge me or think of me differently once they know my age.
When I was a younger person–say in my early 20s–if someone “old” (like 35+) talked to me in a social setting, I might be pleasant to them, but deep down I’d be wanting to get away and find people my age to socialize with. Why did I care what this old person had to say? It’s weird to be on the other side of that. If I find myself talking to a younger person, I wonder if they are thinking the same thing, “Why do I care what this old person has to say?”
And regarding aging: I feel like my entire identity is changed. For my first 29 years, part of my identity was “young person.” So many things accompanied that youth: I could blame things on being young and naive, I could expect to be looked at a certain way by the opposite (or same) sex, I was treated like I was fun and full of life, and that my future was wide open. Then, that part of the identity I knew my entire life was gone. I can no longer list “young” in my personal adjectives. I am expected to act the way a 30-whatever woman is supposed to act; continuing to act like a young person is gauche and embarrassing.
Sometimes I’ll look at a trendy piece of clothing in a store and have to remind myself: Oh yeah–I forgot. I’m old. I can’t wear that any more.
Dr. Elaine Aron says that us HSPs may be more aware of the subtle changes that happen to us as we age, because, as you know, we are just really aware of everything. The first thing I noticed around age 30 was my face: one day, I realized the skin on my face didn’t have a glow to it–it looked dull. The crazy thing is, I never realized there was EVER a GLOW, until it was GONE! Suddenly, I understood the phrase, “youthful glow”. And just as suddenly, all the products I’d ever seen advertised for fighting aging made sense—I was now the target market for the aging/cosmetic products I’d formerly rolled my eyes at.
Then there is the cynical knowledge that it’s all downhill from here. Up until 30, everything was great. I found my first gray hair recently and it scared me. I don’t know why—I mean, it’s inevitable. But it was like realizing that I was officially starting the process of becoming old. I will get more and more gray hairs until it’s all gray. The best I ever looked or felt has already happened. That was the top of the peak. Now, everything is down from there.
My husband Jim is older than me, but he doesn’t share any of these thoughts and concerns. None of this bothers him. He figures, “Why worry about something inevitable–something I can’t change?” I wish I could feel that way. He also said something cool: “Although your physical appearance might change, you become a more interesting person when you get older because you’ve been through more. That’s something to look forward to.”
That’s nice. But of course, aging leads to the Great Inevitability, and isn’t that the root of it all? Aging leads to our eventual death. Death is scary. Death Bad.
But then Aron writes something super interesting that takes my mind off death. Most HSPs “…find it important to be unique. The stages at the beginning and end of life are very confining in that regard…That inevitability can take away one’s sense of individuality.” source
Basically, us humans come into the world and exit the world in a similar fashion. HSPs like being unique, and death is the great equalizer that shows we are the same as everyone else.
She so hits the nail on the head with the uniqueness comment! When I think about it, I do find it important to feel unique. I’ve never liked feeling like I was doing what everyone else was doing, or that I was doing what I was supposed to do or expected to do. I guess this all boils down to a fear of being similar to everyone else. If I’m not unique, then what am I? If I am like everyone else, who am I?
Getting older means being less unique. When you are young, your future is wide open. You can do anything. But in middle age, the “typical” ideal is the person who has a job they go to every day, a house, a spouse, kids, and a life that looks pretty much the same, day after day. That is scary to me. I don’t know why. I don’t want to live the hum-drum life that is sort of expected of me and everyone. Why am I afraid of a typical life?
But I digress.
Let’s look on the positive side of being an HSP who is getting old!
Dr. Aron points out that because us HSPs are detail-oriented and whatnot, we are more likely to age well. We’ll save money, have insurance, and follow our doctor’s orders: get exercise and eat well. So that’s good. She says we also tend to get more sensitive as we age.
Has aging affected you in a positive or negative way? Do you think it’s connected to fearing a loss of your uniqueness?