By Amanda Warren
Getting old isn’t for the faint-hearted, and no one should feel ashamed for not lovingly embracing it; but ignoring its challenges certainly can make it a whole lot worse for us in the long run. What can make it especially difficult is the pressure we feel from so many sources to compete with our former younger selves in addition to competition with everybody else. Ugh.
We can choose to ignore this pressure – or at least to not let it get the best of us. This can be done by choosing to not be overly self-conscious or self-critical, as well as by not taking ourselves too seriously. But it takes experience to fully understand how that style of intense self-absorption can backfire. Of course, it also takes experience to fully understand when it’s a bad time to be completely free of inhibitions. So experience is actually a huge advantage to getting older. If nothing else, we can all lovingly embrace that we know more than we did when we were younger.
Art tends to imitate life. Many of us know people like these older TV and film characters who experience moments of joy and liberation when they are not being overly self-conscious, self-critical, or taking themselves too seriously. After all – nobody’s perfect so why take ourselves too seriously? When people live long enough, they get old. Case closed. In fact, humor can be a solid foundation to build upon.
- 1991 Fried Green Tomatoes
- 1993 Grumpy Old Men
- 1995 Grumpier Old Men
- 2003 Calendar Girls
Experience also teaches us that we feel better when we take care of ourselves – body, mind, and soul. Healthy aging includes making different and better choices than we did when we were younger. The payoff is that we often feel better emotionally and spiritually – and sometimes even physically compared to our younger bodies.
No one is supposed to physically be able to look and feel exactly like they did when they were young. At the same time, we may not want or need to do everything we once did. I used to love rides at the amusement park. I haven’t wanted to do that since high school. In fact, just the thought of those rides makes my neck hurt. I’d rather go to a regular park and not feel any pressure to do anything other than taking my time to enjoy the scenery.
Another wonderful benefit of aging is the wealth of knowledge we accumulate from trial and error, as well as better development of our B.S. detector. This directly applies to nutrition and physical performance where the fad of the week attempts to convince us that one size fits all for our dietary and exercise requirements. No gluten? More carbs? More protein? No eggs? Certainly never milk, right? Not too much fruit. No meat? More meat? Exercise 3 days per week? 5 days per week? Never more than 30 minutes at a time? It all can actually place undue stress and fatigue simply trying to determine which “program” is right. And, as we know, stress is the silent killer.
As we age, we can hear the voice of intuition more clearly — combined with concrete knowledge — that helps guide us along a path toward feeling our best with the most frequency possible. Getting older can definitely be a drag, no doubt. But we can make it easier on ourselves if we choose to learn from those past experiences and apply them to our current lives. In this way, the path toward true health can actually become clearer each passing day.
Experience can teach us, for example, that life is easier and more joyful when we are less self-conscious but more conscious in general. Experience can teach us that we feel better when we take care of ourselves based on our own personal plan that incorporates our own personal traits and needs.
Taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions, being patient, exhibiting grace, and expressing gratitude can also be liberating. Recently Janet Jackson was given a Billboard Icon award. After singing and dancing a medley of some of her biggest hits, she gave a speech which undoubtedly brought many of her long-time fans to tears. It was all about gratitude.
Those of us who grew up with “Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty” are glad to see someone now in her 50s continuing to perform well and exhibit so much grace. Even with all of her success, she has experienced heartbreak and struggle, just like the rest of us. She seems to be making healthy choices, though, and it shows.
The same could be said for many of the people we know personally who are making healthy choices. When someone is legitimately in tune with their health needs, they are clearly more youthful, vibrant, and joyful. Those are the people we can and should take inspiration from, even as we aim to inspire others by becoming the best version of ourselves.
We all get older if we live long enough. Try to enjoy the journey along the way, and enjoy those who are with you for the ride.
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