We live in interesting times marked by a strong sense of uncertainty and unpredictability. It seems as though the rules are being rewritten. However, with change often come opportunities and a new order of things.
Yet the fear of the unknown has the power to paralyze us in the present, pushing away our hopes and dreams. Our logical mind chastises us for our fears as it is impossible to predict what may occur in the future. Instead of enjoying the here and now our fear robs us of the present as we’re caught in the web of an imagined future with all its doom and gloom.
Fear comes in so many disguises and a powerful fear is that of standing out and defying the norms and expectations as dictated by society. We feel uncomfortable to go against the flow and will often keep silent rather than speak up and be the odd one out. I was reminded this week of exactly that.
I have been on a mission to redecorate a number of rooms in my house. Contemplating colour schemes for my kitchen, my instinct was to be bold and go for strong colours. I immediately felt the fear of non-conformity and what the reaction of others might be. Anyone who knows me will testify that I am very comfortable with going against the grain. Yet, here I was reacting to a fear of rejection and possible criticism of my unconventional tastes.
Our social conditioning is very strong and capable of suppressing the playful child within us. As we get older that voice is ever present to remind us of how we should behave, what we can and can’t do and what society expects of us as the older generation. Not to mention all the perceived disadvantages associated with getting older.
We begin to fear the decline of our physical as well as our mental health and what we consider to be the inevitable constraints on what we might be capable of doing in the future. The ultimate fear, of course, is death. There is a balance to be struck between accepting that with getting older our bodies require different treatment versus giving up on playfulness, optimism and the enjoyment of a new phase of life.
From personal experience, our 50s is a critical time for us to learn to deal with the fear of getting older. We have a foot in both camps. We are not in the flush of youth, yet we are not what we might consider a senior citizen. It is therefore the perfect time to deal with the unrealistic fear of getting older and to tame the beast before it deprives us of our dreams and enjoyment of a life beyond the daily toil of earning a living.
Ageing is particularly daunting to us women. Given the messages we receive throughout our lives in terms of our appearance, the fear of getting older looms large and menacing. We fear the loss of our looks and the gravitational pull, which will inevitably result in saggy breasts, wrinkles, dry skin, expected weight gain, the inability of gracefully teetering around in stilettos and worst of all, becoming invisible.
It is worth reminding ourselves that being young was not as idyllic as we remember, nor is growing old as wretched as the stereotypes would have us believe. If we feel good about how we look and how we feel, we’ll be much more open to new experiences, people and opportunities.
I leave you with the idea of embracing whatever age you are and to be fearless after 50 as fear will stop you from pursuing your dreams and keep you a prisoner in the grey zone of conformity.