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older-women-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

In Praise of Older Women

Why it’s time to stop concealing your age and start embracing it.

I’m 55. My hair is grey. My skin shows my hard-earned miles on the clock.

And I love it.

I didn’t always feel like this. I’m a reformed age concealer.

Grey hairs made their first appearance in my late 20s. I didn’t think anything of them at first. But when there were so many that removing them by hand would have left a bald patch, I decided to do something about it.

My first foray into the world of hair dyeing involved henna. I mixed up what looked and smelled like a cow pat, and spooned it all over my head. Some time later, when the henna had worked its magic, I surveyed my handiwork and was happy with what I saw. A mop of shiny hair with no grey ones jumping out at me. Result!

It’s fair to say that henna was a gateway product for me. I used it until I stopped getting what I wanted from it. I then turned to the hard stuff. Chemical hair dye. Every four weeks for the next 15 years.

Once you start dyeing your hair — especially if it’s dark — it’s hard to stop. You become a grey-root-a-phobe. All you notice about yourself when your hair needs dyeing are your roots. And everyone else is staring at them, too… you believe. You get used to seeing yourself with hair the same colour as it was when you were in your early 20s. You get used to other people seeing you that way, too.

You get used to looking younger than you are.

You also get used to shelling out a lot of money to keep your habit going. And you get used to chemical warfare being waged on your scalp every month.

One day, after allowing the fountain of eternal youth to seduce me for 23 years, I stopped. I stopped concealing the truth — that I was grey-haired and older than I looked.

It had been brewing for a while. Not on its own, but as part of a much larger issue I’d been encountering.

Ageism.

Ageism entered my life when I was about 45. And has never left. Ageism has many faces. Medical conditions being attributed to age instead of being investigated. Not getting interviews for jobs you’re 100% qualified for. (And finding out later they hired someone with half your experience.) Being given no voice in workplaces espousing equality.

A couple of incidents stand out for me.

When I was in my late 40s, a recruitment consultant told me to “dumb down” my résumé to take 10 years off my age. “Marketing is a young person’s game. Besides, you look much younger than you are so it’ll work”, he told me.

A few years later, I read an article by a millennial career and workplace expert. An advocate for authenticity at work, he discusses how important it is for his generation. Yet, when asked to provide advice for people in their 40s/50s looking for work, he said something like this. Older workers need to cut jobs and accomplishments from their résumés so they appear younger. And must never put their photos on anything! So, authenticity is important for millennials, but not for 50-somethings?

Then there was the sexism that accompanied this. From other women.

When I stopped dyeing my hair, the only negative feedback I got was from women. “Oh my god, why are you doing that! You look so young for your age right now!” “You won’t be hired looking like that!” This ageism/sexism mix shocked me. Let’s be honest, no man would ever get comments like this. Especially not from his own gender.

Even worse was the sense I got from other women that I was ‘letting the side down’. As in letting other women down. It’s so hard to put my finger on why I sensed this, but I did. As did a friend of mine when she stopped dyeing her hair after 30 years. Women would stare at my hair, talk amongst themselves, then stare again.

How dare I do this? How dare I suggest, via my grey hair, that other women my age might also be… my age?

I was gobsmacked, to say the least.

Today, my grey hair is still an issue. I continue to get feedback that more employment doors would open for me if I went back to being a brunette. But I also get comments from young women about how much they love my hair colour. It’s the colour many of them are dyeing their hair to be ‘on trend’. So what’s fashionable for younger women isn’t acceptable for older women?

The lack of acceptance of natural grey hair speaks to a much deeper, more significant issue.

That older people have little value in modern society.

Only women can change this. Not because we’re better than men. But because we’re contributing to this perception more than men. We’re doing so by agreeing to do what society demands of us. By dyeing our hair to conceal the grey. By spending a fortune on anti-aging products. By having cosmetic surgery to tighten up our skin. By not supporting women who stop playing this damaging game.

We have to change this. Fast. Because ever-increasing numbers of older women and men feel like they don’t matter. They worry about their future — their social and financial future. They feel like they’re on the scrap-heap — with nothing of value to contribute.

And they’re wrong.

The wisdom that comes with age is of immense value. The younger generations need this wisdom to help them recalibrate society’s values. They need this life experience to help them navigate the hard times that lie ahead. They need to learn from this expertise gained over decades.

Fellow older women: It’s time to accept your age. It’s time to let go of society’s false notions of age. It’s time to stop devaluing yourself by pretending to be someone you’re not.

It’s time to embrace yourself. As you are.

You are perfect, as you are. Your grey hair is perfect. Your loosening skin is perfect. Your wrinkles are perfect. How you look today is a reflection of everything you’ve accomplished in your life.

You’ve accomplished so much already. And have so much more left to offer.

Be bold. Be an older woman.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

self-worth-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What I Learned from My Long Journey to Self-Worth

How the journey of a lifetime had an unknown destination.

I was 25 and unhappy. And I had no right to be. After all, I had everything anyone could want — a great job, a great education, somewhere to live, amazing friends. Yet, I was unhappy. Which also made me feel guilty and ungrateful.

As soon as I realised that I was unhappy, I promised myself I’d get to the bottom of it. That I would set out on a journey of discovery, which wouldn’t end until I understood why I, someone with everything, wasn’t deliriously happy.

My journey started with a bang. I imposed a ‘do not contact me’ order on a few people in my life who I instinctively recognised were toxic. Two were close family members. From this point on, I knew my journey wasn’t going to make me popular or meet with approval. But that didn’t matter — my promise to myself took precedence over all else.

The bang continued in the form of constant change, much of it, major. I changed jobs a couple of times, then moved 3,500 miles away from my hometown — I really felt I needed the space. For the next 18 years, I carried on changing jobs and moving endlessly. After each change, I’d get another piece of the puzzle and feel happier as a result, but, pretty soon, the unhappiness would return. Sometimes less intensely than before; sometimes more intensely.

I still had no real idea why I was unhappy, but was peeling back the layers of ignorance, one by one. Every now and then, I’d think I’d found the answer. This would manifest as my feeling lighter and happier for a longer period of time than usual. But then something would happen to knock me back down to earth.

After 18 years of being away, I returned to my hometown to look after an ailing parent. The minute I arrived, I knew that my journey was far from over. Every unhappiness button of mine was being pushed by what I was experiencing. This continued for seven long years, fuelled by intense stress and loss.

During that time, I flailed about, not knowing how to make my life feel any better. Until one cold winter’s day when I completely fell apart. I started crying and couldn’t stop. For hours. I had no control over it. When I finally did stop crying, I knew how to make my life feel better. I needed help.

I hated having to ask for help. After all, wasn’t I always the one who did the helping? Someone asked me why I found it so hard to ask for help when I clearly needed it. I, who is never lost for words, was lost for words. That intrigued me.

When I probed this further with people close to me, the question of ‘worth’ came up. “Maybe you don’t ask for help, because you don’t think you deserve to be helped,” observed a friend. “Of course I deserve help! Look at what I’m having to deal with on my own!” was my quick-fire reply. “Of course you deserve help! But do you think you’re deserving of help? Do you believe that you’re worthy of help?” was my friend’s considered response.

Stunned silence was my response this time.

This notion of worthiness sent me down a whole new path on my journey. “What is worthiness?” I pondered. “Is it confidence?”

I didn’t think so. Confidence seemed less deep — it was something you could fake ‘till you made it’. Yet, it was important — it seemed to hold your life together. I noticed — in myself and others — that when you had self-confidence, you were productive. You were both effective and efficient. I also noticed that productivity fed your self-confidence — like begat like. And that self-confidence was fragile.

Relentless stress or a sudden increase in stress levels seemed to be responsible for self-confidence’s fragility. It was as if stress tipped you over an edge into free fall. In free fall, you felt overwhelmed — you were no longer productive — and stuck. You didn’t know how to move forward — how to take yourself back to a place of self-confidence.

I noticed something bigger, too. That when your self-confidence took a hit for any length of time, a deeper part of you also took a hit.

My instinct told me that experiencing this feeling in the deeper place was more serious. It seemed as though poor self-confidence undermined your external self — whereas damage to this deeper place undermined your core self.

Damage to your self-confidence affected your productivity. Damage to your deeper self affected what you thought about yourself.

I could see that this deeper place clearly held the key to what had pushed me on my journey all those years ago. And, over time, I came to understand what it was — and why it was so important.

That deep place was my self-worth.

Your sense of self-worth is at the root of all of your belief systems. And your belief systems drive your behaviour and feelings.

So if you have great self-worth, then you’ll be a largely happy, “I can do anything I set my mind to” kind of person. If you have poor self-worth, you’ll be a largely unhappy, “I have no control over my life” kind of person.

The self-worth spectrum contains endless points, from ‘zero’ at one end to ‘true’ at the other. Building your self-worth takes a strong desire and relentless effort — no matter where you lie on its spectrum. Even if you start out with strong self-worth, it can be eroded by life’s challenges and your response to them.

But once you reach the ‘true self-worth’ end of the spectrum, you stay there. You stay there, because every cell in your body believes you are worthy. That you are worthy of love.

My journey led me to the discovery that love holds the key to everything. Because love is at the root of self-worth. If you believe you are loveable — worthy of receiving love — then you are worthy of receiving everything else. Of receiving help, of receiving remuneration in keeping with the value you add, of receiving kindness. And of truly giving love. Everything flows from love.

With love at its core, true self-worth is humble — it has nothing to prove. True self-worth is limitless — nothing holds it back. True self-worth is full of gratitude and joy. True self-worth is resilient to all of life’s challenges.

I promised myself over 30 years ago to find out why I was unhappy. And I kept my promise.

Because I am worth it.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).