If you aren’t aging, you aren’t living, so drop the shame and embrace the journey – The Topeka Capital-Journal

A recent Facebook post grabbed my attention. It was one of those quotes that I could have and should have written myself.

It said: “I’ve never understood people being ashamed of their age as if it’s some sort of failure. Every damn number should be celebrated. And if it’s a high number, you’re winning, not losing!”

Aging is what humans do. That new grandbaby is aging right along with you.

Our western culture is so cruel when it comes to aging. This attitude is not a universal phenomenon. I was visiting with a man born in China who described growing up with multiple generations in his home. The most important and revered person in their home was his grandmother. She was the elder and influencer of the household.

Can you imagine having the bragging rights in the family as you age?

Have you ever felt ashamed about your age? I remember someone teaching me the difference between the words shame and guilt. Guilt results from doing something wrong and feeling badly about it, which might entail making amends. But shame often comes from the feeling that you’ve done something wrong even if you haven’t.

If we are growing old, we’ve done something right — many people don’t get that privilege. So no one should feel age shame.

Maybe you have encountered age discrimination at work; in some industries, you can be aged out at 50 years old. Or perhaps you’ve been passed by for a job because you are older. There has been a long-standing policy of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ in many circles.

There are plenty of reasons to have negative feelings like anger, frustration and irritation, but not shame.

A television ad frequently runs where an attractive older woman brags, “Age is just a number, and mine is unlisted!” as she smugly drinks her protein shake. It irritates me every time. The advertiser is playing into this negative stereotype as if age is something to hide.

Shame is toxic to our health. So much research tells us today that our attitude about aging will directly influence our health. Recent studies show evidence that a positive attitude about aging can give us approximately 7.5 additional years of life. I don’t see how it is possible to have a positive attitude towards aging and lie or conceal your age simultaneously.

Harriet Lehner, Ph.D., author of the best-selling book “The Dance of Anger,” wrote an article in Psychology Today titled, “Do you have Age Shame?”

She writes, “To invite joy and happiness in, we can break the vicious circle of shame, silence, stigma, and secrecy that surround who we truly are. And that includes how old we are. Women have long been shamed for growing older — which is, after all, everyone’s wish. Women have actually been taught to conceal their age, to joke and even lie about it, to treat it as a shameful little secret.”

Aging is just another word for living, and living a long time is a gift to be celebrated. Remember, you’re the winner, not a loser when you grow old.

So carry your age proudly. You might even start bragging about it!

Find Connie’s book, “Daily Cures: Wisdom for Healthy Aging,” at www.justnowoldenough.com. 

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