Have you ever found yourself saying to yourself, or to someone else, “Act your age”? What does that mean anyway? Does it mean that if we are a certain age, or have a certain status in “society” that it is not okay to be playful or silly? Does it mean that it’s not okay to spontaneously dance in our living room? Does it mean that if we look great in jeans, or heels, that it’s not okay to wear them because of our age? Does it mean that after a certain age it’s not okay to listen and enjoy current music?
No one has determined an age limit to behaviors we enjoyed in our youth, yet many of us have beliefs, whether they are conscious or unconscious, that at a certain age we need to stop doing some things and think in a different way.
I’m not talking about an adult who is immature. I am talking about an adult who is a contemporary thinker, young at heart and spirit, and enjoys life to the fullest despite their age. I’m talking about allowing ourselves the natural inclination to be who we truly are.
Do You Act as Old as You Are, or as Old as You Feel?
Do you feel like the age you truly are? Is how you think, feel, and act in alignment with what others, and your own perceptions, are regarding your age? How do you reconcile the difference? Do you feel compelled to act the way you believe you “should” act given your age? Do you follow the expectations of how you “should” behave based upon whatever your perceived status may be in your community, or society in general? Or are you allowing yourself to be truly who you are despite this notion?
Are You Being True to Yourself?
If you’re not being true to yourself, you might be depriving yourself of the little joys in life. You don’t have to retire activities that brought you happiness in your youth just because you feel you’ve capped the age limit.
- Do you feel out of step with your contemporaries because you may tend to suppress your true self?
- Do you “fake your feelings or actions” to avoid behaving in a way which might be perceived as younger than you are, even if you may be completely comfortable with yourself, and your views, taste and interests?
- Do you feel younger at heart, soul, body, mind, and spirit than the people who are in your age bracket and socioeconomic status?
- Is there a sense of alienation because those of a similar age bracket, and societal position, are in a very different place than we are?
Do You Sit with the Crowd? Or Dance to the Beat of Your Own Drum?
I know for some of us feeling self-conscious may keep us from doing certain things because of the fear that doing so would ruin our sense of belonging. We want to fit in and be accepted by our peers. For others there are judgments around what is okay for certain ages, or if one has certain status in the community, and what is not acceptable.
We might fear being judged by others who wouldn’t see someone experiencing joy as acting impulsively, but might instead disapprove of our spontaneous actions. Who says that an attorney can’t sing karaoke? Or that a professor can’t lighten a lecture with a joke? Or that if an accountant looks good, and feels good, in those youthful jeans that they shouldn’t wear them with pride?
“This concept of how you feel about your age is so important and defines, in a way, how we act. If you self-define yourself as someone who is old, then you probably act that way.’’ ~Dr. Jacqui Smith psychologist at the University of Michigan
You’re Never Too Old to Embrace Your Inner Child
I remember walking through the park one day and having the urge to go on a swing. I didn’t stifle this desire because I thought I was “too old” to swing. I don’t believe we’re ever too old to enjoy swinging. So my friends and I got on those swings and we had a blast. If I had squashed my desire to do this, I would have been depriving myself of something enjoyable.
Adults tend to be more comfortable reverting to child-like behavior when they are with children. This playtime is fun, and this behavior is acceptable. How come we view someone differently who is being playful when they’re not with a child?
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes we look at a person and have preconceived notions of who they are by the way they dress, and by how they present themselves in their speech and actions. We make preconceived notions and assumptions about them. We determine how one “should” behave or respond in a situation based on these perceptions.
I remember someone telling me that they thought I must like classical music because I seemed so intelligent and articulate. This was his perception of me. Although there is nothing wrong with classical music, my music leans toward Imagine Dragons, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Adam Levine.
Is 50 the new 30?
In today’s world people of a certain age seem to have a younger feel than in the past. People in their fifties and sixties have a younger feel than twenty years ago. Years ago everyone liked the same music, most wore clothing based on their age. Nowadays, our culture is beginning to embrace the expression of our individual selves to some degree.
Knowing one’s self comes with time and life experience. If you’ve decided you like who you are inside, don’t deprive yourself of the joy of expressing your authentic self. There is only one you, and no matter what the calendar deems as your age, many of the things that brought you joy as a child, or an adolescent, might still bring you happiness today. Go ahead and dance like no one’s watching, and if they are, ask them to join you.
If you struggle with suppressing your true self because you don’t feel comfortable, or you fear disapproval or rejection, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance and Counseling located on Long Island can help you find your youthful joy. Our licensed therapists have helped many people gain comfort in living and acting as their authentic selves on the inside and the outside.