#4 – About Age and Self-Perception

I’m liking this random picking of questions.  Most of the ones I’ve picked so far are ones that I would not pick by choice, so I am being coaxed to consider odd thoughts and ponder out of the box questions.  Today’s question is #4:  How old would you think you are if you didn’t know how old you are?

What an odd question.  I have to wonder first of all, why I wouldn’t know how old I am because I’m sure that would affect how old I would think I am.  Have I suddenly lost my memory and so have no idea how old I am?  Or do I just have no understanding of age and how it advances?

We judge a person’s age by so many different criteria:  appearance, health, how they behave, what they are doing in their lives, the people they seem to hang around with.  We don’t really have a reliable measure.  Look at the picture I’ve posted above.  How old would you think those women are?  Apparently they are the same approximate age but I would guess that one is in her 80s and the other in her 60s.  There is such a radical difference in their physical appearance.

Some people are young at heart no matter what their chronological age.  They are willing to take on new challenges and try new things.  They seem younger for it.  Other people become stuck in their ways and seem old before their time.  I hope I’m one of the young at heart.

They say that 60 is the new 40.  I agree that people of 50 and 60 seem far younger now than when I was young, and I don’t really think it’s only because now I’m up there myself.  When I was 21 I knew a woman named Edith who turned 50.  I remember on her birthday I said, “Wow, you’re half a century old.”  I was in awe.  But even now, thinking back, she seemed very old.  Of course, Edith is an old name and she probably seemed old when she was 15.

When I turned 60, someone told me that 60 was the new 40 and I said ‘Bullshit’.  When you hit 60, there’s no getting around it, you are getting up there.  Not very long ago, I told my boss that I had decided to start acting my age.  He was shocked and cautioned me.  He said, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?”  I was surprised by his response but it turned out that he thought I meant that I was going to take on some ‘older’ views and stereotypes and he thought I was making a mistake.  I assured him that wasn’t what I meant at all.  I just wanted to start acting more ladylike and quit swearing.  But I changed my mind anyway.

I remember when my son was about to turn 8, he was all excited that he was about to be EIGHT YEARS OLD!  I told him, ‘Hold on a minute!  You don’t think it’s automatic do you?”  He asked me what I meant and I told him that I had to send in a form to the government to prove that he was mature enough to turn 8.  From that day forward for about a month, every morning he would come downstairs and ask me if I had sent in the form.  I would always say ‘No, sorry I forgot’ or ‘No, I can’t find the form.’  I thought it was very funny.  Eventually I gave in and told him the truth.

I would have thought that it was just a funny practical joke but at his wedding in Cuba a few years go, when he was giving a little speech at the dinner time, he said, “You all think my mum’s so great.  You all feel sorry for her for having to raise me (because he’s so well known as a pratical joker), but you have no idea what she’s really like.”  And then he told that story and I felt really bad.  I had no idea that perhaps he was truly stressed about me thinking he wasn’t mature enough to turn 8 and not sending in the paperwork.

So if there was some criteria and we did actually have to send in the paper work before we moved up a notch in the age ladder, how old would I be.  Well knowing my propensity for putting things off, I’d probably still be about 29.  And that’s fine with me.  It’s about how old I feel anyway.

15 thoughts on “#4 – About Age and Self-Perception

  1. This question stood out for me when I read your book. I found it hard to put an age to myself as each year had a history to it; some of which I wouldn’t mind visiting again, and others I wanted to steer clear of.
    As you say in your blog the question brings up perceptions of what one can or can’t, should or should’t do at a certain age.
    And I say – Balls!
    Let go of whatever perception you have attached to an age – and for me the attachment to a point in my life.
    With years comes wisdom, confidence and courage to do and think what you want regardless of what others think you should be doing or thinking.
    We all have that wisdom inside us but fail to apply it because we don’t stop to think about the type of life that would be fulfilling for us – we’re so busy filling up our lives to please others.
    Age is irrelevant – live your life to the full whatever decade you’re chronological age falls in.
    Live by your own rules and regulations according to what has meaning for you.
    Philippa Ross
    Energy Health Consultant
    Cherish Wellbeing

    • Great answer Philippa! I agree. I absolutely live by my own rules, whether other people like them or not. Surprisingly, my son, who now is 40 (I sent in the paperwork) seems to be so mature all of a sudden. On the one hand he’s silly and young at heart and still a terrible practical joker (I don’t know where he got that from). On the other hand, he’s all mature and serious. Perhaps it’s because he’s now a father. Maybe it’s because he’s a firefighter. Or maybe it’s because I’m older and he wants me to act my age. He doesn’t want me to get a motorcycle for some reason. He seems to worry about me a lot so I think he must be worried about my age.

  2. I love this idea, what a fun post and that bit about your son turing 8 is gold! I would go so far as to say that one IS as old as one thinks one is, forget the number of times around the sun.

    Somewhere along the line we got the idea that as we mature, we eliminate silly childhood things… when in reality maturity is the ability to act without compulsion. Maturity is to truly choose and to celebrate in the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you are able to act in a way that is spontaneous, expansive and potent, not habitual and narrow.

    Thanks for this post I enjoyed this whole experience.

    Tim Wilson

  3. I loved this post. I always feel younger than I am. I am 44 but I definitely feel like I am 27. I am travelling at the moment, seeing where life takes me. I am writing, I am being creative and I have few worries because in my mind I am 27! However there are those odd morning when I get up and realise I am 44 and I wonder what on earth I am doing lol.

  4. Love the story about your son. You’re a parent after my own heart. Think I’ll try it with mine. He’s 29 now but he still believes in Santa – the problem is that Santa doesn’t believe in him.

    Years ago, I tried to stop time by refusing to celebrate birthdays. I hate time being notched off, and, using Lewis Carroll’s idea, told everyone that if they wanted to celebrate, I had plenty of un-birthdays. Not sure it’s really worked though. It’s seen as growing old ungracefully.

    But ungracefully suits me!

  5. Yeah, that bit about 60 being the new 40 – BS is right! Especially when you come off a horse the bad way and can’t move very well for a week. If it weren’t for that though, what age do I think I am? It all depends on the day of the week. Sometimes I’m still 12, other times I take on things like I’m 20-something, or 30-something, or 40-something.

    I just asked my son this question (he’s 26) and he said, “Depends on the day, but somewhere between 13 and 63!” 😀

  6. This is a great post! And so true! In high school, I always referred to my basketball coach as old (as did the rest of the team) and we made sure he heard it. After all he was TWICE our age which of course only made him in his early thirties at the time. But he had a baby face and we teased him a lot about that and his age which really didn’t match. His reply was always the same: “It doesn’t matter how old you are. All that matters is how old you feel”. Well today, even after only 4 hours of sleep, I feel 15 ;-]

  7. This makes so much sense, age is just a number and self-perception makes all the difference. Oh, your poor son, I’m definitely going to keep that in my bag of tricks for when I have kids.

    • Oh please don’t do that to your son. I always have thought it was funny till a couple of years ago when I was in a book group, going through Debbie Ford’s book. I told that story and everyone told me I had ruined his life because me, the most important person in his life, had implied that he wasn’t good enough to turn 8. I still feel guilty. It’s still funny but I still feel guilty.

      I never even told them about the time he came into the kitchen with a big rope and bugged me and bugged me to tie him to the chair. I kept saying no but he jumped up and down and demanded that I tie him to the chair. finally I did. Then he said ‘untie me’ and I walked out and went and watched tv for a while. If I had told them that, they would have called children’s aid for sure even if it was 30 years ago.

      • rotfl, any idea why he wanted you to tie him to the chair? My aunt pulled a variant of what you did to him on me as well, it had to do with my not paying “owo dagbasoke” (the fee for growing up) and it didn’t ruin my life.

      • No he just got the idea that he wanted to be tied to the chair. He probably wanted to see if he could free himself or something.

  8. I never think about my age so don’t think that now I’m this old I need to change and do this now. I feel just the same as I did in my twenties (which was at least a few years ago!) but hopefully a whole lot wiser 🙂

    I like to just take people as they are without thinking too much about their age. As your image shows – you can be fit and sprightly in your eighties or have to be cared for in a nursing home. That comes down to your mindset more than your physical age in my opinion.


  9. All as I can say is that when I think about my real age, I am just a little shocked.. I am 47 already? how did that happen, I don’t feel 47, but then how is 47 supposed to feel.. It is definitely different for everyone.. I know lots of 47 year olds who seem a whole lot older!! Great post!! Great picture too, I have used that one on my blog!!

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