Hi, this is Jennifer of thefitfork.com. Somewhere around 40 years old (I’m now 51), I started to get the “good for your age” comments. “Oh, you’re really fast for your age, I didn’t expect you to be so strong for your age, you look good for your age.” “Oh, thank you for that . . . I think,” I would snark back, feeling fairly confident a backhanded compliment had just been thrown my way. Or, that the person had absolutely no social skills.
The “you (fill in the blank) for your age” alleged compliment makes me crazy because it implies that a person doesn’t look, perform, behave or do whatever as well as she did in the past. True, I don’t run as freakishly fast as I did in my 20s and I do have gray hair and laugh lines that weren’t there before. But, I am beautiful, speedy, strong, talented, and smart NOT in spite of my age, but because of my age. There has been a lot of practice, pruning and learning that has gone down over five decades – it all contributes to my awesomeness. I feel the same way about 98-percent of the older women I know. They are all awesome and great for any age. Exclamation point, end of story.
The secret to being great for any age is to just to own your awesomeness without comparison to anyone, including yourself at another point in time. I’m sure you’ve heard, read or even shared the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Many seem to only understand this in terms of relationships with others, that unspoken rivalry that exists between women. She’s prettier, she’s thinner, her children are more talented, they have more money, et cetera and so on, ad nauseum. Why are we even comparing, judging, and sizing each other up anyway?! This is not middle school, this is middle age! Girls compete with one other, women empower each other.
But, it’s not just getting past comparing yourself to others. Comparison of yourself today to yourself in the past can also be a huge hang up on the road to happiness, if done so in a negative way. Let me share a personal anecdote.
Over the last six years or so, I began to slowly realize I needed to let go of my race pace expectations. I was competing with others and I was competing with my past myself. Finally, I had to admit that there was no joy in beating myself up over not being able to run a 5k these days at my marathon pace from 20 years ago. So, as much as I still wanted to cling to being the younger running me, I let her go. For several years in my late 40s, I even refused to run with a watch because it would bring back the negative self-chatter. I still pushed myself, but training was based on the feeling of perceived effort and not the feeling of trying to become my younger self again. I remind myself all the time to “be where I am,” to enjoy the moment and live for the present. Find out what else I’ve learned in 30 years of running.
If you are stuck in your training (or life) because you feel defined by your age, here are five positive things you can do NOW:
- Inspect Yourself: Dig deep, are you afraid of failure, embarrassing yourself, or stuck in the rut of just reacting to what life throws at you? It’s only when you know what’s holding you back, can you devise a plan keeps you on the path to a lifetime of being great at any age.
- Dial Down Data: Do you judge your worth today by the Garmin, the scale, the number of likes on Instagram, the bottom line on your bank account. Overuse of this type of “data” can feed that ugly comparison monster taking over thoughts and actions. Data isn’t all bad, and it does have a time and place (I use my Garmin in races to make sure my heart rate isn’t getting too high), but sometimes it’s good to take a break for the sake of your spirit.
- Adopt a Mantra: Recite a short quote or string of words to yourself, either out loud or in your head, that will bring you back to the good vibe place. It should be personal to you, but a few I use are “Be where I am,” “More than a number,” “Live life and forget age,” “LIVE until I die.”
- Sweat a New Way: Get outside your comfort zone and try a new activity, whether it’s taking dance lessons or learning how to swing on the trapeze. I truly feel that by keeping fitness fun, you optimize your potential for a happy, healthy, ageless life. Check out these 7 Ways to Keep Fitness Fun.
- Be a Mentor: Share the wisdom that comes with age and experience by mentoring a younger woman along her journey. Resist the urge of feeling like an “imposter,” everyone has something of value to share and teach and it often isn’t revealed until the relationship develops.
I love Jennifer’s spirit! If you’ve ever been told “you look good for your age” or “you move fast for your age” or “you’re strong for your age” remember their backhanded compliment is not about YOU. It’s about expectations that mean nothing to you. You do YOU and keep being amazing at it! – Pamela