In the first part of life, as a prepubescent child, it’s said you are most authentic, because hormones and societal norms haven’t changed you yet (I’m paraphrasing Dr. Christiane Northrup.)
In middle-age, most of us sublimate that authenticity as a tool of survival – our own and others’. This usually involves caring for family, earning a paycheck, paying taxes, and (hopefully) building for retirement.
Thus in midlife, the world needs you to set aside your individuality in support of the greater good. Families, communities, and civilization depend on your selflessness at this stage. We all appreciate you! But it can feel soul-killing at times.
In the last third of life, you have the potential to become your authentic self again. Hopefully, you are at least partly retired, and have more free time. You can sleep all day or start a revolution.
When I speak to groups about positive aging, there’s a danger that the older people will begin chortling. They’re so excited they sometimes make the middle group feel bad.
So I remind the younger peeps that they still get the good skin, powerful bodies, and the ability to snap back quickly from illness.
I joke that the level of stress that young adults experience, between work and family, would kill me. I don’t actually think I’m joking.
All three age groups have their own strengths, and we can help each other. Recently, I was talking to the American Business Women’s Association about seeing the positive in aging, and a couple of stressed-out 30-somethings began to lament the pressures of their lives. My audience of mostly-50-plussers became nurturing and sympathetic. The older women rallied around, asking questions and remembering how it felt to be in that middle-age tornado. They offered encouragement and support. The meeting ran long. We couldn’t stop talking! All of us walked away that night feeling better. Such bonding! Such fellowship.
The noted researcher, Dr. George Vaillant, says the ability to learn from the younger generations is one of the hallmarks of successful aging, along with the ability to give back.
Don’t cut yourself off from other age groups. We all have something to offer.
You can read more about positive growth and human development at this website.