Getting older. It happens to all of us, men and women. I turned 52 this year. The question for me is, how do I grow older with courage, heart, and confidence?
We live in a culture that idolizes youth. With an aging population, especially here in Australia, body image issues are alive and well in our world, for both men and women.
The pressure to look a certain way has a lot of us taking desperate measures to stay young. We lie about our age and mask anything that might reveal who we truly are. Gym memberships are through the roof, even if they hardly ever get used. Just having a membership makes us feel better.
Wrinkle-free skin, thick hair, perky breasts, clear eyes, full lips, a manly chest, big biceps, speed, agility, and a sex drive like a beast, are just the tip of the iceberg. Who can keep up? Are we setting ourselves up to fail?
Whether we buy into it or not, we pump our bodies full of things to prolong its natural aging process. The pressure can be subtle, but it’s very very real. Megadose multivitamin with ginkgo biloba, extra tribulus and a dash of horny goat’s weed anyone?
So how do we grow older with courage, heart, and confidence? Whether in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or beyond, most people want to be as well as possible. Most people want to be healthy, strong and fit.
Number one. Respect your physical body. You’re not 25 anymore, and that’s ok. Accepting who you are, and the limitations of an older body should not be a shameful thing.
As we age, our physical bodies need different things, different nutrients, different amounts of sleep, hydration, physical activity and so on. What you ate and lived on when you were 21, will not likely sustain you when you’re 40.
We all know how long it takes for our bodies to recover from the proverbial ‘big night out’. When you were 19, you could likely get away with endless nights of little sleep, partying, and front-up alive and well to work the next day. At 44, it’s not such an easy feat.
That’s not to say that the way we treat our bodies when they are young is always the best way. But for a while, your amazing body can recover from the abuses we often throw at it and into it.
However, you don’t have to look far to see how many of us have not treated our bodies well when they were younger. Whether it be a sore back, damaged knees, diseased organs, a large gut, terrible skin, aches, pains and all manner of ailments, your aging body is telling you something about the way you have treated it.
Obviously, if you treat your physical body well when you are younger, it’s going to pay off as you get older. ‘Live now pay later’ might be fun for a time. But to truly ‘live now’, means to respect the one body that you’ve been given to carry you all the way through this life.
As a man now in his 50’s, I’m glad I didn’t give my body too hard a time when I was in my 20’s. But as a man in his 50’s, I still want my body to work, function and look good as I get older.
Keeping a sharp mind is key to remaining vibrant and alive. The day you stop reading, learning new things, and challenging your own mindfulness, is the day you start to ‘get old’. And this can happen even in your 20’s. There are some 70-year-olds who have more life in them than some 20-year-olds.
I love learning new things. I love the challenge of thinking ‘outside the box’. I like to stimulate my mind and consider other perspectives. I like to hear what other people have to say, even if I disagree with it.
My mind is my hard drive. Don’t wait until your hard drive gets full, outdated, or infiltrated with spam, before you decide it needs an upgrade.
We live in a digital age. It’s more possible than ever to stay upgraded, informed and connected, so that your mind remains sharp. I want to be an old man with a sharp mind. That’s me!
Reading is probably the easiest way to achieve and maintain mental sharpness. The benefits can range anything such as preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s, better relaxation, and a more satisfying career, to even helping you look and feel sexier.
So get yourself a book and start reading.
Stay emotionally available. When you shut down emotionally, or withdraw, you close off a vital part of your being. Your emotional center is where your life force is.
You are not just a brain and you are more than your body. People who can tune-in emotionally, make better connections with others, build better relationships and friendships, and can navigate the ups and downs of life better.
Emotional availability is particularly relevant to men. We are often the ones guilty of not being in-touch emotionally.
“Men are known for bottling things up. Trying to go it alone when you’re feeling down increases the risk of depression or anxiety, which plays a contributing role to the big difference in suicide rates for men and women. On average, one in eight men will experience depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives.” – www.beyondblue.com.au
To be internally well connected with your own emotions, means that you have access to an invaluable emotional toolkit. A man who is in touch with his own emotions, is a man who builds resilience and maturity into the second part of his life. He maintains his deep reservoir of life force.
Meditation is one way to tap into this life force and remain emotionally and spiritually open. The ability to make and maintain friendships as you get older, is also a skill that involves emotional maturity and intelligence.
Few men have other men around them or in their lives that they can talk to about things. As I get older, the importance of knowing and connecting with a tribe of men I can trust, even if it’s just a few people, is vital.
Growing older with courage, heart, and confidence is all about body, mind and emotions. You don’t have to get old, but you can’t dodge getting older. You can, however, still make choices about the type of man you are, regardless of age.
Getting older is a privilege. It’s an honour. Not everyone gets to do it. So if you are one of the chosen few, do it with integrity, do it with aliveness, do it with passion, do it with strength, and do it well.
“Well, I look in the mirror
I don’t hate what I see
There’s a few more lines staring back at me
Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans
This skin I’m in it’s alright with me
It’s not old — just older”
Jon Bon Jovi.
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