Do you ever notice your own self-talk (inner voice) about growing older?
At its best, self-talk is a cheerleader, spurring us on to try new experiences. At its worst, it’s a harsh inner critic. Let’s face it, there’s so much ill-ease about aging out there, it’s all too easy to take it on.
Much self-talk happens on autopilot so, if you’re like me, most of the time I’m unaware of that inner chatter.
Consider this though, there’s evidence that the sub-conscious mind accepts self-talk (it’s not discerning). Then it creates our reality based on these convictions. Even when it’s untrue! So, negative self-talk, like – it’s all downhill from now on, I can’t, I’m too old (and so on) – undermines self-confidence and limits life experiences and enjoyment.
As we say in the yoga world, energy follows thought or what you believe you become, so watch what you think and speak.
Positive thinking doesn’t mean we ignore less pleasant experiences in life with our heads in the sand. Instead, it means thinking the best, rather than the worst, might happen.
So, I find it helpful to take a moment at the end of each day to think about my self-talk along with some of the things I’ve verbalised about myself to others. Then I ask myself: Is it helpful? Is it true? Is it kind, or downright ugly?
Here are two common forms of negative self-talk about growing older. Maybe they’re familiar to you, too?
Vivian, a sassy 95-year-old yoga teacher interviewed for my book about inspiring older women says we should look out for self-talk about being too old.Her motto is: You’re never too old to try something new.
True to her words, Vivian discovered a passion for drawing when she was in her 80s. Her example certainly resonated with me, and here’s why.
For a long time, I cringed at workshops whenever facilitators mentioned drawing, or coloured pencils and crayons. That little inner voice would say “I’m hideous at drawing, I can’t do it, I’m too old to fix this now.” Backed into a corner with this negative self-talk, I cemented myself in.
Inspired by Vivian (and an artist friend), I wanted to conquer this dread of drawing. Then I read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The book explains why many adults don’t progress beyond the drawing level they had as a 10-year-old. You know the style; stick figures and kiddy style houses with smoke coming out the chimneys. The book offers remedial drawing exercises to work through.
Starting to draw during Covid lockdown, by working my way through the book, opened a whole new world to me. Drawing is so much fun, and now I laugh to think of the fear it caused me beforehand.
Yes, I hear so many of my friends over 50 say, “It’s an age thing, I can’t deal with all this new technology: the mobile phone, computer, TV and remote controls and digital pads on white goods.”
Something to remember though is that this technology is way more complicated than when we simply flicked a switch on or off. Before there weren’t as many cycles to choose from on washing machines or multiple buttons on white goods.
And here’s where self-talk is again relevant. Telling yourself you can’t deal with new technology leads to lack of confidence and apprehension about using it, as found in a recent study of computer tablet usage with older adults (aged 65-76). The good news is that even brief exposure makes for increased comfort using technology.
I must admit though, in the past I’d ask the kids (or younger friends) to fix little problems with the mobile. Problem solved in the flick of their fingers. They have grown up with this technology.
Now I’ve stopped doing this (unless I’m desperate) because as the study showed, with experience comes knowledge, comfort, and confidence to solve things myself. YouTube instructional videos are a wonderful ally. You can search for content and then work it out at your own pace.
Even here I limit the amount of time I’m prepared to spend. Then I seek help from others in the know. But now I ask them to patiently ‘show and tell me how’ rather than just fix it.
Have you noticed your own self-talk about growing older? Is it filled with wisdom and kindness? Helpful or a hindrance? Is what it says true or downright mean? What new things have you grappled with lately? Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience to mine with drawing or new technology or maybe something else?