Age is Just a Number: Don’t Let it Hold You Back!
Age is just a number and we should never use it to define who we are. Unfortunately, we do. We are victims of society’s bias about aging; a society that tells us that our age determines our competence, our stamina, our ability to learn new things, our marketability, our self-worth. In the workplace, older workers are subjected every day to ageist practices and behavior. Policies about hiring, firing, and compensation reveal an underlying bias toward employees over 50, who are marginalized, sometimes humiliated, and often pushed out the door without any justification other than they’re assumed to no longer have value.
For women over 50, the double whammy of ageism and sexism, clouds our self-perception and erodes our confidence. Though ageism is prevalent in the workplace for both genders, women face discrimination earlier than men because of society’s emphasis on youthfulness and beauty. As we show visible signs of aging, assumptions about our competence kick in. We, subsequently, feel the pressure to look young in order to maintain our job status. The women I interviewed for my book, Not Done Yet! How Women Over 50 Regain Their Confidence and Claim Workplace Power(March 6, 2021), shared with me their stories of panic attacks about looking older and fearing termination, of their workload being redistributed to younger colleagues, and the humiliation of nasty comments, not being invited to key meetings or asked to give opinions.
Say NO to Ageism
None of this is acceptable. Society’s commonly held ageist assumptions that we no longer have the cognitive ability or capacity to learn, the ambition, energy and motivation to do our jobs; that we need to look young to succeed, sabotage our careers, our well-being, and our financial security. So why do we ourselves accept them as the god given truth?
Our thoughts and beliefs have power over our present and future. They not only influence whether or not we can maintain our professional status, but our well-being. An impressive example of this is featured in research that shows that people with a more positive view of aging live 7.5 years longer than those with a negative mindset. In other words, your thoughts affect how you age as well as your longevity. It’s therefore essential to confront your mindset and fears about aging for your professional success as well as your well-being. If you are committed to keeping your job and continuing to add value, you must challenge yourself to identify your own bias and determine if your current thinking supports or sabotages your career.
Is it true that once you hit 50 and beyond you’re too old to be promoted? That you no longer have much to offer? That you need to be youthful and attractive to succeed? No! Yet these dangerous assumptions, fears, and beliefs prevent you from showing up and living up to your full potential.
Let’s look at one of our commonly held beliefs and assumptions.
I’m too old to get promoted.
Let’s say you believe this. How does this belief hold you back?
If you believe you won’t get promoted because of your age, it decreases your motivation and energy level at work. You may feel like a victim with no control of your future. That triggers fear. As a result, you may not do the things necessary to maintain or improve your status. For example, you won’t volunteer for highly visible assignments. You may not share your opinions and ideas. You withdraw. As a result, you fall off the radar and your manager and colleagues make assumptions that you lack ambition, you’re tired and disinterested in your work, lack any new ideas or worthy opinions. You’re just bidding your time until retirement.
Do you see what happens? Believing you’re too old to get promoted ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. The belief causes you to stop doing the things necessary to get promoted, like building and nurturing important relationships, advocating for yourself and others, working on highly visible projects, planning and participating in company events.
Let go of this belief that doesn’t serve you by creating positive affirmations about yourself and your work.
For example, here are some positive affirmations to reframe your thoughts and feelings about this:
- My value increases with age as I bring to my team the many lessons I’ve learned about business over the years. I am an excellent mentor.
- Individuals across the company respect me, trust me, and look to me for advice and leadership. I am ready to own my power.
- I’m ready, willing and deserve this promotion. I will do what’s necessary to position myself for success.
Take the time to self-reflect and identify all your fears, assumptions and beliefs about aging. Make your own list. You may include some like:
I’m too old to compete
I need to look young to succeed.
I’m powerless over my present and future.
Then look at each belief listed and ask yourself, does this support or sabotage my future success?
How much of my current behavior at work is due to holding on to this belief? Is this constructive or not? If not, create your own affirmations to reframe your negative thoughts in order to move forward and set the stage for ongoing positive actions and communication that will better serve your career aspirations.
Own the power of your age. Hiding behind your fears and assumptions about aging keep you small. Acknowledge your experience and wisdom. Honor the value you bring to your work, and look for ways to leverage that value across your organization.
You are who you are today because of your age, because of your history and years of experience. You’re Not Done Yet!
This guest post was authored by Bonnie Marcus
BONNIE MARCUS, M.Ed., is an award-winning entrepreneur, Forbes contributing writer, and executive coach, who assists professional women to successfully navigate the workplace and position and promote themselves to advance their careers. With 20+ years of sales and management experience, her extensive business background includes CEO of a ServiceMaster company and VP of Sales at Medical Staffing Network and two others national companies in the healthcare and software industries. She has also held executive positions in startup companies and Fortune 500 companies.
Marcus received a BA from Connecticut College and a M.Ed. from New York University.
Connect with Bonnie Marcus on Twitter @selfpromote, Instagram @self_promote_, Facebook @bonnie.marcus, LinkedIn, and use #NotDoneYet, and visit BonnieMarcusLeadership.com.
Not Done Yet! How Women Over 50 Regain Their Confidence and Claim Workplace Power will be released March 6, 2021 and is available for pre-order on Amazon and wherever fine books are sold.