Age is power – Being Badass at 50
Society tells us that getting old is bad. And in the workplace, getting old often means losing your status and your job. Women, especially feel the pressure to stay young and attractive to stay employed. As we age, we’re marginalized and easily dismissed as irrelevant. And too often, we come to believe the ageist story about ourselves that we can’t compete, despite our accomplishments and who we once were. We feel powerless. Society makes it challenging to feel like much of a badass at 50.
I was a precocious young girl. I pretty much succeeded at everything I tried, and there wasn’t much I was afraid to try. I lived life to the fullest. I had oodles of confidence which, by the way, thoroughly annoyed my older brother who never really sought the spotlight. But unlike my brother, I thrived with the attention. My life was joyful and I lived in a cozy suburban cocoon with parents who loved me and encouraged me every step of the way.
The Clouds of Doubt
Things began to change for me in middle school, however. I started to lose my mojo. Maybe hormones were a factor? I never truly understood why I lost my confidence but that continued through high school and much of college and grad school. In fact, it continued for a good portion of my adult life. Divorced with two young children at the age of 34, I started a career in business and was very successful, working my way up at age 50 to a CEO position of a national company. But despite all my accomplishments, I didn’t truly own my power. I doubted myself and subtly gave my power away both professionally and personally.
But here’s the good news! Like many of my cohorts, I’ve noticed that as I’m aging that bravado and ‘badassness’ is returning. I’m drunk with the joy of living. My energy and confidence let me tackle life’s ups and downs head on. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that my life is a piece of cake. However, I’m savoring every little morsel every day.
Badass at 50
To be a badass at 50 and beyond takes on a new definition than it did when we were 20. We certainly have more wisdom and experience and that influences how we show up at work and play each day. But let me be clear about this badass thing. It’s not that we aren’t concerned about others, but I believe that we’ve learned to care more about ourselves than we did when we were younger. That’s my theory anyway. It’s taken me decades to figure out that I have one life to live and it’s about time I got my priorities straight. If not now, when?
Icons like Nancy Pelosi and Ruth Bader Ginsburg inspire us to step into our power and ambition despite growing older. Older women rock! We’re getting more and more media attention each day. Decades ago, it was expected that we would stay home and take care of our homestead and children. Many of our mothers did just that.
When the sexual revolution of the sixties came about, it brought new expectations. We didn’t need to be married, and we could compete in the workplace with any man. We went to grad school in record numbers and studied hard to earn our degrees with the goal of creating sustainable careers. And we did this despite the fact that there wasn’t a level playing field and we never earned the same as our male counterparts. The boy’s club made it extremely difficult to access the upper levels of management and power.
Re-Claim Your Power
Now we’ve been in the workplace for decades and despite our success we’re still challenged owning our power. This power thing, so closely related to ambition, is often elusive. We can’t quite wrap our arms around it. We had it early on in our careers and now it’s gone. At 50+, we find that society and the workplace see us as less competent. Each day we’re challenged by demeaning ageist remarks. Our workload is re-assigned and our once sought-after opinions now ignored. How can we own our power when we’re labeled as over the hill?
My answer is this: now is when we need to own the power of our age more than ever. If that power has slipped away for you like a slowly deflating balloon, it’s never too late to re-inflate and connect with your inner badass. I’m sure you had it at one point in your life. It’s in you and you can re-discover the power of your age with intention and purpose. In fact, a 2017 study shows that working at an older age provides benefits that go beyond just your confidence. The research shows that people enjoy working at an older age because of the financial benefit as well as continued personal development.
So, what limiting beliefs about your career do you have as you’re aging? What battles have you fought and won? With each challenge in your life, you’ve learned lessons that have enabled you to move forward. Write down how you’ve met each of these challenges and acknowledge your life journey and what you’ve overcome to be here today.
Reject the ageist assumptions that society dumps on you. Push back. You have as much, if not more, to offer your company today than you did 30 years ago. Write down all your accomplishments over the years and celebrate every one of them.
The workplace needs your wisdom and experience now more than ever. So are you ready to step into that badass power and own who you are? Are you ready to celebrate your life journey and your age? Are you prepared to mentor others and help them see the world from your perspective? It’s challenging, empowering, and life affirming. If not now, when?
This guest post was authored by Bonnie Marcus
Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., empowers women of all ages to own their ambition and talent. An executive coach and author of “The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead” (Wiley 2015), Marcus is currently writing a book about women over 50 in the workplace.