~ by Steve Throckmorton
Some readers might feel that my title for this post is too superficial. If these readers were here in the room with me they may tell me that they shouldn’t have to pretend to look younger. They might add that they ought to have freedom to be themselves and that they should be accepted as they are. I could possibly hear accusations that it is dishonest to make yourself appear younger than you actually are. If you are one of these readers you might be surprised to hear that I agree with you. It is absolutely true that we should be allowed to be ourselves without fear of judgment, discrimination or recrimination.
Would it surprise you to know that I also disagree with you? There is a huge difference between what should be and the way things actually are in reality. Even though we SHOULD have the freedom to be ourselves the reality is we are not granted that freedom by those around us. Our former president of these United States, Jimmy Carter made at least one profound statement, “Life isn’t fair”. I’ll refer to this principle as LIF. If you are forty or fifty something and you have not discovered this simple principle it is critical that you learn it now. Why is the LIF principle so important? Because you get hurt when you don’t accept or understand it and live in accordance with it. LIF is founded on another related principle that many of us never learn. We do not possess the power to change others, only ourselves. We may want others to accept us as we are but unless they choose to do so it will never happen. That leaves us with only one certain method to affect positive change in our lives, which is to change ourselves.
Since perceptions and actions of others are painted by how old they think we are then shouldn’t we do everything within reason to appear younger? We covered thinking younger in the last chapter so how do we look younger? I will intentionally not discuss expensive medical procedures, such as a face lift or hair transplants and stay with things that cost little or no money. Let me warn you though that the following suggestions are not without personal cost. They do require discipline and intentional action.
- Exercise. It is a proven biological fact that we lose muscle mass as we age. This is revealed through the shape of our bodies, in our walk and our posture. Exercise can help rebuild lost muscle mass. It can also help us maintain a youthful walk and posture. You don’t need an expensive gym membership to exercise. Take daily walks, do push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, jumping- jacks. Go to the public park and play tennis with a buddy. Look for a public pool or YMCA to swim. Join a church basketball league. If your goal is to simply stay healthy and fit, not to win a body building championship then there numerous exercises to get you there at little or no cost to you.
- Be disciplined in your eating. Have you ever noticed at a high school reunion that classmates who were previously thin have now grown pudgy or even grossly overweight? Weight gain is another visual clue to aging. A thin person looks younger. Personally I despise the many weight loss schemes for sale on the market. Billions of dollars are spent in the pursuit of imaginary, painless, no disciplined methods of weight loss when weight is controlled by simple physics, the equation calories consumed minus calories burned equal weight gained or lost. We have a very simple choice either to reduce calorie intake or increase calories burned to lose weight. It really is that simple. Remember LIF above? When we live in denial that life will work they way we hope rather than the way it actually is then we hurt only ourselves. I will add one caveat here. Yes individuals have different levels of metabolism and it is far easier for some to lose weight than others. Genetics do play a role but anyone can lose weight with enough effort and discipline.
- Hair color. I actually struggled to as to whether or not to include this one. In men a little gray can actually be perceived as distinguished. A lot of gray usually isn’t. At the risk of sounding sexist graying in women is almost never perceived as a good thing. Maintenance of a desired hair color can be very expensive if you retain the services of a hair care professional but that is the best way to insure that you maintain a natural and attractive appearance. Improper application of off the shelf dyes can sometimes look artificial and make your appearance worse that it would have been otherwise. If you choose to do this yourself please research application methods and use quality products. Do not simply go out and purchase the cheapest product you can find.
- Clothing can make you look younger or older. I know I am going to be in trouble for writing this but I believe it to be true. Women must be more careful about maintenance of youthful clothing than men. Men’s fashions change less often and the changes are less dramatic. Men must certainly be aware of this but it takes less effort than it does a woman to stay up with trends. I have seen too many older women wearing blouses with ruffled collars and cuffs along with shoes that make them look like grandmothers. In the business world this is not the image that a woman wants to portray. I am not even remotely qualified to advise women on how to dress. I cannot advise anyone of the specifics of smart business attire but I do know it when I see it. I suggest that you first look for a woman who has successfully achieved both a youthful and sharp business look. You can bet that she did not get there by accident so talk to her, seek her advice. Men I would advise you to do the same of other men who have dressed for success.
I want to be honest and tell you this was a difficult post for me to write, for a couple of reasons. First I tend to be an idealist. I would really like for things to be the way they SHOULD be not the way they are. It is difficult for me to admit that we need to change our appearance to improve our odds for gainful employment. I am also enough of a realist to know better than listen to my idealistic side. The second reason it was difficult was because I am concerned about being perceived as sexist by making a distinction between men and women in some of the areas discussed. However, it would not be right for me to omit advice that could be helpful to my readers just because of my personal concerns. So I have told it like it is, or at least I have been completely honest with my readers about how I feel things are in reality.
Part 8 will refer back to part 1 where reasons for not hiring older workers were discussed. I will go into more detail and make suggestions to overcome these matters.