Last week I was happy to present about our company to a local business group that I belong to called Queen Bees. The members are all women entrepreneurs at various stages of starting, running and growing their businesses. When I first joined the group, I felt like one of the youngest members there. This is ironic, because I am not. There are women there of all ages, but I always see myself as younger than I am.
While I like to joke with my husband that I plan to live well beyond a 100, the fact is that I am nearly half-way there (& that’s all I’m going to reveal about how old I really am, lol). That said, I have always thought of myself as at least 20 years younger. Actually, my age is something I rarely think about other than that I am young.
One thing that makes this easy for me is that I only acquired my Ph.D. a few years ago, and I even plan to go back to school to acquire other degrees. I think of myself as a newly minted graduate, not too different from someone in their late 20s. I am also a professor, so I also spend much of my time with students half my age. I find this refreshing. I consider myself a perpetual student and a life-long learner.
Another factor is that I just founded a corporation. When I attend business meetings, training seminars, conferences, and social events, I present myself as a young entrepreneur. Starting a business invariably places you with people who are younger. There are many budding entrepreneurs who are discouraged when they meet people who drive up in a fancy sports car and buy brand new Yezzys every week. When I meet people like that, I join right in and strike up a conversation and I try to learn what I can. The fact is that I see myself just as capable, just as smart, and just as excited for what the future may bring.
One very nice corollary to being older is that we have additional experience, knowledge and wisdom to impart to others. Most of the people I come across who are younger but have been blessed with more financial success tend to appreciate what I bring to the table, so they benefit too. It becomes a win-win situation for both of us.
Here is another benefit: my self-image helps me overcome very difficult things. When I come across something that is a problematic, irritating, or even crippling, I face the challenge because I think of myself as younger. I don’t even consider my age as a factor that could impede my progress. Like most people I have had my share of struggles, from financial difficulties, to being fired, to academic setbacks, to nearly dying in the ER. Oh, yes, and I’m black, a woman, and pretty darn short as well. These have been challenges for me to be sure, but my belief that I am young and able has given me extra strength to rise above them. With every challenge that I overcome, I reaffirm that I am capable and successful. It is a state of mind that keeps on rewarding.
Finally, it also helps to remember that a positive self-image is contagious. By that I mean that thinking of myself as young, energetic, and capable, is something that others are drawn to. As it turns out, some of these people are also successful people, but I consider myself successful too. So when I meet someone who is rich, famous, or highly qualified, I talk to them as an equal, not because of arrogance, but because I really see myself in that light.
I fully realize that there are many people struggle much more than me, and this is not intended to minimize these struggles. However, it is scientifically proven that having a positive attitude helps. The question is, when things seem at their worst, how do we arrive at a positive attitude? For me, this is achieved by thinking of myself as young and able. When I do, so many things become easier.
I know it may seem silly, even trite to say this, especially if you are struggling right now, but there is no harm in trying it. Think of yourself as younger and see if it works for you too. It may take some time to get there, but just as with working out, it gets easier as you continue doing it. More importantly, each time you do change your thought about your age and the abilities that come with it, you benefit from the rewards I mentioned above. So yes, it does become easier. Over time, you will forget how difficult the struggle was and being in a young state of mind will be the only way to think.
And you can start doing this no matter what age you are, whether you are from a teen-ager struggling to fit in, to a centenarian starting as an entrepreneur!
This article is part of a newsletter published weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.