We are vain beings: social networks attest to that. Always happy, positive, searching for social recognition and notoriety! Some people lost their lives in search of the perfect selfie, corroborating the studies of Daniel Halpern and Sebastián Valenzuela, which revealed that habit increases people's level of narcissism, as the perfect image we want to show can change the image we have of ourselves.
Proof of this is the fact that today we are the first country in cosmetic surgery in the world, according to data from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: breast augmentation, liposuction and abdominoplasty occupy the top three places in the ranking. The most worrying issue is the increase of this index by 140% among teenagers aged 13-18 years, placing Brazil also in the first position of plastic surgeries in teenagers.
What does that say about us?
The tyranny of the perfect body, the cult of youth and thinness as an ideal parameter of beauty are in our DNA, especially in the DNA of Brazilian women. Just look at fashion magazines, films and soap operas: we have the feeling that we are always in debt, looking for an ideal that, if it exists, is not ours.
This explains in part our fear of aging. Fear or dread? The anthropologist and student of aging Mirian Goldenberg says that the Brazilian woman, before 40 already has panic of aging. Whoever never cared about that should throw the first stone!
Yes, because old age takes possession of our body, without asking permission. White hair and wrinkles start to appear, skin becomes thinner, but our rhythm, energy and mind do not reflect this new appearance. Of course, at 40 we are not even "halfway there"! However, we consider old age unattractive. Old age scares us and that is why we try to camouflage it with different dyes, creams, and cosmetic procedures. All of a sudden, we are all blondes!
Age Shaming is the name given to the shame of aging, a phenomenon that affects the physical and mental health of most women, and was wide open in the work environment during the new coronavirus pandemic with the disclosure, by some companies, of the list of professionals belonging to the "risk group" according to age. Some women reported a feeling of extreme embarrassment due to jokes and comments from coworkers, who in most cases did not suspect that the active and intelligent professional in question was already in her 60s.
Yes, because in our eternally young society, energy and intelligence cannot walk with advances in age! When a person turns 60 years old in Brazil something happens mysteriously, taking beauty, sensuality, intelligence and professional success to another dimension and he/she has to start from scratch, as if everything achieved had been erased from his/her biography. We all have to reinvent ourselves to live the "third act", our resurrection in the face of the metaphorical death to which we are submitted.
Perhaps this is the explanation for Gerascophobia, translated by an irrational fear of aging. This panic is normally related to changes in appearance, health decline, possibility of becoming dependent in old age and fear of being alone. Most worrying is that it frequently affects people in their 30s and 40s who need therapy to cope with such anxiety.
The complexity of aging goes through biological, psychological, social, and cultural issues, since it modifies our relationship with time, generating changes in our connection with the world and our history. And to make matters worse, old age makes us victims of ageism, a prejudice against which we are not concerned until we are the target.
Old age brings feelings of loss, a kind of anticipated mourning for the loss of oneself. Mourning for what we were and will never be again. Mourning for what is to come, something unknown, that is frightening.
Therefore, the process is painful. Aging well, accepting old age, as no matter how much we manage to delay the marks of time in the mirror, psychological confrontation is only possible if this announced death is well elaborated.
The formula for this varies from person to person, but acceptance can be the first step. Understand that old age is a new phase of life in which we can be more free, authentic, and unconcerned about the pressures exerted by social roles! Appreciate life with more time, enjoy the company of people and realize that time is our ally: after all, the so-called old age can last 20, 30 years or more. How about taking the chance to be happy?