Age complexes: what are they and how to overcome them?
Some psychological keys to manage and understand age complexes.
At a time when physical appearance seems to matter more and more, it is not surprising that many people suffer and obsess about the image they believe they offer to the world. Age is, in many cases, one of the most relevant factors in this type of concern.
In the following lines we will see what age complexes consist of, and several tips on how to deal with them..
What are age complexes?
Age complexes can be understood in many ways, but in the field of psychotherapy the most common is to consider that they consist of a type of discomfort and insecurities associated with beliefs and expectations about what it means to be the age we are, perceiving that this is increasingly moving away from what we assume to be the optimal time of our life journey.
In practice, in most cases, people who experience this consider that this "optimal moment" is what we usually understand as youth, and they also assume that this is the optimal moment.They also assume that this is the phase of life best valued (or perhaps even the only one positively valued) by others.
However, as is the case with practically all psychological phenomena associated with self-esteem, age complexes do not have an innate origin or a Biological process in our brain triggered by our genes.
It is important to emphasize this last point, because age complexes are not a form of discomfort that inherently appears in us simply because we are getting older..... Although we may not realize it, there are a whole series of social and cultural dynamics that favor the appearance of these complexes and that put us in situations in which it is easy to feel uncomfortable with our age as we move away from young adulthood.
If this were not the case, this phenomenon would occur in all human cultures, but this is not the case. And in fact, the concept of "youth" is also, to some extent, highly mobile and with somewhat arbitrary, or at least socially consensual, boundaries.
That is why in age complexes we cannot fully distinguish between the way we see ourselves when we look in a mirror and what we assume others think when they see us. The awareness of objective elements, such as the time that has passed since we were born and the way our body looks, is mixed with beliefs and ideas about what it means socially to be that age and to look that way in the context in which we live. Luckily, that also implies that by modifying certain mental schemes and contexts to which we expose ourselves, we may also be able to reinforce our self-acceptance.
What to do to overcome these insecurities?
The most effective and recommendable way to overcome age complexes is to attend psychotherapy.. And in many cases, it is the only way to achieve significant progress and proper self-esteem management that is consistently maintained over time, especially in those who suffer greatly for this reason.
However, there are several key ideas that can be useful. Let's see what they are.
1. Get used to questioning the standards of what is considered beautiful.
As I mentioned earlier, our age complexes are almost always mediated by what we believe to be beautiful. are almost always mediated by what we believe others think about us.. This is especially true in a society like ours, where youth, or even adolescence, is a priority.
We thus enter into a competition to look our best, in which even the fact of showing disdain for the world of appearances can be read as a personal "feature", a trait that leads us to try to play in the league of rebels and misfits, note the paradox.
What happens is that this fixation on aesthetics occurs mostly behind closed doors, that is, in the individual mind of each person. Except in the extreme cases of people who give a very good or very bad image, in our day-to-day lives we tend not to pay much attention to how others look.
That is why, it is good for you to question the beliefs on which this idealization of youth is based and to base your conclusions on what you experience in your day-to-day life.. For example: have you ever considered that in recent decades the canons of beauty are always directed towards the very young, among other things because there are many corporations competing to see who will best represent "the new" in the eyes of potential buyers? It is a process that has little or nothing to do with aesthetic enjoyment, but rather with creating and maintaining market niches.
2. Check your referents
It is very common that those who suffer from age complexes do not have referents of their generation or older than oneself.. Thus, it is easy to consider that everything interesting that happens in society takes place in the younger generations.
This leads us to have the feeling that this is no longer "our world", something totally harmful and irrational in the worst sense of the word (especially taking into account what was mentioned in the previous section).
3. Get used to detecting problematic thoughts.
Now that you have already had some practice in adopting new referents, it is time to get used to neutralize in time those ideas that often come to our minds and wear down our self-esteem, with no other foundation than dysfunctional beliefs. no other foundation than dysfunctional beliefs. To do this, carry a small notebook with you and write down in it the thoughts linked to age-related complexes that come to your mind, including the place and time.
A couple of times a week, go through those notes, compare them and look for common elements among those ideas; that will make it easier to recognize why they are artificially created fabrications in combination with social tendencies, presuppositions and, in general, ideas that are not yours, so to speak.
4. Practice self-compassion
Many are surprised when they discover that, as a general rule, the level of self-esteem of senior citizens remains relatively stable and is not significantly lower than that of, for example, teenagers. One of the reasons for this is that at this age it is more common for the level of acceptance of what we usually consider to be imperfections to rise. In fact, the idea of the idea of growing old tends to produce more insecurities than old age itself..
With that in mind, it's worthwhile to commit to the practice of self-compassion, the principle whereby we assume that we are not perfect entities, nor do we have to stand out above everyone else in some positive characteristic. The important thing is to keep moving forward, not to tie our goals to what others achieve. Which brings us to the final tip.
5. Reframe your definition of "getting older."
Most people considered non-young people can do the same activities that most young people are doing; If there are significant limitations, they are only quantitative in nature: not having the same mental agility, not having the same physical resistance, etc.If there are significant limitations, they are only of a quantitative nature: not having the same mental agility, not having the same physical endurance, etc.
However, we must keep in mind that we often associate "aging" with "limitations" not because of biological limitations (and therefore unavoidable), but because of the simple fact that as time goes by, we settle more and more into a way of life in which we feel comfortable. But we should not confuse this apparent reduction in the variety of day-to-day experiences, or even the number of friendships, with something inherent to our age: if we don't like something, no age is too young to try to change it.
Looking for psychotherapeutic support?
If there is some aspect of your life that generates emotional discomfort and you are thinking of going to psychological therapy to overcome those kinds of problems, please contact me. I am a psychologist with more than 25 years of professional experience in psychotherapy, and I specialize in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, attending in person (in Valencia) and online. My contact details are available on this page.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)