Life is like a conveyor belt. We get on at birth, and ride it until we die. The belt takes us through many rooms, often filled with wonderful adventures, and sometimes with heartache. As we move forward, we have many opportunities for purpose, relationship and meaning. Hopefully, we use those opportunities to enrich life for others and for ourselves.
But one thing is certain for every person. Regardless of who you are, the belt keeps moving. Try as we may, we cannot stop the belt, or even slow it down. Before we know it, we find ourselves further down the path than we ever imagined, and wonder how we got here. We gradually move from youth to old age. The only way to avoid growing old is to die young.
As we grow older, we encounter many changes which can negatively impact self-esteem or self-worth. We’ll examine two potential factors.
- Changes in physical appearance: Wouldn’t it be nice to have the money spent each year by people trying to look younger? From anti-aging creams to hair dye to Botox and face lifts, we try to buy back time. If our self-esteem is too closely tied to a youthful appearance, we’re in trouble. Wrinkles form, skin sags and hair turns gray. To maintain self-esteem, we have to accept that such changes are inevitable. More importantly, these outward signs are the badge of honor of successfully living a long time.
- Changes in physical functioning: Try as we may, we just can’t do the things we used to do. With aging, we have to adjust to changes in vision, hearing, physical strength and stamina. We have more aches and pains, and less energy. If our self-esteem or self-worth is too closely tied to our physical functioning, we’re also in trouble. Who you are is not defined by what you can do. Think of an older adult you have loved. Was their worth defined by what they could do physically? Did their poor vision impact how you saw them? Did their decreased energy make you grow tired of them? No. You loved them for who they were, not for what they could do. You valued them because they had added value to your life.
To maintain a healthy self-esteem as we age, we have to remember that our worth is defined by who we are, not by what our bodies can do or how they look. Old age means you survived more years. You are more experienced. Because of those years of experience, you have a richer perspective. Wrinkles can bring wisdom. You know things now that you didn’t know in youth. Try to find ways to use that experience, perspective and wisdom to add value to someone’s life. That just may be your purpose on this end of the conveyor belt.