Getting older can be difficult for some individuals, but it is important to realize that just like anything in life, it is what you make it. While many take advantages of the experiences offered as we age, there are some who fall victim to self-stigma.
You see, every demographic has certain stereotypes associated with it. Self-stigmatization is the process where a person agrees with these generalities. It turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy where an individual who was once healthy starts to behave in a way that aligns with the labels given to their group. For those getting older, this can take form and have a negative effect on someone’s quality of life. It’s important to understand this cycle, as awareness of this phenomenon is one of the best ways to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
The popular phrase “age is only a number” can only take you so far, as there are definite limitations that arise as one gets older. These limitations do not define you as a person, nor should they prevent you from living your best life. Introverting over your inabilities is one the first steps of self-stigmatization. When you do, thoughts, like being a burden or your inability to be independent, tend to be exaggerated in one’s own mind. This leads to people avoiding their loved ones in an effort to protect them from their perceived encumbrances. Owning your inabilities and planning around them is healthier than avoiding others so they do not have to “deal” with you.
It is also important to understand that as we age there comes a point where there is a role reversal in care. Individuals who have been relying on you for their wellbeing are now in a position where they want to help you. This is natural and is handled best by embracing it. Don’t get me wrong, you do not have to accept help you do not need in an effort to be nice, but in the same respect do not reject help that could be beneficial. Asserting your independence can sometime have the opposite effect on people who are trying to lend aide.
The best way to resolve this is with communication. Openly talk to those who want to help out, so they know what is needed and wanted. This way, you can have a healthy relationship where you do not push people away. If someone’s efforts to help are more invalidating than they are thoughtful, it can lead to an upset. Gone unhandled, it can feed into the cycle mentioned before where you alienate your loved ones and start the cycle of self-stigma.
Growing older can be tough, but do not make it harder on yourself. Enjoy what life has to offer and understand that just because things are different doesn’t necessarily mean they are worse. Embrace the individual you are and take advantage of the relationships you have fostered through your lifetime. Pushing others away is one of the first steps in the self-stigmatization process. Don’t fall victim to it.