That today’s society puts a lot of pressure on us to give an attractive and desirable image is no secret. For decades now, people have been writing about how in apparently free countries there is a tendency to make all citizens fit into a mold of what is considered aesthetic, pleasing to look at. And that this pressure falls especially on women is not something that surprises anyone either.

This phenomenon is related to the thought of “I feel old”, very common in adult women of a wide range of ages. However, contrary to what one might think, the personal aspect is not the only thing that explains this phenomenon. Yes, it is true that there is an obsession with wrinkles, skin that loses firmness and gray hair, but the problem, although partly psychological and imagined, goes beyond that. Understanding this is fundamental to stop feeling that anguish and sadness that a large part of the female population suffers.

In this article we will focus on what happens when a woman feels old despite not being very old, since in the elderly people who feel old age as something bad, the problem is of another nature.

The initial question: why do I feel old?

When it comes to alleviating this kind of discomfort, it is all about understanding what are the material reasons that make us feel old even long before we have entered the vital stage of old age, and to feel bad about it . It is worth noting the latter, since old age in itself does not have to be something that produces sadness; although in practice it goes hand in hand with certain physical limitations, how we experience it when we reach this stage depends on how we value those limitations, not old age itself.

In women who feel very old despite not belonging to the elderly, what happens is that the concept of old age acts as a “bridge” between the way we imagine real old age to be felt, on the one hand, and the current situation, on the other. And why does this happen? Fundamentally, because of what society dictates a woman should be , not because she has entered into what is biologically the third age.

For centuries, women have been sexualized to the extreme, to the point of making reproduction their main task, along with care of the home, which is the place where the fruits of that reproduction must be protected and educated. And as the reproduction clock runs a little faster than the life expectancy clock , during the earliest stage of youth all the social pressure to have children is concentrated , while having passed that vital stage, the lesser possibilities of having babies are associated to old age in general, and to uselessness in particular.

No matter how much progress we have made on sexism, the idea that a woman’s main aim is to attract a good husband and have children still weighs on the way we unconsciously value women. In a context where women’s reproductive role is constantly being reminded, the slightest signs of aging, which usually appear around the age of 25, can lead to obsessive thoughts. Sometimes, it is not even necessary to have seen objective signs of aging : it is very common for girls of 19 or 20 to feel old when they anticipate the moment when they will stop looking so young, and consider it as coming soon.

What do you do to get rid of that discomfort?

As we have seen, the thought of “I feel old” is based on a paradox. On the one hand, it is based on an imaginary concern, which is usually not based on any particular characteristic of one’s body that is objectively harmful or makes it less functional. On the other hand, it is not simply a problem belonging to the mind of the woman as an individual, but exists because being a woman of a certain age has certain undesirable social consequences because of sexism.

Any initiative that a woman wants to take to stop feeling bad about being the age she is is necessarily an action to prevent the rest of society from assigning less value to her because she is not a post-adolescent. Thus, some useful proposals to follow are the following.

1. Don’t let your culture be limited to the mainstream

Mainstream culture is that which reproduces the most deeply rooted and widespread cultural vices, and if a woman is exposed to it exclusively, she is much more likely to feel all the social pressure linked to gender roles .

For this reason, frequenting social environments in which the idealization of extreme youth has less power and is questioned, is very beneficial, since it provides a critical view that allows us to stop seeing what we feel is an exclusively our own problem, and to start seeing it as the consequence of a social and historical phenomenon, which may disappear in the future.

2. Seek networks of feminine solidarity

This measure is similar to the previous one, and has to do with ceasing to depend only on male approval , whose perception of women, traditionally, praises extreme youth. The simple fact of surrounding oneself with more women with this critical vision of what society expects of them is very beneficial.

3. Demystifying reproduction

As we have seen, the reproductive role assigned by society is part of the core of the problem. If it is said that men age better and more slowly than women, it is partly because the reproductive pressure does not fall on them: whether they are parents or not matters much less than whether a woman is or has been a mother or not.

Therefore, stopping making one’s life revolve around the creation of a family , as if one could not be happy outside of it (regardless of whether such a family exists or not), is part of the solution to stop feeling old in the bad sense of the term.