Recently, I did an activity in my interpersonal communication class. We were talking about interpersonal perception. In other words, how do we all judge other people based on their real or inferred characteristics? For example, I had a student many years ago who had a pink mohawk, tattoos, and piercings all over his body. His appearance was extreme (not many people look like that), and I could have judged him negatively (like thinking he wasn't a serious student). As it turned out, he was one of the nicest guys, who was smart and contributed a lot of value to the class. But from looking at him, you never would have guessed that would be the case.
Anyway, I was doing this activity with my students called "Perception of the Instructor." I asked them 10 questions about myself that they didn't know how to answer -- they just needed to make assumptions based on the information that they already had about me. For example, I asked questions like, "Am I liberal or conservative," and "What do I do for fun." One of the questions was how old they think I was when I got married, and what kind of wedding do they think I had (did I elope to Vegas or have a traditional church wedding?). Anyway, they all said I got married in my early 20s. I found that interesting because I would think that they would assume I got my education earlier in life before I settled down and got married.
Well, it turns out that the reason they thought I got married so young is because they knew how old my kids are. And then they took the approximate age of how old they thought I was and then subtracted my kids' ages to get their answer. But that's not the point. The point is that they estimated me to be about 7-10 years younger than I am. And in my head I was screaming "Whoo hooo!!!!" Oh, who am I kidding, I was screaming 'Whoo Hoo' in class and promising them all A's in the class (I was joking).
But I don't tell you this story to brag.
I tell you this story because of a sad reality this brings up. I told my mom later that day that my students all thought I was a lot younger than I am. And we both cheered with excitement. But then later that night, I thought this...
Why is it that I'm not insulted that they think I'm younger?
I mean, I have earned my wisdom through living my life pretty well so far. I have earned every fine line and emerging gray hair I have. I should be proud of my age and not want to have people think I look younger.
So why is it that we all get excited when people card us at the liquor store? (It still happens once in a blue moon!) Why do we all want to be skinny, young, and look like we just stepped out of a fashion magazine?
Well, come on. It's no secret that we live in a youth-and-beauty-obsessed culture. And I know that's why I squealed in delight and promised them all A's when they thought I was 10(ish) years younger. But it's really quite sad that we get excited about looking youthful and not about being proud of our age and wisdom.
So I would like you all to join with me in celebrating and appreciating our age (even if you are young). The only reason we think "being old" is unacceptable is because we all buy into our culture's pressure and expectations of youth. But it's subjective.
Why is youth better than age and wisdom?
We only think it is because we all "drank the Kool Aid," so to speak.
So here are 5 things I want you to remember, regardless of your age:
1. You are important.
2. You have value.
3. You matter.
4. You are lovable.
5. You are beautiful.
I want all of you go to out and tell everyone you know -- young and old -- how awesome they are! I don't care if they are overweight, a high-school drop out, a movie star, a child, a homeless person, a drug addict, or a stay-at-home mom.
Everyone is beautiful in their own way.
So stop "drinking the Kool Aid." Make up your own mind. Don't buy into what anyone else says about you -- individually or culturally. Remember your greatness and embrace it!!
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