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As a woman who has lived through many passages and learned through my larger than life experiences (positive and negative), I’ve discovered how to take a big empowering bite out of life.

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Aging in Confidence: From Wobbly Steps to Headstands

Today’s post was written by insightful Ann Richardson, who is a frequent and popular contributor to international sites, as well as the author of the book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head: Reflections of growing older. Enjoy, darlings!

Honey good with travel guides discussing women's confidence while aging

I am personally of the view that when we pop out of the womb, we already have not only those delightful little fingers and toes but also a huge amount of our personality-to-be.

The problem is that – unlike easy physical characteristics – personality traits are not immediately visible. Parents and others have to figure them out as they emerge over the course of time.

Some of us are forthright and demanding, some shy and more eager to please. Some of us love to be around other people and interact with them. Some prefer time on our own.

I could go on and on.

I suspect any readers who are mothers will recognize the process of working it all out. And, especially when they have more than one child, they will recognize the surprise in the huge differences that slowly unfurl.

BUT – wouldn’t it be nice if we could emerge with heaps of self-confidence as well?

As we grew into little girls, we would be happy and assertive of our wants – indeed, ready to tell everyone around us just what we think should be done on any particular occasion. We would genuinely like ourselves and feel that we are – if not really pretty – pretty enough. And whatever captured our interest would feel like a reasonable pre-occupation.

And then we would grow up into happy and confident adult women (we might pass over the adolescent stage here). We would know all along who we are, what we want and how to set in train the process of getting it. We would look at ourselves and feel pleased. Yes, of course there are flaws here and there, we might think, but overall, we are ready to take on the world.

Fat chance. The world is nothing like that.

Well, to be fair, there are occasional people like that. My son was full of confidence as soon as he could talk. To my utter astonishment, even as a toddler, he treated everyone around him like an equal, which didn’t go down well at nursery – or any later – school. I never taught him to do that – he just did it. I have no idea where it came from. If it’s genetic, it didn’t come from me. But I do notice that his son is quite similar.

Women and Confidence

In practice, we all know that a lack of confidence seems to start very early on, abetted perhaps by what we are told. A great number of little girls – if not the great majority – feel that something is not quite right about themselves. Our hair is the wrong colour, our nose is too big, we are too fat or too skinny.

And people tell us that we are ‘too clever for our own good’ or ‘turning into a right tomboy’ or some other jocular put-down. We readily absorb such messages and wonder why we don’t fit into the world around us.

As we grow into women, we find ourselves with much the same response. We aim to be physically attractive but are certain that our bum is too big or our breasts are too small. Our hair isn’t right.

We aim to achieve in our chosen profession, but we are told that we are ‘too mousey’ or ‘too ambitious’ or even ‘not ambitious enough’. When we become mothers, we are ‘not paying enough attention to the children’ or, perhaps, ‘over-coddling them’. So many ways to be in the wrong.

Whatever direction we happen to take, more often or not, we believe it was not the right one. Even when we are successful in our careers, we develop what has come to be called ‘imposter syndrome’ and wonder when anyone is going to find us out.

This is, you may think, an exaggeration, but I believe it speaks for a lot of women.


The Good News

Well, there is good news at the end of the rainbow. Whatever you may be feeling in your twenties, thirties and forties, the horizon begins to change somewhere in your fifties. And this grows even more in your sixties, seventies and right on up.

I speak as a woman in her early 80s and I have been there.

You slowly realize – and I mean deeply realize – that you are not so bad after all. You know that there are places and moments where you have shined, whether at work or in the home, and you feel rightly pleased with yourself. Yes, you can do well.

You begin to accept praise as your due and stop looking quite so diligently for that voice deep inside who will tell you it was all a fluke. Indeed, that voice will often disappear altogether.

Moreover, you will find that there are other areas – differing with your personality or circumstances – where it just doesn’t matter anymore. Yes, your bum is big, but so what? There are ways of dealing with it. It’s part of the package of who and what you are.

Yes, you are (or were) ambitious, but that is a good thing and enabled you to flourish. Yes, you made mistakes, but doesn’t everybody?

You are no longer embarrassed by who you are. And, as one woman said to me recently, talking about why she liked being old, “You just don’t care anymore.”

The Importance of Liking Yourself

honey appearing in mirror meaningful beauty

Confidence is all important. It is that thing that enables us to carry out our day-to-day tasks happily and well. It is the thing that drives us on to do well – whether as supportive wives and mothers or as active contributors in the company boardroom.

It also represents a new form of freedom. The freedom to say no, you won’t accompany your husband to endless crime films, even to keep him company. He may like them, but you don’t – and you would prefer to stay home. Or medieval music. Whatever.

It’s up to you – and you know it and he knows it. And if he really loves you, he will welcome the development, even if it is sometimes annoying on a day-to-day basis.

The Choice is Yours

You have the freedom to wear your pyjamas all day, if that’s what you want. Or miniskirts, whether they suit you or not. Or big hats. Whatever you feel like wearing to express what it feels like to be you. Yes, there may be occasional gossip, but who cares?

You can take up new interests of your own. It might be paragliding. Or bible studies. Or the violin.

So, what did I do? I started yoga at the age of 50 and learned to stand on my head. I still do. And I took up choir singing in my early 50s. I am still loving it.

And having written reports from research undertaken for various agencies all my life, I decided to write narrative books on subjects of interest to me. Including the one on being old, called The Granny Who Stands on her Head.

I don’t know why it takes fifty or more years to gain a belief in ourselves, but it does seem to.

It may annoy you that you didn’t make all these decisions a long time ago, but feel happy that you make them now.

Go for it.

Ann Richardson’s most recent book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, comprises a series of reflections on growing older (including why she likes being there) and is partly a memoir. Information on her other books can be found on her website (www.annrichardson.co.uk). Do subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, with articles on any subject that captures her imagination. (https://arichardson.substack.com/)

Ann lives with her husband of sixty years in London, England.


If you enjoyed this story, please subscribe to my email list. I’ll share my stories and exclusive content with you. You might also enjoy my post: What I Love and Deplore About Aging.


February 20, 2024

Advice, Passages After 50

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