Why do we dread certain birthdays? Expert: “Those who feel younger than they are are happier” | Nina


Growing older is no fun, but apparently everyone fears a different age. When do you really feel old? Thirty-five candles or sixty candles? A psychologist and psychoanalyst explain why the ‘scary age’ is different for everyone and what you can do if you are very afraid of aging. “People with narcissistic vulnerability may be more sensitive to it.”

Some people have more trouble growing older than others. Moreover, your true age rarely corresponds to how you feel inside: for some people, life only begins with them ‘dirty thirty‘, others already feel practically elderly. Either way, you are not the same person at 30 as you are at 40 or 60.

Do you have a ‘scary age’, like Miranda and Carrie from ‘Sex and The City’?

The big milestones in our age — you know, when we enter a new ‘tram’ — are celebrated extensively in our culture. A ritual that soothes the pain somewhat. Yet it often turns out not to be those round numbers that scare us. That concept was first introduced in the American series ‘And Just Like That’, the successor to ‘Sex and The City’. The ‘scary age’ of characters Carrie and Miranda were not forty or fifty, but forty-five and forty-three respectively. As they approached that age, they began to panic.

An image of Carrie and Miranda from the series ‘And Just Like That’. © IMDb

Inside we all shudder at growing older: that is human nature, confirms psychoanalyst Trui Missinne. “It is our human nature to push away or deny painful things. But one of the universal truths about life that no one can escape is that we all grow older and eventually die.”


We unconsciously imagine ourselves forever young, as in our dreams

Psychoanalyst Trui Missinne

“Unconsciously we imagine ourselves forever young, like in our dreams. But the reality is traumatic in a way. Looking in that mirror and realizing that you have grown old, that you see wrinkles that were not there before, that is not easy. If we cannot accept that, we become anxious.”

Why is the ‘scary age’ different for everyone?

Getting older is never pleasant, but why is it that the dreaded numbers can differ so much? “Every person has a certain expectation about his or her life,” says clinical psychologist Leslie Hodge. “The more you approach finitude, the more you are confronted with what you wanted to achieve and with what you have actually achieved.”

“And not only your own expectations play a role, but also your environment. If all your friends are already married with children at your age, birthdays as a single person can feel extra painful. The reason everyone fears a different age is the combination of all those factors: your expectations of yourself and your reflection on your environment.”


When people have a very difficult time with a specific age, it sometimes turns out that they have feelings of guilt without realizing it

Psychoanalyst Trui Missine

Missinne: “If people have a very difficult time with a specific age, it sometimes turns out that they have feelings of guilt without realizing it. I know a seventy-one-year-old man who suddenly realized that his difficult number referred to the age at which his father died: his fear around that milestone may have had something to do with that.”

Do you feel younger than you are? That’s positive

The age at which you really feel old is different for everyone. It may have to do with the goals you still want to achieve or simply with how afraid you are of wrinkles. Hodge: “It has also been found that the gap between how old you are and how old you feel increases as you get older. People around the age of seventy feel about fifteen percent younger than they are, people around the age of sixty feel about ten percent younger, … You see that it varies.”

“Some people feel young forever, and that is a very positive thing. Most of us feel younger. And people who feel younger than they are are happier and more full of life.”

(Read more below the photo.)

Photo for illustration.
Photo for illustration. © Getty Images/Maskot

Through this work of mourning, every person must: “A sign of maturity”

If that fear of growing older really paralyzes you, it’s called gerascophobia. But why does one suffer from it more than the other? Missinne: “If you are very afraid of aging, enriching and nourishing your inner world can be an important remedy. Unfortunately, today’s society, which focuses so much on the superficial, perfect picture, also physically, is at odds with this. People can be sensitive to that demand for perfection and escape into obsessively trying to overcome their outward signs of aging.”

“Unfortunately, that doesn’t help with the grieving work we all have to do: accept that we will die one day. No one escapes that. Are you able to accept that? Then psychoanalysts see that as a sign of psychological maturity.”

“But if you only focus on the outside, it is more difficult to come to peace with aging. People with a narcissistic vulnerability may be more sensitive to this. Appreciating your inner enrichments helps, but growing older remains painful anyway.”

Also read:

How come some people stay looking young for so long? (+)

Patrick Dempsey (57) named the sexiest man in the world. Do men age better than women? (+)

Freeze your eggs like singer Natalia (43)? Prof explains how and what it costs. “There are 2 groups of women” (+)

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The article is in Dutch

Tags: dread birthdays Expert feel younger happier Nina


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