Ageism and Self-prejudice

The blog, NexTribe had a recent blog post titled “Beginner Again: Finding My Next Career at Midlife“.  Outplacement, Ageism, and Self-prejudice. One wouldn’t think these three are necessarily related, but I suggest they are.

Laid Off Over 50

Lynnelle here.

The point that resonated with me in Beginner Again… was one gleaned from her backstory, not the actual point of her piece. The author, Dawn Reffel, was let-go, laid off, outplaced, made redundant, fired… whatever you call it. For the first time in her life she left her job NOT by choice.  She describes going to the Outplacement Office and looking around at the outplaced “others” and noticing that all but one were over 50. The one person under 50 got a job quickly and wasn’t there long.

Sexual discrimination is rife in the media, for good reason. Women continue to fight for equal pay, equal control of our bodies, respect for self versus appearance, especially as we mature… It is real.  Today, I’ll take a stand and say there is another bias that is not heavily in the media, but is equally as oppressive and discriminatory.  Youth bias, aka: Age Discrimination.

Age Discrimination

Our society is aging quickly. Age discrimination is pervasive and harmful and an issue “we” have to address. My experience in my last position continues to weigh on my mind. I was not let-go, laid off, outplaced or made redundant. The decision to leave the job was my own. However, while I learned a great deal from my experience there, it was a difficult one for a couple of reasons, one being (what I perceived as) ageism. I’m happy to say it was not overt, and I didn’t experience a specific situation where one would shout “AGE DISCRIMINATION!” But, it was there. I believe that in many corporate work environments, we “over a certain age” and not in the C-suite, are seen as LESS.. less in touch, less ‘hungry’, less able to learn, less current, less flexible (figuratively), less willing, less dedicated, less determined,…   This is not a new phenomena. It was, however, a new phenomena for me and I don’t like it.

“They” (Youth) & “We” (Mature)

There are a few directions we can take the discussion of ageism. 1) We can discuss how they (the youth) have explicit prejudice against us (the mature), meaning they are totally aware of their thoughts and feelings about age and aging and behave accordingly. 2) We can discuss how they (the youth) have implicit prejudice against us (the mature), meaning their thoughts and attitudes towards age and aging are unconscious or automatic. Both are important, one easier to address than the other.

But there’s a third perspective I’d like to present, (one I wish I’d been aware of and grappled with differently last year).  It is this:

Intrinsic Ageism

We (the mature) are implicitly prejudiced against aging or the aged – aka: ourselves. We – unconsciously – limit ourselves by our stereotype. Furthermore, we don’t recognize the adverse effects on our health, finance, lifestyle caused by actions we may (or may not) take based on this negative perspective/belief about aging because these results/situations are congruent with our negative expectations. How can any change/improvement be impossible if we aren’t aware?!

Have you ever said something like, “Oh, I can’t remember the name of that _______ (movie, street, person, dish,…). Must be old-timers creeping up on me.” That’s what I’m talking about. It seems harmless, but it can be impacting every thought we have and action we take involving age – ours or “theirs”.  I picked up a couple of books to read about the issue – it’s not light reading, for sure. But, it’s interesting. It is helping me be aware, especially how I perpetuate my own prejudice. I’m trying to increase my awareness, changing my intrinsic awareness to extrinsic. Once done, I’ll be able to change and hopefully eliminate the prejudice. I want to continue to learn, grow and evolve, not “get old”.

(Sidenote: NextTribe is a new online magazine with the tagline “Age Boldly”. Right up our alley. NextTribe is what Heels and Tevas if there were 10 Barbs and Lynnelles (God help the world) with publishing experience and commercial investors. Check them out and say the Heels and Tevas TRIBE sent you.)

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