Community Magazine

On Age and How Others Perceive You

By Eemusings @eemusings

I’ve always been touchy about my age, and how old others think I am.

This stems back to a time when I was introduced to someone my parents knew, shortly after we moved to New Zealand, and just after we built our house (to my best recall).

“How old is she? Seven?” he asked.

I was in fact nine, and deeply insulted.

At 16 I got my first ever job. I worked in a cafe, mostly clearing tables and washing dishes. My coworkers thought I was in my early 20s.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve gone from looking young for my age to looking older. I think the glasses probably contribute. That, and my weirdly prematurely wrinkly forehead.

It also apparently stems from the way I conduct myself. “You’re so not Gen Y!” I was told earlier this year (said in a tone that suggested being Gen Y was on par with being a Nazi or an animal abuser).

Confidence is not one of my inherent qualities. I second-guess myself at every opportunity. I doubt my skills whenever faced with something new. I secretly think most of my work is terrible and that I’m a fraud. As I told my best friend the other week when we enlisted the help of a security guard to boot the people occupying our seats at Coldplay, if it had been me plonked down there and some other people had come along suggesting we were in the wrong row, I would be instantly convinced that I was the one who’d made a mistake (even if I wasn’t) and leap up to check.

But apparently I manage to carry off the illusion of confidence at work, which suits me just fine. In a generation where people are staying at home and at university longer, I think I’ve got an edge, having been independent from 17 (somehow I’ve become the go-to person on all things adulthood in my circle… housing, work, cars, etc). And I suppose I’m lucky in that I’m not an assistant drone at the bottom of a corporate ladder. I have a lot of autonomy, relatively speaking, and being constantly wooed by PR types on a daily basis has probably inflated my sense of power.

Is looking older than you really are a bonus in the workplace?

I think this can actually be a advantage. People are more likely to take you seriously if you look 35 as opposed to 15. As we all know, appearance counts for way more than anyone likes to admit (and that includes everything from your wardrobe to the pitch of your voice).

On the other hand, that can lead to higher expectations of you, and pressure to deliver what you might not be able to carry off. Pull it off though, and you’ll be a rockstar.

I’ll probably be regretting this when I’m 40 and staring into the mirror wondering where I went. But in consolation, I did recently get carded at a bar (annoyingly, I didn’t have my ID on me at the time). I still have it … sometimes.

Do you look your age? Do people normally guess your age correctly?


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