martina braun
martina braun

Your self-image in old age: what to do when it's 20 years younger than you are!

I regularly struggle with my self-image as I get older:

Every Thursday evening, the time has come. I throw on my colorful leggings and golden sneakers and make my way to my Zumba class.

I love dancing, I love Latin music and as I still have a certain talent for movement, I never find it difficult to learn new dance steps and combinations quickly.

And because I've got the technique down pretty quickly, I can also focus on the sexiness of my moves and develop my own interpretation of the choreography.

Not like some of the other participants, who immediately reveal themselves to be movement dyslexics and drive me completely crazy when they unpack their anti-talents right next to me.

It confuses me so much that I suddenly trip over my own feet.

I would really like to work on my hip swing…it's not as if I couldn't do the choreo…

Somehow it was always like that before.

When I took a dance class with my partner a few years ago, I never had any problems remembering all the different moves and dancing them correctly.

Unfortunately, my partner had a little more trouble remembering all the steps and the order.

For this reason, I wasn't able to pay as much attention to my performance and we didn't exactly make a harmonious impression on the dance floor.

We eventually gave up, even though I was so good.

But I digress - back to the Zumba lesson!

And enough with the self-congratulation!

My exhilarated feeling and the conviction that my hip swing can seriously compete with Jennifer Lopez's lasts until I'm standing in the dance hall and the music starts.

Thanks to an unflattering mirrored wall in the dance hall, I suddenly find myself face to face with myself - in my colorful leggings and golden sneakers.

Forced to watch myself dance, I'm extremely irritated because my idea of myself and my ability doesn't really match what I see in the mirror.

My real self and my self-image are apparently two different people at this moment, or rather me now and me 20 years ago.

Goodbye sexiness and hip swing - hello movement dyslexic!

Man with wrong self-image in old age and without sense of rhythm participating in Zumba lession.

It seems to me that there are two different versions of me: the one I am and the one I would like to be.

I've recently come across this observation not only at Zumba, but also in other areas of life, and I feel like I don't know myself anymore.

Has this happened to you too? Do you recognize this deviation?

Well then it's high time to think about where this previous self-image, i.e. the version of yourself from your imagination, actually comes from.

And, above all, how you can make your 'this is how I see myself' me match your 'this is who I really am' self.

How does your self-image in old age develop?

The term self-image per se describes nothing more than the idea you have of yourself.

This is neither good nor bad and, above all, it is changeable. It can be adapted by you at any time!

It is also initially quite subjective, as you build up the image in your head all by yourself. Without any influence or comparison with the outside world.

You can perhaps imagine that this cannot produce a representative result under these circumstances. That's right, this self-image is not necessarily correct and true - it contains a lot of wishful thinking. Just like my dancing skills at the beginning.

Your self-image, even your self-image in old age is formed in your childhood and is initially shaped by your environment, i.e. primarily by family and friends. They give you a certain image of yourself through feedback and reflections, which you accept without being asked at the time and thus develop a sense of yourself.

Nowadays, social media also plays a significant role in the "this is how I see myself-me" - who would have thought it!

Your self-image is a combination of conscious and unconscious parts and if we don't question this self-image from time to time, we have large blind spots in this perception.

How you see yourself says a lot about what you believe in, how you classify yourself and what you may be holding on to unnecessarily.

Ultimately, it has to do with how well you know yourself - or would like to know yourself.

Your self-image in old age

Doesn't your self-image automatically become more realistic as you get older?

Not at all.

In midlife, you are so busy with life itself that you hardly notice the existing discrepancy between our self-image and reality.

But you unconsciously carry this blind spot with you into old age and it makes life difficult because at some point you can no longer fulfill your own expectations.

Or dealing with the people around you makes you bitter because they don't perceive you exactly as you see yourself in your imagination.

So your self-image doesn't automatically age at the same rate as you do. Sometimes the "this is how I see myself - me" is easily stuck in my 30s for years and misses the connection to the development of the "this is who I really am - me".

It really depends on how much space you give to reality in your life.

The much-discussed topic of authenticity also comes into play here.

The question arises as to how real you feel and behave in your life. And how authentic your environment perceives you to be.

Do you know the real you or have you been hiding it behind your "this is how I see myself-me" for some time? The motto "Fake it till you make it" is justified in many places, but at this point it can really get you into trouble.

Are your actions determined by external factors or are they determined by other people?

The issue of reality and authenticity becomes more and more of a challenge in old age, because getting older does not have a good reputation in our society. People like to hide the fact that they are getting older - they don't want anyone to notice that they can no longer do what they did when they were 30 or 40, and most people don't want to notice it themselves.

Don't get me wrong at this point. This is not a plea against dreams, fantasies and desires - quite the opposite. It only becomes one when the shifted perception of "This is how I see myself - me" and "This is who I really am - me" affects your well-being and takes away your enjoyment of life as you get older.

That's why it makes sense to review these views from time to time and compare them with your current life circumstances.

In the course of your life, your circumstances have already changed several times and you have consciously or unconsciously adjusted your self-image several times.

Or do you still see yourself as the same ambitious person you were when you were 20? Or do you still have the feeling that nothing in the world can shake you and you can handle any situation with confidence, just as you did when you were 30?

Congratulations! Because that means you've already adapted your "This is who I really am - me" to your "This is how I see myself - me".

So you can do it again…and again…and again….

And only you can do that! No one else can do this job for you.

What do you get in return?

Freedom and new opportunities.

Because when you're old, you won't have to do anything anymore.

You no longer have to fit into a size 36 dress, you no longer have to feel responsible for your children and you no longer have to bend yourself for anyone.

Nothing is more limiting than clinging to false and outdated ideas.

So let's move on to new freedom!

What makes your life easier?

With the following 5 steps, you can do it and reduce the age difference between your "This is how I see myself - me" and your "This is who I really am - me".

#1 Identify reality and desire

Sit down and write down what idea you have of yourself:

How do you see yourself in your role in the family construct, in your job and in your relationships?

What talents does your "This is how I see myself-me" have?

At the same time, you observe yourself in various real-life situations.

What do you think, what do you feel and how do you really react?

This step may not be very pleasant, as you usually realize as soon as you write down the individual points that the ACTUAL does not match the TARGET.

But it is necessary and the basis for everything else.

#2 Questions, questions and more questions

Illuminate your blind spots and scrutinize the origin of your "This is how I see myself".

Is the idea of "This is who I really am - me" true?

Where does your "This is how I see myself - me" come from?

Who benefits from you holding on to your "This is how I see myself - me"?

What does your "This is how I see myself - me" protect you from?

Can you change anything about the two versions?

#3 The comparison with the social environment!

Get feedback from your environment.

Ask the people around you how they experience you in your various roles.

The more people you ask, the more diverse the bouquet of external impressions becomes and gives you a more precise idea of who you are.

The difficult thing about this step is to endure what others tell you. This may not always match your expectations and can irritate or disappoint and hurt you at first.

But it will sharpen your view of yourself, give you more clarity and make it easier to change.

#4 Who do you want to be?

Do you really know who you want to be?

Do you really want to be everything you imagine yourself to be?

Or are these rather remnants from a past phase of your life that are no longer valid?

Perhaps you are now even satisfied with your current real "This is who I really am - me".

This step requires honesty towards yourself, because whatever the result of this step is, you should do something with it.

And letting go of old ideas is also a process and won't be done overnight.

#5 Do something!

And finally, the freestyle - transferring your ideas into reality.

If you have decided to get a little closer to your current self-image, then avoid your decision ending up as a "NATO" event… i.e. as "No Action Talk Only"!

There's no point just making up a new version of yourself now.

You need to get into action.

So if you want to transport an aspect of your "This is how I see myself - me" into your real "This is who I really am - me", then think about what it takes to do this.

It's best to find a small goal, a small wish and work on it. It's about concrete behaviors that you can set up for yourself.

Do you see your future self as a quick-witted person, for example? Then think about the situations in which you would like to be more quick-witted. What would you say? How would you feel? How would you notice that you are more quick-witted than before? Would there be reactions from those around you?

Keep this in mind and improve your communication. The key here is to practise, practise, practise.

And as soon as you are happy with yourself in this area, you can move on to the next.

One step at a time!


Regularly dealing with your self-image in old age can help you achieve great freedom.

All too often, we carry around old expectations, wishes and ideas about ourselves, making us unhappy and sometimes even a little ridiculous.

The old self-image sometimes no longer suits us - it hasn't grown up with us.

But you have every opportunity in the world to change.

And as you get older, you have every right to be the person you want to be.

Finally, it should be said that there may be a small discrepancy between the "This is how I see myself - me" and the "This is who I really am - me".

You don't always have to perceive yourself completely realistically; a little fairy dust can sometimes make the whole thing more pleasant.

It only becomes problematic when the difference between your self-image and reality makes you sad or even limits you.

Feel free to write to me if you have already identified your "This is how I see myself - me" and how big the gap is to your "This is who I really am - me".

I am also happy to support you on your journey and narrow the gap between your two selves.

Just write to me - I dare you!

Your MidLife and GoldenAge Coach