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answerjill's avatar

I'm in my mid-30's, so why can't I think of myself as a grown woman?

Asked by answerjill (5672 points ) January 28th, 2013

This is a tricky question to ask in a clear way. You see, it is not a question of whether I think that I am mature or adult or whatever. Rather, it is a question about why I can’t see myself as looking sophisticated, “grown-up,” adult, alluring, etc. I am in my 30’s (but I am constantly told that I look young for my age). I am trying to figure out why my self-image (of my physical appearance) is that of a (maybe kind of cute) girl, rather than a woman. Any suggestions for looking and feeling more like an adult?

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26 Answers

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Growing up is mandatory; growing old is optional.

Who cares if you pass for whatever’s considered “sophisticated”? If you live the life of a mature adult—being responsible and honoring your commitments—hooray for you if you feel younger than your chronological age.

answerjill's avatar

Thanks @SadieMartinPaul , but I am not talking about feeling young; I’m talking about feeling like my self-image (of how I look) is not that of a woman, but rather a girl. It isn’t a concern about not feeling older.

bookish1's avatar

Devise a coming-of-age ritual. We barely have those anymore.

CWOTUS's avatar

Do you hang with older people a lot? Say, at work, for example?

I’m asking because I work at a company that skews heavily older, even older than me, and I’m 59. Around that crowd I generally feel young, but when I get out of work and socialize – away from work colleagues – then it hits me: “I’m 59 damn years old! I should feel older than I do!”

If you spend your time among mostly older people, then that can have a way of making you feel younger than your chronological age. It’s not a bad thing, but it is a thing to consider.

answerjill's avatar

@CWOTUS – Interesting idea! The funny thing is that I tend to hang out with a lot of people who are younger than me. Maybe that is part of the reason for why I feel this way! I know that I kind of blend-in with them. (Which is kind of nice in some ways.)

CWOTUS's avatar

Thanks. It’s funny, because when I socialize (mostly via Meetup.com) most of the people I hang with there are somewhat to quite a bit younger than I am, and I swing between feeling like “the old man” (trying not to feel like “the creepy old man” around some of the really attractive and friendly young, single women) and “one of the crowd” when I am explicitly made to feel that way.

Yeahright's avatar

This is such an interesting question and I totally relate to it because for years and years I went through the same thing. I knew I was my age chronologically, but always felt like a child in a grown-ups world. For a while I thought I had the Peter Pan Syndrome or something like it. Right now I don’t have time to elaborate on this because I am in the middle of writing something for work. I will try to get back to this if it’s not too late and have something to contribute with. I did manage to overcome the feeling though, but a bit too late in life and it had already prevented me from achieving a lot because in your mind you have all the time in the world ahead of you to do whatever it is that you are supposed to do, but of course in reality you don’t. It is not a very practical state of mind to be in to say the least.

answerjill's avatar

These answers have been interesting, but I want to reiterate that this is not about feeling young or immature. I am a responsible adult. It is about feeling like I don’t look like an adult, in terms of physical appearance. Like, I think that maybe I don’t get a lot of male attention because I just look kind of cute and not like a grown woman.

wundayatta's avatar

Are you married? Do you own a home? Do you have a subscription to the orchestra? Do you have kids? Do you take part in neighborhood associations or churches or anything that real adults do? If not, you may well feel young because you don’t take on the issues that serious adults take on. There is nothing wrong with this. I’m just trying to see if this plays into what you are asking about.

If you feel you don’t look like an adult, that is a feeling. There is no objective way to assess your looks. It is your feeling. It is more likely to be based on the role you play in life than on your looks. Your looks are just an excuse. Your feeling probably comes from some place much deeper than that.

answerjill's avatar

@wundayatta – No, No, No, No,and Yes. But as I just said above, that is not what this is about.

janbb's avatar

I kind of know what you mean. I still don’t really feel like a womanly woman but more like kind of a penguin tomboy hybrid. I think,for me at least, it’s been a matter of coming to terms with and embracing that as my kind of attractiveness.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@answerjill So, you’re asking about your demeanor and physical appearance, not about your attitude?

I recommend that you buy a few issues of “Glamour” and “Redbook.” The magazine “Glamour” is targeted at early-20-somethings, and “Redbook” is for ladies over age 30. Avoid any styles, fashions, and grooming tips from “Glamour,” which are meant for someone younger than you, and stick with the guidelines of “Redbook.”

I swear that this will work. It’s exactly what I did when I wanted to be taken more seriously, be respected for my age, and make all those dismissive people call me “Ma’am.”

Yeahright's avatar

…I tend to hang out with a lot of people who are younger than me. This indicates something other than just your physical appearance. It is actually quite revealing of your state of mind. But let’s say that it is in fact your physical appearance that you are not entirely happy with because you don’t look like a grown up woman. This has a lot to do with the stereotypical image that you probably have of a grown-up woman. I’d suggest you choose someone as a model of what you want to look like and pick up a few things to add to your actual look, not only in terms of what you wear, but also on how you talk, your mannerisms, etc. Just add a few new things at a time. Don’t rush. Oh! and hang out with people your own age.

burntbonez's avatar

I wouldn’t worry about it. Most people like being seen as younger than they are. Is this harming you in any substantive way? Believe me, in another decade or two at the most, you are going to be so grateful people think you look young.

josie's avatar

It’s a commen form of evasion. A mild neurosis. I wouldn’t worry about it unless you are acting and dressing in a fashion unbecoming of your age. Then you stop looking young and start looking foolish.

gondwanalon's avatar

Join the military with a combat infantry specialty. That should age you considerably. AH!

JLeslie's avatar

Do you have a young physique and style? Nothing wrong with that. Why do you want to pursue feeling or looking womanly? I think that is reated to being heavier, not necessarily overwieght, or older, usually over 40. So if you are thin, few wrinkles if any, and a style that is not matronly then you probably would not be described as womanly.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

You should treasure it and make it last longer, it is a gift! Nothing wrong with it at all!

wildpotato's avatar

I think I know where you’re coming from – thanks for asking this question. I am 27 and am frequently told I look like I’m 15 or 16. People will say, “But you look like you’re only a little kid!” in this surprised, marveling tone when they learn my actual age, like they think they’re saying something enormously clever or revealing, instead of being utterly obvious and rude. It makes me want to remark loudly on how old or out of shape they look. But I always just grit my teeth and joke it off by saying something like Dear me, and here I am thinking I can’t look a day over 13. I think that being a tomboy, as janbb points out, unfortunately does not help. Perception of apparent age is thoroughly tied up with perception of exhibited sexuality.

@wundayatta There are some objective ways to asses looks. For example, wrinkles are commonly thought to indicate age – or, if on the face, worry or laughter. In my case, I think my apple cheeks, extremely short stature and slight build, and smooth, fair skin are what make me look quite young at a glance.

@burntbonez Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be awesome when I’m 50. In fact, my mom assures me it’ll be so. But it’s not such a helpful thing to hear when I’m in my mid-20s and am very tired of not being taken seriously due to things I can’t control about my appearance. Sorry for the vitriol; I just hear that line a LOT.

@SadieMartinPaul Great suggestion, thank you. I’ll check those out and compare the styles.

Shippy's avatar

Looking mature or of age is easy. By pass the T shirts with logos, leave out the casual footwear, take a pass on fads and maybe change your hairstyle. Seek out videos or advice on how to accomplish a polished make up look. Because I can’t see you, my advice is vague. I realize that appearing your age can at certain times bring you more credibility in certain situations.

augustlan's avatar

My tiny 17 year old daughter, who looks considerably younger than she is, got a different haircut. One that was a more mature (and shorter) style, and it made a significant difference. Something as simple as that may work for you, too. You might want to watch a few episodes of What Not to Wear that have focused on this issue. An update to a more mature wardrobe, make-up and hair style, and even eyeglasses can have a huge impact on how you see yourself (and how others see you, too.)

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

Rather than trying to feel and look more like an adult, indulge in the youthful feeling you have and enjoy it. Life seems to be so much more enjoyable when you realize age is just a number. Don’t give in to your age if it doesn’t seem to fit and feel right. If you feel like your twenty act like your twenty.

Mature is another word for boring.

This may not be the answer you’re looking for, but I hope it helps.

wundayatta's avatar

Also, it can be good to disarm people into not taking you seriously. Then, when you cut the deal, you surprise them with how smart you are, and totally blow them away. It is an advantage to look less than you are, if you know how to use it. It’s like when men used to habitually think blondes were dumb. You see it in movies like Legally Blond. Act dumb and carry a big stick. It works.

Brian1946's avatar

What women do you see as being sophisticated, adult, etc?

Would say that both Hilary Clinton and Stephanie Miller look like grown women?

answerjill's avatar

Hm.. Hilary might be just a little too mature for me at this point. I tried to some bright lipstick today and that made me feel a little more glamorous.

rojo's avatar

I don’t know whether you ever really feel grown up. When I was a kid I thought it would be great to be an adult and have all the answers. At 57 I wonder when I am going to achieve that state. Most of what we do as adults is just adlib based upon our experience.

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