So…I’m going to talk about something that I rarely see talked about on social media. The generation gap. Millennials…Gen X…Baby Boomers.
The gap…it’s real y’all. And for some reason, it feels like a dirty subject to talk about. In the online business space and on social media, we’re operating in a world that claims inclusivity and acceptance, and often that is true, BUT it’s also true that as a female entrepreneur after a certain age, there are times it can feel like you’re being aged out of the mainstream.
This isn’t really discussed much, but it presents itself in places like the FAQ page of a conference, or the about section of a new community launch, when the “who’s this for” description states an age cap.
I remember a few months ago, I found myself checking out one female creative entrepreneur’s launch for her new monthly digital magazine. She was taking submissions from other creative women to share their writing in an upcoming issue. I was so psyched. I felt really connected to her mission and the purpose of this publication and I was just about to get my submission prepared, when I noticed the age cap: 35. At the time, I was 39.
Now, I’m comfortable with my age (don’t get me wrong—it’s been a process), and I actually understand her intent. Just like developing a strong ideal client profile for your own business, it’s absolutely relevant to have a specific demographic in mind of whom you’d like to most connect with your material. This isn’t a bad thing…in fact it can be essential to building strong messaging and a subsequent connection with an audience. But, I’m not gonna lie. Seeing this in print was more than a little deflating in the moment. And it was certainly not the first time I’d been faced with the message: “you’re just too old”.
And, when it’s not clearly laid out in print—the idea that maybe you’re a generation behind of what and who is “in”—it makes its way into our biggest insecurities. We can find ourselves asking:
- Where do I fit?
- Am I too old to be just getting started now?
- Am I too young to be taken seriously?
- Can I be part of a community where I’m older (or younger) than most people?
- Can and should I consider someone in a different generation than me, my peer?
- Will people of a different generation relate to me?
- And…does it even matter if they do?
So what is my purpose in sharing this personal “revelation”, what can you do if you find yourself facing the same messaging and how can you bridge this gap in your own business and online community building?
Don’t Try to Fit into Someone Else’s Timeline.
When we spend so much of our lives online and in the social media realm, we constantly expose ourselves to what people are comfortable sharing and so often it’s the best parts of their life. It’s a narrow view of what is really going on in their real world. A friend recently shared, “we compare our insides to other people’s outsides”. We’re viewing (and often sharing) the highlight reel. And that’s ok. It’s natural for us to want to share our wins and our delights more than we do our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities. That is absolutely understandable when making connections in the business world and even more in the online world.
The problem that creates however, is that we are constantly measuring where we are, by where someone else is, even if that person is considerably older, or younger or has had more time and experience (and failures) in the field we’re in. We compare where they are now, with where we believe we should be.
The truth is that your body of experience—your life—is always going to be several steps ahead of one person and several steps behind someone else. You can’t change your age and you can’t change what has gotten you where you are now. What you do have is this moment and the ability to move forward with fortified resolve and commitment to personal growth. To do that, you have to be willing to embrace your own season, develop your own path and not be focused on someone else’s timeline of success.
Consider Yourself a Role Model.
While I don’t give a lot of weight to how people have defined the “personality” differences between each generation, I think we have to admit, there are some obvious generational differences that exist. For instance, most Gen-Xers recall a time before cell-phones, tablets, social media and shopping on Amazon.com. Things like check registers and tape recorders were modes of keeping things organized. And the idea of working remotely, or frequently changing careers was much less the norm as we were growing up and entering the workforce.
It may feel like these things don’t really appear to be assets, but I think it’s fair to say that a world that is less geared towards convenience, and instant results, teaches you a different set of skills. It’s not to say that there is any one generation as a whole that is more aligned for success, it’s simply that there are things we have to teach each other, and it’s important to recognize the value you bring to the table because of how you grew up and what you’ve had the opportunity to experience.
Instead of feeling “aged-out” or not relevant, it’s much more productive and proactive to acknowledge the ways you bring value to others and especially those who are different from you in some way.
Make Unexpected Connections.
I’ve touched on this before, but I think it’s worth another mention. You have so much to share, but we also have so much we can glean from the experiences and perspective of others. It’s easy to stay in the lane that you’re most comfortable in and to want to consume information and make connections with people who are just like you. Sometimes those recognizably older or younger than us may seem unrelatable or incapable of understanding where we’re coming from. Or where we want to go.
Honestly, many times when I’ve set aside my preconceptions about someone based on their politics, their age, their differing beliefs and really made an effort to listen to what they have to offer, I’ve been amazed at the unexpected insight I’ve gained.
I think it’s quite valuable to connect with people that align with our lifestyle and have a shared perspective, but when we limit ourselves to connections within that space alone, we cut ourselves off from some really amazing potential friendships and connections. Not moving outside of our comfort zones in networking, can also keep us in that space of feeling misunderstood or underappreciated because we haven’t allowed others to see or hear us for what we do have in common. We are all connected by the human experience. Our age is only one factor in the many things that make us who we are.
See Your Age as an Asset, not a Liability.
Possibly the biggest piece of advice I can impart is this: your age is part of your story, and your story is one of the most valuable things you have.
Whatever age you are, and whatever it’s taken to get you to this very moment, there’s a wealth of experience there. Just like being bi-racial, growing up with a single parent, living abroad, adopting a child or being divorced, everything that has made up the years you’ve lived, gives you a unique perspective.
Sometimes we are so focused on how something makes us different, we forget to think about the things that make us relatable to one another. Or what makes our message important to someone else. This unique story, your one-of-a-kind experience of life, is the thing that makes you able to share something that no one else can in exactly the same way.
So is age important? Absolutely! Is it something that should hold us back from walking into new relationships and experiences? Not at all. There are certainly going to be times where a community or a platform is directed at a certain age demographic, and we have to let that be ok. It’s absolutely one thing that connects people, but it’s far from the only thing. And although at times it may feel like, “but I’m so much older than everyone else” (or, “I’m so much younger”), the reality is that being older means you have that much more insight to lean on, and being younger means you have so much time to develop who you are. Regardless of where you land on the spectrum of time, your unique experience of time is not a curse. It’s a gift. One worth sharing with everyone.