I was having dinner the other night with my partner, a lawyer with the Canadian Government. The conversation got around to the subject of ‘equality’, particularly in relationships. The conventional wisdom, we concluded, is that for two people to be equal, they need to respect and regard each other as having equally valid points of view (as in “my way of looking at a particular situation is just as valid as yours…”). However, most people, we felt, don’t normally relate to each other as equals—they constantly evaluate, assess and compare themselves to others based upon some external criteria such as intelligence, looks, material possessions, status, power, and so on.
Discrimination of any type, including ageism, contains a built-in, implicit assumption of inequality. Our culture devalues age, growing older and older people, so that there is little hope of being related to as ‘equals’. This disparity/devaluation breeds resentment, isolation, ‘elder’ ghettos and numerous other problems at both the individual and community levels.
We had an empowering insight into this that I want to share. We saw that ‘equality’ (‘being equal’) doesn’t mean ‘sameness’ (‘being the same’). I am ‘equal’ whenever I can fully and authentically be myself with someone—and when they can be themselves with me. When I am not being myself, I end up compensating by putting someone else either up or down and falling into the automatic pattern of comparing myself to others.
Equality has nothing to do with others—and it has everything to do with who I am and how I am relating to myself.
From this perspective, I might take it as my job to be myself every day and encourage all those around me—at every age—to do the same. I predict this could make us a lot more attractive and in demand wherever we are in our lives, as well as go a long way toward breaking the vicious cycle of ageism. The tricky part: to be ourselves, we must let go of our ego attachments, our historical identity and, most of all, our addiction to trying to control what others think of us.
Think about it.