Getting older is not something to fear or be embarrassed about. It’s a collection of experiences, lessons, and the adventures that have made you who you are.

“Age is just a number”—at least that’s what I’ve been told, but I disagree. I’ve never been a big fan of clichés, and this is one I’ve been hearing a lot lately, ever since I turned 49. I realize it’s supposed to provide some kind of comfort around the idea of aging, but I honestly feel that it misses the mark completely. Because age isn’t just a number, it’s so much more!

Personally, I think we look at aging from a perspective that’s completely

backwards. Instead of being proud of everything we’ve learned and who we’ve become, we waste time and energy pining for the people we used to be. Why do we do that? It’s actually not surprising considering the messages we get from society, media and marketers.

According to Zion Market Research, the global anti-aging market will be worth $216.52 billion US by 2021. What that means is there are a lot of people making money by convincing women that getting older is something to fear and be embarrassed about.

That’s just wrong. Age isn’t just a number, it’s a collection of the experiences, lessons, adventures, and relationships that help make
us the incredible women that we are. I’d be lying if I said that I had no regrets or that I’m grateful for every experience I’ve been through. But, I do acknowledge the role they played in my life—and it’s these experiences that have made it possible for me to grow, evolve and make huge changes in my life when before, I let fear keep me trapped in a life that other people expected at the expense of my own happiness.

I am not the same woman I was when I was in my 20’s or my 30’s and that’s kind of the point. There’s a freedom that comes from getting older as a woman, even if it means accepting some changes to our bodies. Who decided that perkier breasts and a quicker metabolism were more valuable than the wisdom and confidence that comes from owning who you are and how far you’ve come?

It’s interesting how we expect to change intellectually and emotionally, but are surprised when we start to change physically as well. When our hair gets greyer and our lines get deeper, it just means we’ve lived more and should be enjoying the ride without judgement from anybody, including ourselves.

Think about how much we change with every new challenge we face and obstacle we overcome. Take a second to reflect on every person we engage with and learn something from. Getting older doesn’t mean we’re losing our youth, rather it means we’re gaining our independence from society’s outdated views of older women.

Too many women feel like they become somewhat invisible when they hit their 40’s, when in reality, many of the famous and fabulous women we know, didn’t truly become “successful” until at least that age. Vera Wang was 40 years old when she designed her very first wedding dress. Julia Child didn’t even learn to cook until she was 36, and didn’t host her own cooking show until she was 40. Lucille Ball was 40 years old when I Love Lucy first aired in 1951. Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for “Best Director” when she was 57 years old.

Now isn’t the time to fade into the background of your life, but to take center stage. Figure out the things that make you the happiest and do them often. Truth be told, I’ve always loved dance and fitness, and I start every morning by throwing myself a dance party in my living room, followed by a little strength training. I like to be creative, and make my own rules.

My fitness goals have evolved from trying to fit into a wedding dress, or a tight pair of jeans, to wanting to feel strong and energetic. Being fit and healthy feels good, at every age, and how we go about achieving that is completely up to us. There’s no cut off period, no age when we need to stop enjoying all the things we always have, or stop looking for new things to try.

There is nothing more powerful than a woman who knows her own worth and won’t settle for less than she deserves. The relationship we have with ourselves should be our biggest love affair, because we’ve handled everything that life has thrown at us and we’re still walking tall. Don’t worry about getting older. Revel in it, and do it your way. Be bold, be brave, and be whoever you want to be! The world is your runway.

More inspiration: Check out this inspirational story on life changes.

Author: Marci Warhaft is a body image advocate, speaker and author of “The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive.” Marci created her Fit vs Fiction workshops to tear down the myths related to beauty and fitness and empower people of all ages to appreciate who they are.

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