J.W said 6 years, 10 months ago:

I didn’t use to mind looking young for my age, I used to joke that it would work in my favour when I’m 70, but its got to the stage where I’m 23 now and keep getting mistaken for a 15 year old (its happened twice in the last month. Someone asked me where my parents were, seriously). I don’t look fresh and youthful, I just literally look like a kid, and noone wants that when they are trying to go out into the adult world after university (I will hopefully graduate with an MA this year).

I look back at pictures of myself and realise that I looked older when I was 17/18 than I do currently. I worry that it affects the way people view me and treat me, eg at work. I don’t feel like people expect much from me or take me seriously. I feel like people always want to patronize me, ‘mother’ me, or tell me how to do things I already know how to do. I feel like people ignore me or underestimate me.

People are always really surprised when I tell them my age; they look shocked, or they laugh.

Worst of all, its now starting to affect how I feel about myself. I get really paranoid about how young I look. I feel really sexually unattractive because of how I imagine others to perceive me. I feel so shy and immature (even though deep down inside I don’t feel young or immature) ,and like everyone is above me and is my elder, making it hard for me to socialise with people or make my voice heard – I’m hyper aware that they may think I’m young, and all my paranoid thoughts stop me from taking the opportunities that I want to in life.

I know this isn’t really a huge problem in the grand scheme of things, but right now, on top of a lot of relationship stress, just coming out of a period of depression, and a few weeks of chest infections, its really getting me down. Feeling like people perceive me as young gives me an inferiority complex around my friends and imposter syndrome at work. I’ve even thought about quitting my job and trying to find something where I won;t really be interacting with people.

Any advice on how to look and feel your age? Does anyone else have this problem, and how do you deal with it?

(ps sorry for the essay, but the Q&A isn’t working for me so couldn’t post this question there!)

Mooby The Golden Sock said 6 years, 9 months ago:

Hi JW,

It’s been happening all my life, too. I’m currently 30 and I look like I’m in my late teens, when I was 23 I think I was passing for 15-16 as well.

You’re kind of in that awkward stage where looking young makes people think you’re a minor, once you inch past it on the other side of 25 things will start looking up again and others will express jealousy. I still get some surprise reactions in my job, I just roll with it and tell people I’m either 12 or 97 depending on what mood I’m in. This tends to throw people off-guard a little, giving you some power back in the discussion.

You’re at a time in your life where you’re transitioning from being valued for your age category (primary school, high school, university, etc.) to what you’ve accomplished (degrees, work experience, awards, professional accomplishments, etc.). My advice to you is to find the things that define you in your life, and use them to command respect for yourself.

If you feel like you are an inferior you will act like one. In your interactions you will be passive and allow others to walk all over you, and this will cause them to see you this way. If you feel shy you will act shy, and then others will overlook you. It has nothing to do with how young you look and everything to do with confidence and body language.

But it works the other way around, too. If you act like you are a confident badass who adults the hell out of everything, you will start to feel like one too. If that annoying little voice speaks up and says you’ll look like a fool, overwhelm it by straight-up acting like a fool and being so exaggeratingly overconfident that it makes you feel ill. Force yourself into taking every opportunity that comes along, worm your way in and make other people rely on you so when things get tough they have to respect you.

Alongside that you should read some articles about how to communicate assertively. You can say the same thing with a different posture, tone of voice, and body language and get vastly different results.