The Fear of Aging – Power of Modeling

Whether you want to approach aging in a more empowered way, or would like in general to become more confident and self-assured, one of the most important initial steps is to direct your mind away from what is no longer working for you (e.g. anxiety, insecurity, worry…) and towards the positive changes you want to accomplish. So what will you feel, see, sense, hear and look like when you have reached your goals? This is where you may draw a blank, because you can’t imagine what it would be like to feel calm, confident and empowered. You are convinced that confidence and empowerment are completely foreign to you. Well, there’s very effective approach to connecting yourself to a desired emotion or state of being even though you may have never experienced that emotion or state yourself. Neuro-linguistic programming calls this approach modeling.

We all have a natural ability to learn and acquire certain skills by simply mirroring someone who has already mastered them. In fact, many of our behaviors originate from modeling and imitating someone else. For example, pay attention to how you speak―the words you use, your intonation, gestures, and facial expressions. Do you recognize similarities to your mother or father? There’s a reason many of us come at some point to the same, rather shocking realization: “I am becoming my parents.”

As a child, you didn’t model only your parents’ manners and behavior, but also that of the heroes and heroines you read about or watched in movies. While you reenacted the adventures of Superman or Wonder Woman, using “superpowers” to fight against the dark and evil forces, you became these heroes. Sure, flying and stopping trains with your bare hands or roping a villain with a lasso of truth was rather tricky, but your attitude, energy, and confidence matched those of the idols you were impersonating.

You can still flex these modeling muscles even though it may seem a long time since you last used them. If you don’t know what it feels like to be confident or empowered – or how to age with ease and joy – mirror a person who embodies qualities you admire and aspire toward. This can be someone you personally know or a celebrity, humanitarian, or historical figure. Take some time to observe and study this person. Notice the characteristics that make him or her appear confident. Pay attention to this person’s posture, body language, facial expression, tone of voice, way of breathing, or—to quote the famous anthropologist Gregory Bateson—look for “the difference that makes the difference.” Then practice these characteristics on yourself and notice how your energy changes when you’re adjusting your own breathing, facial expression, and body posture to match what you have observed.

It often takes only an open mind and a few of these adjustments to understand how it feels to be as confident as the person you’re using as a model. It’s even more effective to model a variety of people’s characteristics and thus find out which adjustments evoke the most powerful sense of confidence for you. Over time, you’ll establish your own specific ways to feel and express this emotion. Although modeling is not as straightforward as drawing upon your own memories and experiences, it’s the bridge that can lead you to an empowered state of being, one you previously believed was impossible to attain.