The curse of having a “babyface” in the workplace

*This post is sponsored in collaboration with AARP Cincuentañeros and #WeAllGrow Latina Network. 

Last month, I had the honor of attending a sponsored dinner with AARP Cincuentañeros, where a conversation on ageism was started and how it affects everyone across all ages. I loved how they created a safe and positive space for us to talk about our age. Many women don’t like to talk about how old they are, because they fear not getting opportunities or being told they are too young for a position. I’ve never had that problem and during the dinner, I mentioned that I’m excited to turn 50 and I’m already making birthday bash plans. I’m serious about this! Turning 50 has always sounded like a good number to me because it symbolizes wisdom.

I have always embraced getting older because I associated that with finally looking like a “REAL ADULT”. I’ve always looked younger than I am and being a late bloomer as a teenager didn’t help! Now in my late 20s, I constantly struggle with people assuming in the workplace that I’m a recent college grad. I’ve lost count how many times my fellow co-workers write me off as the intern upon our first interaction. I’m sure many people want to look younger but the closer I get to 30 the more uncomfortable I get in the workplace when I’m asked if I’m the intern. Having my professional competence called into question because I look younger than I am is pretty frustrating. Constantly defending my age I feel like a 16-year-old yelling at their parents “I’M GROWN!”

ageism
ageism

Prior to the dinner, I was letting those assumptions get under my skin because it felt like people would try to belittle me as a point of authority in the workplace. I’ve had my share of venting sessions to my friends, about the battle of having to be taken seriously. I really resonated with Gaby Natale, who is also a fellow journalist. She said that when she first started, she felt like her directors and managers did not take her seriously because she had a major baby face. In journalism, many times you are told to cut your hair or dress a certain way to appear older. Journalism is a career where you have to earn your stripes and pay your dues and looking mature can help your credibility, according to higher management.

ageism

No matter how old we are, we all have something to offer, we are valuable and our voices count.  The biggest lesson I learned at the AARP Cincuentañeros dinner was to live life “sin cuenta” (without counting). I was letting others perception of me dim my light in some capacity. Now more than ever, I’m making a conscious decision to stop thinking about how I look or how others see me. Age is just a number and that is how I am going to live life. Life is about following your passions and living life to the fullest.

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