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The 'Power Year': Why 36 is the magic number

There was a time not so long ago, when being the wrong side of the mid-thirty left little wiggle room for avoiding the dreaded ‘middle aged’ label. Nowadays, popular opinion tells us that 36 is not only still young... it’s positively ‘peak’! According to a study by Yougov, people in Britain think the ideal age is 36, with a combination of self-assurance and financial security likely to be among the main reasons for rating this age above any other. That said, there might be more to the joy of 36 than the exponential theory of age, wisdom and money implies... Clarity, self-compassion and perspective also all seem to come in spades around the mid thirty mark, which allows contentment to thrive even IN SPITE of the imperfections and obstacles we might have once believed it depended on eliminating. Being 36 is also the ability to see the shades of grey in situations, people, life events and scenarios that might have once appeared black and white, highlighting a method in even the most misunderstood periods of madness! As such, we become less frustrated and more empathetic, which serves us just as much as it does those around us. At 36, time is also no longer as open ended as it was ten years prior, which lends an element of positive pressure - and subsequent productivity - to how we work. This can serve to override some of the ‘indecision epidemic’ and the ‘obedience epidemic’ that are apparently sweeping the (younger) nation. Habits such as over apologising, over committing and glory-sharing (using ‘we’ instead of I’) are habits that the years tend to iron out, so that by 36, we’re much more adept at not saying ‘sorry’ unnecessarily, saying ‘no’ more often, and using ‘I’ proudly in everyday discourse (for more on this check out the book Performing As You) What is most pivotal to the ‘power year’ effect, however, is actually believing it in the first place. The 36 theory is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as research shows that individuals with high positive self-perceptions of ageing are the ones to reap the rewards of this mindset, both physically and emotionally.

We asked Shalee Booker what is it about 36 that has proved to be a turning point for her:

‘It began in my teen years and lasted through most of my 20s. This constant comparison of my body, my skin, the way I spoke. Sometimes, I didn’t speak at all out of fear of saying something wrong. Turning 30 also turned a page to a whole new chapter in my life. Slowly, the insecurities began to fade into the background. The comparisons gradually disappeared. It’s only now, at 36 that I feel the most myself than ever before. The most at home in my own skin. I celebrate the differences in all people without judgment toward myself. After all, comparison is the thief of joy I was involved in an accident at the end of January 2019, and I broke my back in three different places and had to be air lifted off of a Utah mountain. Not everyone who is 36 has quite such a dramatic reminder of how fragile our bodies can be, but I do believe that most of us by this age have learned a lesson of gratitude of some form. Instead of finding fear, doubt and worrying in knowing that my body is aging, I choose to take this as an opportunity to really lean in and take care of myself and love it in every stage. Being kind to myself as well as other people, in my opinion, is one of the highest forms of currency we have in this world. My aim is to take care of my mental health just as much as my physical health, so that in 36 more years I’m just as positive as I am today.’

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