Speaking with authority

Thursday, October 27, 2016 Permalink

There have been a few small events in my neck of the woods lately involving life and business coaches. And various other gurus. Some have tempted me. Others haven’t. One thing I’ve noticed however is the growing array of people offering wellbeing courses of some sort.

I don’t necessarily believe one needs formal qualifications to speak with authority on a particular subject. We’ve all known people with the right piece of paper but the wrong personality or approach.

However… I must admit I usually take the time to look at someone’s qualifications, background AND experience before committing to something or listening to what they’re peddling.

speaking with authority

Many years ago I followed a lot of health bloggers and body confidence / positive-living advocates. I was a fan of several in particular – including a few I continue to read today.

However… I was recently reminded of one in particular. I loved her positive outlook – her ‘devil may care’ approach to dieting and life in general. “Do what you love, to hell with everyone and everything else!” she’d say. And similar.

A couple of years went by and I read something by that particular coach / blogger. And discovered she was celebrating her 25th birthday.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?! It meant that I was taking advice from a 23yr old when I first came across her. Someone (at that point) 20yrs my junior.

I thought of my own bravado at 25. Or 23. I thought of everything I assumed I had before me and my expectations of life.

I was reminded of a 30yr old me being envious of Britney Spears’ abs, until it occurred to me she was about 16 at the time!

This person essentially finished college and went straight into business telling us why we should love our lives and be happy with whatever comes our way.

I’m not saying those in their 30s, 40s or 80s have nothing to learn from 25yr olds. But I felt cheated.

I was reminded of this recently during an online discussion about unqualified peeps talking about shit they don’t know. We all know of examples… chefs or bloggers providing medical or parenting advice and the like.

I know some fields and courses are heavily regulated. Others aren’t. I’m doing Italian language lessons with someone who’s not a qualified language teacher. But I knew that before I started. It’s an 8wk conversational course and I just wanted to learn how to pronounce a few words.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to trust my physical and mental health or emotional wellbeing to someone who was unqualified… or perhaps who was lacking experience.

And so I wonder if the latter is some indication I’m becoming ageist. I’ve listened to my elders complain about how young doctors or teachers look and chuckled.

And yet I wonder if I’m doing the same thing… Sometimes. I mean, I’m happy to trust my website to a 25yr old, but do I really want a bright young thing telling me how to live my life?

I know age alone doesn’t mean someone brings more or less experience with them. I know a widowed 25yr old with two kids would know so much more about loss and love than I possibly could as a single 48yr old. But still… I think back over the four PLUS decades of my life and find it hard to believe that doesn’t count for something?!

Am I being ageist? Or do you think it’s okay to sometimes draw on a range of factors to make such decisions?

the-lovin-life-linkyI’ve joined Leanne and some other bloggers to help promote “ageing positively” and the Lovin’ Life mindset across the interwebs (unless you’re me and a miserable old ‘git’)!  You can link up via any one of us!

The Lovin’ Life Team includes:
Kathy from 50 Shades of Age
Johanna from Lifestyle Fifty
Min from Write of the Middle.
and of course our host, Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit.


36 Comments
  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    October 27, 2016

    OK, So now you’ve got me thinking ….
    Hmmm.
    Am I ageist?
    Sometimes I think I am.
    But in my defence I actually voted for a young guy in the recent ACT election. My reasoning was I wanted his youth and sense of “anything is possible” approach. I wanted his sense of wonder and awe. I wanted him to be naive because I wanted someone who might have some fresh ideas. Us older folk tend to get a bit weary and jaded. It’s the youthful enthusiasm that I’m attracted to.

    In regards to your examples … ROFL … What. The. Actual. Fuck?! LOL

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2016

      I know, right?!

      I’m a bit the same – there are times I like the idea of someone bright and fresh. But not always.

  • seizetheday20
    October 27, 2016

    Gotta love youthful enthusiasm, but there’s also a lot to be said for qualifications and experience. It’s my personal belief that you shouldn’t tell other people what to do unless you’ve actually experienced the situation yourself and even then, it’s still their individual choice whether they take your advice or not 🙂 #TeamLlinky #LovingLifeLinky

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2016

      Yes Lyndall I agree that there are some things that come from experience. This young woman shocked me in particular because I assumed her to be younger than me but not much. To discover that she was so young and inexperienced really blew me away. And it occurred to me that some of her positivity was probably naiveté.

  • writeofthemiddle
    October 27, 2016

    What an interesting topic!! It’s very appropriate to life these days (at this age) actually because I’m finding that almost always the people I deal with, in various aspects of life, are younger than me!! I don’t think you’re ageist. I think that it depends on the situation as to whether we feel we can trust the advice or guidance of a younger person. In the case of a 23 year old telling me how to live a happy life – um – no! But the case of a 23 year old qualified dentist looking after my teeth – then yes, for example! 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2016

      Exactly Min! That’s how I’ve felt about some of the ‘experts’ offering courses etc… Some ARE older but there’s really nothing to indicate how / why they’re offering themselves up as experts in some fields. Although many bloggers (myself included) have – at times – felt capable of offering our writing skills to others. My BA and MBA don’t exactly support my work in that area and though some of my government work does, I feel I’d need to explain that experience!

  • kathymarris
    October 27, 2016

    I don’t think you are being ageist, you are being a realist. How can a 23 year old have the knowledge and experience compared to say a 33 year old? My daughter is a 26 year old doctor and most of the time I listen to every bit of health advice she loves to impart, but at other times I think “stuff her, I’m the wiser one”!

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2016

      Ha! That would be hard Kathy! I think there are definitely areas in which experience counts for more than pieces of paper etc…

  • Liz
    October 27, 2016

    Oh god Deb, there is so much I want to say about all of the health and fitness bullshit and those that peddle “fixes” for people. We are not broken, we don’t need fixing. We probably need encouragement and accountability (sometimes). My golden rule is go for the evidence based and avoid the bloggers that offer programs to “fix” you.

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2016

      Yes… I tend to overanalyse everything Liz so usually check out the person’s background, quals, experience and their philosophy etc… I know of a friend who did a life coaching course and I was quite impressed with the amount of coursework and prac they had to do. But I’m conscious that not all courses are like that….

  • Janet Camilleri (@middleagedmama1)
    October 27, 2016

    I must be getting old(er) – lately it seems TV reporters, sports stars, even doctors, seem so darn YOUNG to me! At a blogging event earlier this year I met a woman running a social media type business and one of the speakers – and was shocked to find she went to school with my DAUGHTER! She didn’t look quite that young. Once I realised how young she was (21 maximum) I found then doubted her abilities/experience/qualifications/authority. I know the young ‘uns are probably more up with the modern technology but I like to think this old dog knows a few tricks too!

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2016

      Oh I know Janet. This post originally started to be about my shock at the age of others and morphed into something quite different but I can very much relate. I hate the idea of ageing and being middle aged but there’s something to be said for the cynicism and awareness that comes with age and experience!

  • Johanna~ Lifestyle Fifty
    October 27, 2016

    Oh LoL! I don’t think you’re ageist or a miserable old you know what! I think you’re a realist. I love youthful enthusiasm but it has its place, and yes experience and qualifications count for a lot if I’m looking for hard advice about a particular subject or problem. Sometimes the energy of people younger than me makes yearn for my youth, but generally their ‘fixes’ for life aren’t going to work for me.

    • Sydney Shop Girl
      October 27, 2016

      I couldn’t have put it better myself. Agree with every word.

      SSG xxx

      • Debbish
        October 27, 2016

        Am glad it’s not just me! 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2016

      I guess it’s like a range of things Johanna – you need someone with the right experience. I’ve dealt with eating disorders for much of my life and seen many (many) therapists who haven’t specialised in that area and struggled to engage properly because I’ve felt they’ve not really understood what I’m saying / where I’m coming from!

  • nicolethebuilderswife
    October 28, 2016

    Love this, you’ve made me think. I would not be happy accepting advice from a 25 year old on how to live my life. (I’m 40) I just don’t feel that person has experienced enough to give advice on where I am at now. That said, I couldn’t define at what “age” I would be happy to take that advice, so now I am thinking I was too judgemental. Perhaps it would be about the quality of information rather than the person delivering? Thinking…….thinking.

  • toniazemek
    October 28, 2016

    Oh Deb, I’m with you on the checking qualifications thing. I always, always do that for life’s important appointments! Congrats on the new link up too.

  • Vanessa
    October 28, 2016

    I think it really depends on two things: does the topic require (legally and/or ethically) a qualification and does the person talking to you have the relevant maturity to talk about it (qualifications notwithstanding).
    I’ve always been out of sync with people my own age, so I can’t say if you’re being ageist or not 🙂 I think maybe you’re just picking out bullshit and age is one variable in some circumstances.

    • Debbish
      October 28, 2016

      The range of variables thing is very true – quals, experience – not to mention what it is… that’s under discussion!

  • Denyse Whelan
    October 28, 2016

    At 66 I am taking the ageist thing on…but it’s from my perspective. I wonder how much “I” am taken seriously now. despite those all important qualifications AND experience, to many, I am sure I am that ‘old lady who is retired. Good topic, Deb!

    • Debbish
      October 28, 2016

      Ah yes… I read an interesting article the other day by someone who called herself the invisible woman now she was over 40. I think it was a blog post but can’t remember where I read it!

  • Jess
    October 28, 2016

    I don’t think you are ageist, or I guess I am just as ageist. Age does count for something, but not necessarily everything and sometimes it is better to have a bright young thing. It is like education, experience etc all factors which I consider.

    My girls started swimming lessons again today after they stopped 3 years ago because they were actually getting more afraid of the water. They had a cranky, older female teacher. So this time I requested a young male teacher because I thought youth and a different gender would be helpful. But in terms of life advice I tend to look up towards those who have more experience!

    • Debbish
      October 28, 2016

      Yes Jess, it very much depends on what it is I think…

  • Karin @ Calm to Conniption
    October 28, 2016

    I completely get where you are coming from on this. I don’t think it is ageist, I think everyone needs to relate to a person to be able to take on their advice or thoughts. I followed a few coaches, and still do now but had to break from them for a while when I had my first baby as I just couldn’t relate to them anymore. Now all that new baby stuff is out of the way for me I am enjoying their thoughts a lot more again. It wasn’t an age thing, it was a I’m-stuck-at-home-with-my-boob-out thing.

    • Debbish
      October 29, 2016

      Ah yes… I unfollowed a lot of health and wellbeing bloggers / coaches etc when I closed my diet blog (and stopped dieting). My mindset had changed and I just didn’t want what they were offering.

  • Sarah
    October 30, 2016

    I totally get what you’re saying and have to agree!

  • Clare
    October 30, 2016

    This is an interesting thought, I know what you mean. When I visit a new Blog I try to assess if this is someone I would like to follow or not by looking at some of their categories/ posts and about page. So many bloggers though don’t disclose useful information ….like their general age is sometimes useful to know. ….. also I have often found myself wondering where a Blogger is living. Not specifically of course but I’d like to know if they are in Australia or somewhere else! Some don’t even give a name…. is it one person or a group of people. Having said that there are probably some very in-tune/ inspirational 23yr olds out there and if you felt encouraged and inspired by reading their posts then they are probably doing a good job? I don’t know. It’s an interesting discussion.

    • Debbish
      October 31, 2016

      It is Clare and I was surprised I felt so duped when I discovered this person’s age. I think they just seemed so happy with themselves… their body (though they carried a bit of weight) and life in general. I was still in the dieting mindset then so was trying not to let my physical self feature so strongly in my confidence and perception of myself etc… I’m not sure I followed them religiously but think they offer courses and coaching and the like, but to discover they’d lived so little of life and (perhaps!!!!) not come up against and extra 10-20yrs of crap from the world, was disheartening.

  • Cat@Life through the haze
    October 31, 2016

    Hey Deb
    I don’t think you are being anything. I completely agree with you. Don’t get me wrong advice from someone who has studied years in a field is one thing, or from someone has done time in the trenches (preferably both is better). But to get life experience from someone who has barely begun theirs feels a bit off.
    I guess it would be different if you knew from the beginning and thought she had good ideas about things but to find out by chance is a bit different.
    Cat xox

    • Debbish
      October 31, 2016

      True Cat. I probably would have considered her work differently. That’s not to say I ever take everything anyone says as gospel, but I usually pick and choose. I’ll often also consider ‘how’ they came to that conclusion or what baggage / ideology is behind it etc… So in her case I might have shrugged off some stuff (and not felt I was abnormally negative) if I’d known she was younger.

  • Grace
    November 2, 2016

    Yeah, I don’t think you’re being ageist. I do wonder if that “devil may care” attitude would be tainted one day with some hard knocks later on in life. So, for me it’s not an age thing, it’s an experience thing. Isn’t it so much easier to face the world with that much gusto and youthful enthusiasm when you haven’t been hit with real tragedy or loss? I know I was a lot more fearless at 25.

    • Debbish
      November 3, 2016

      Yes, that naiveté of youth is a great thing sometimes!

I'd love to hear your thoughts