The Hardest of Jung's Seven Tasks of Aging: Letting Go of the Ego
From a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Wrinkle Treatments Don't Age Well”:
“Botox injections help lift the upper face, and dermal fillers such as Restylane plump up sunken areas around the cheeks and chin. Cosmetic doctors say demand for these antiaging injectables is booming, especially among people in their 30s and 40s who aren't ready for a surgical face lift. But the benefits of such injections typically fade within four to six months.”
In the end, time will have its way. Behind an obsession to erase evidence of its power over flesh from the face is a desperate ego clinging to the self like a barnacle to a pier.
Age is what it is. According to Carl Jung the failure to recognize that stands as a barrier to uncovering the real self, the principle behavioral task in the second half of life. Striving to mask age is to invite an old age burdened with grief and regret over the loss of what was.
That is not to argue against looking as good as one can look. I applaud Dove’s Pro-aging products as appearance enhancers. But authenticity is a hallmark of true maturity. Dove is the first big name personal products maker to recognize that.
Most people in their 50s and older typically want to look good but not at the cost authenticity. They are who they are, thinned pates, lined faces, expanded girths and all.
The trouble with a lot of marketers in a marketplace where the rules of marketing are heavily shaped by consumers in the second half of life is that they haven’t grown up to the point where they understand the critical importance of authenticity. By the way, that’s the title of a new book coming soon from my friends Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore who co-authored the best-selling Experience Economy.
Hugh Prather says in The Little Book of Letting Go:
"A mind (ego) that learns to let go gradually returns to its inherent wholeness, happiness, and simplicity."
Letting go of the ego enhances personal well being by taking one to new and higher levels of life satisfaction. Beyond that, research indicates that getting beyond the self to turn more attention to helping others improves the efficiency of the immune system. People who help others tend to live longer and healthier than those who stay wrapped up inside themselves.
Putting all this in a marketing context, marketing messages for older markets should shy away from projecting the the egocentric values that dominate behavior in younger markets. Showing older people reaching out to help others is a more engaging image than showing older people in acts of self-indulgence.
Ego sum erat. “I am where you will be,” I often tell young people in marketing. But unless someone has made an effort to show them life as seen through a lens polished by six, seven or more decades of life, those young marketeers don’t really know where I am. Or who I am. Or what I think and don’t think. They need the guidance of more seasoned minds to figure that out. But how many marketing agencies and corporate marketing departments devote time and resources to training the young among their staffs on how to market to the over-40 crowd?
Marketing client companies have no idea of how much money is wasted by marketers who are not firmly grounded in what it takes to be successful in older markets. The wasted sums certainly run into the billions.
Next: Finding New Rooting in the Self