Death is the only certainty in life. And yet, we act like it doesn't exist. We live our lives like there is no tomorrow and try to make the best of it while we still can, while we're still young. At least, that's what we tell ourselves.

In our modern day and age, youth is a synonym of energy, beauty, and possibilities. Once you're past your twenties, you're past your prime. You're old. And for some, that's scarier than death. But why is Western society so afraid of ageing as a whole?

Youth is now considered the gold standard in our modern day and age. And yet, this wasn't always the case. A few decades ago, we used to respect our elders and admire their wisdom and knowledge. Nowadays, youth is valued over old age.

Many people tell you that your 20s are the best years of your life, although these are often the most stressful years of your life. Not only do you have to figure out who you are, who you want to be, and what your purpose in life is, but you are also supposed to make the most of it. Your 20s are not what society makes them out to be. According to a 2015 Guardian article by Oliver Burkeman, by describing what is often the hardest time of our lives as being the happiest one, we make it harder for the people currently experiencing it. Saying that your 20s are the period of your life makes it seem like there is nothing to look forward to. So why is it that people still value being young so much?

The cult of youth, associated with youth culture, started around the 1950s. It became more evident with the influence of the media in the 20th century and became widespread during the 1960s, when mass culture became a thing. Suddenly, all aspects of society, from fashion to music, became youth-driven, which only profited our capitalist society. According to a 2023 Time article by Jeffrey Kluger, young people began to reject the old and celebrate the new. There was a sense that young people were making things better and were the future.

Youth and novelty became dominant parts of our day-to-day lives and are still very much present today, from the youth-driven media and the anti-ageing beauty industry to the deeply engrained desire to stay "forever young." It is as if, after you are past 25, your life is over. You are considered old very quickly and not relevant anymore. You're almost disposable. Yet when you're younger, you don't have a voice because you're considered too immature.

As you grow older, you feel that time is running away. And social media is not helping. According to a 2020 Refinery 29 article by Amber Bryce, social media can make people feel dissatisfied with their age and how far away they got in life. The internet can also make you feel like you’re ageing faster, with social media archiving your life.

Being scared of ageing is nothing new. Getting older means confronting the physical, psychological, and emotional fragilities that come naturally with age, not to mention that the older you get, the closer you are to death. After a certain age, the birthday celebrations slow down, and it’s considered rude to ask someone's age, especially a woman's. There is a double standard of ageing for women, who experience both sexism and ageism as they grow older. If women tend to give more importance to their appearance than men, it is because of our consumerist culture, according to a 2020 study by the Journal of Ageing Studies. And the mainstream beauty industry, with its anti-ageing skincare and surgical procedures, banks on it. Luckily, the Western mindset is slowly changing, with “positive ageing” marketing in cosmetic products, more representation of older people in the media, and people embracing their age on social media and in their day-to-day lives. But there is still a long way to go.

For many of us, ageing is inevitable, but it is also a privilege. Instead of seeing it as a burden and something to fight about, we should see it as a blessing and something to foster. Growing older means becoming who you were meant to be instead of conforming to society’s norms. Growing older means becoming yourself, as Nietzsche so justly wrote in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883).