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The actress and activist spoke to Yara Shahidi for the cover story and reflected on Fonda's first appearance on the cover of Glamour in 1959. When asked about how she felt looking at the photos from 60 years prior, Fonda shared her disbelief over continuing to find growth and success so many years later.
"If somebody had told me that, at almost 85 years old, I'd still be working as much as I am and feeling as good as I do, I wouldn't have believed them," she said. "At that time in my life, I doubted I would live past 30. Just thinking about that filled me with hope. I didn’t give up. I kept going. I tried to get better. I did."
While her thoughts about aging were seemingly negative at the time, the 84-year-old explained how she's gone on to feel so youthful throughout her life by tapping into her curiosity.
"Curious means you're going to ask people a lot of questions, it means you're going to read a lot of books, it means that every situation you're in, you're going to want to find the positive," she said. "For older people, if you stay curious, you will also stay young for a long time. I'm younger now than I was when I was 20."
Much of that outlook can also be credited to the incredible life that Fonda has led, and more importantly, what she was able to learn from her experiences after taking the time to reflect on them.
"When I was about to turn 60, I realized that I was approaching my third act — my final act — and that it wasn't a dress rehearsal. One of the things that I knew for sure is that I didn't want to get to the end with a lot of regrets, so how I lived up until the end was what was going to determine whether or not I had regrets. And it also then dawned on me that in order to know where I was supposed to go, I had to know where I'd been," she said.
It was at that time that Fonda dedicated herself to doing "deep research called a life review," where she simply studied her own life.
"It totally changed the way I thought about myself and about how I wanted to live the last third of my life," she said. "And I realized the importance of being intentional about how we go through life."
Fonda also noted that it allowed her to recognize things about herself for the very first time. Namely, "That I'm brave," she said.
"I didn't have very much confidence in myself, and it never occurred to me to give myself any kind of label that was positive," she explained of the perception she had of herself. "Also, I tended to gravitate toward people who were smarter and braver and morally stronger than I was. I always aspired to be more like them, but I never could imagine that I was like them."
Now, at 84, Fonda is more capable of recognizing her experiences as teachings and even reflected on her book Prime Time, which focused on providing ways to live your best life later in life. "It included everything including very detailed information about sex," Fonda said, noting that she gave it to the writers of Grace and Frankie in hopes that it would inspire some of the show's material "about sex, about the problems of sex when you're older and the joys and the possibilities and vibrators and all of that."
What she's come to learn about her body as she ages, however, is that it requires different care than when she was younger.
"Your body is very forgiving when you're young. So it took me a while to realize that," she said. "I abused my body a lot when I was younger. But as you get older, if you drink too much one night or not get enough sleep, you're at half-mast the next day and you don't like the feeling and that's a motivation to take better care of yourself."
That's why one of her non-negotiables for self-care is sleep.
"One of the ways I take care of myself is I sleep eight or nine hours every night. I meditate and I try to be in nature as much as possible. Nature brings me great joy. I work out," Fonda shared. "When you get older, you realize that staying healthy is joyful and critical because age isn't so much chronology. You can be very old at 84, which is my age, but you can also be very young."
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