Women of 40! What’s the fuss all about?
What does Vera Wang, Robin Chase, Julia Child and Betty White have in common? For starters, they’re all well known international entrepreneurs and celebrities; but what makes them even more special is that they all became big-time entrepreneurs and made a mark of their own after the age of 40.
A former figure skater and a journalist, Vera Wang became one of the top women designers from New York at the age of 40. At the age of 42, Robin Chase was the co-founder of Zipcar, one of America’s top car-sharing company. Not to forget Julia Child, the very famous culinary artist who became a global name at 50 and Betty White, one of the most loved and illustrious Hollywood actress, made her mark at the ripe age of 51!
I’m sure there are plenty more examples of women who have become successful after the age of 40. Why is it that this should be making any news at all? What is the big deal about turning 40 for women? The fact is, it is – because women are trained to think that 40 is old.
Should turning 40 be treated as a mid-life crisis? “Whether it is perceived as a mid-life crisis will depend on where the person is in their life – career-wise, family-wise, in relationships and in personal growth. For men, it may manifest more as dissatisfaction in career and longing for lost youth. For women, it may manifest as psychological exhaustion, lack of personal fulfilment and dissatisfaction with personal appearance, explains Prachi Vaish, a Clinical Psychologist and the Founder of The Emotional Wellness Initiative.
Women around the world have constantly been told how age could affect them and it is all about timing. Not now, you’re too young, not now, you should be married and have babies, not now, who will look after your child? Not now, you’re too old for this. Where does this end?
It is always usually the case where we’re either too young or too old to do something – so when is the right time for anything? When can you actually put your foot down and say – Hey! Come on, it’s my life too – that’s when your actual life kicks in.
By the time we’re 40, we perch ourselves on a height and look at the view from all that we’ve been through; life seems pretty cool. We should pat ourselves on our back and say – Not bad for starters, let’s see what the rest 50% of the life is all about.
“So now ’40’ has become a much-dreaded number in the life of most women. And the reasons are multiple…. the foremost being a mental stigma that makes you feel that once you touch this number, you are practically old and going downhill, the other being that once you cross this number, you are at a greater risk of health. Yes, you may not have skin as smooth as in your 20’s and 30’s, but if you really are unperturbed by the number game and live your life to the fullest, I assure you that the glow you will have will be much greater than you ever had. And this is because you need to now get away from all the chasing and attachment that you have maintained until now and seek more clarity of thoughts and behaviour, says Ashima Gupta, Personal Success and Career Coach at Changeyourlife Coaching.
Most of the times, I have seen a typical Indian homemaker – even before she’s 40, she looks 50. No kidding! Several years ago, I remember I was at the bank for some paperwork and there happened to be a lady with her husband standing in the queue with me. When the bank clerk was filling her papers, asked the lady her age, she said 35. I was shell-shocked; she looked nothing less than a 40 – 45-year-old. It scared me; it made me wonder why do we women do this to ourselves. Do we really need these self-inflicted punishments of not looking after ourselves?
“Well, age is just a number, really. Just because you’re turning 40, it doesn’t have to mean an added psychological pressure. Think about this objectively, between 39 and 40 do you really notice any major earth-shattering changes in your mind and body? If you’ve been maintaining a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a balanced diet, then all transitions will be smooth. In fact, 40 for a woman is like a second inning, when the children are grown up enough that they can take care of themselves and she is free to rediscover herself. There isn’t any significant difference in the way it affects men and women. It’s just that men may be more vocal about expressing their discontent with life by the time they get to 40 because they might feel that they aren’t progressing enough, or saving enough or losing the prime years of their life. Even though women go through the same thoughts if they do, but have been found to be less vocal about them,” adds Prachi.
There could be several reasons for the lady looking way above her age and I sincerely hope she eventually took stock of her life by the time she hit 40. Looks are not entirely important, but looking and feeling good for your own self is very important.
Here are some tips I could give to the women across the world who are either yet to hit 40 and are in their 40s and yes, as a note to self too! Sharing some lessons of life that I learnt the hard way ever since I became a single mum and having turned 40 last year during the lockdown, I sincerely hope this helps you.
Fill your cup
Naturally, we women are inclined to be caregivers and nurturers. This is an inbuilt mechanism that we have that allows us to nurture and care for a family. But in this process – some of us tend to forget ourselves. We let ourselves go, we tend to postpone the enjoyment in life and as a result, our cup goes empty. It’s then that the problems start arising. Filling your cup would mean nurturing and love yourself before you can tend to others. It would also mean something as simple as not postponing that spa treatment or taking those 15 minutes extra and finishing off that book or relishing that cup of chamomile before you tackle the household chores. By the time you hit 40, trust me, you wouldn’t want a whole list of unfinished wish list waiting sadly collecting dust in the study table.
Ban the Guilt trip
You’ve been on enough trips in your life, and the one route that you should avoid is the guilt trip. There’ll be several times in a day you’ll be taking yourself down a guilt trip. Here are a few examples – When buying a dress, oh my, I feel so guilty, I should be buying for my kids instead. Going out for a drink – oh my, I feel so guilty for drinking when I should be home looking after the family. I realised the guilt trips are nothing but some self-inflicted boundaries that keep us confined. Since we’re brought up thinking for others first, enjoying primarily for oneself seldom feels good. Don’t wait until 40 to banish the guilt, start now. Imagine if Vera Wang, Robin Chase, Julia Child and Betty White felt guilty – the world would have been deprived of some wonderful inventions, isn’t it?
Start with yourself
I’ve recently realised how important it is to start from within. For the love and appreciation we seek, for the beauty, we want to achieve, the success we want to taste – it all starts from within. But how do we do that? Well, it does take quite a bit of self-discipline, which kicks in after self-realisation. Monitor how you talk about yourself to others – if you’re constantly putting yourself down, they’re going to do that to you too. Looking good, feeling good HAS to start with us, and not the other way round. Stop seeking validation from someone else, realise your self-worth and see the difference.
Forgive yourself & others
No matter how clichéd it may sound, but trust me – it’s very important to forgive. Otherwise, how else are you going to tread a whole new journey in life if you keep carrying a whole lot of unnecessary baggage? The fact is, we’re going to make mistakes, and we’ll continue making them till our last breath – so why be so harsh on ourselves? What you did in the past and your past mistakes need not necessarily define who you are. You’re a new person today and you’re going to be a new person every single day of your life. So all you have to do is be kind to yourself and learn to forgive yourself first and then others.
Glass is half full
It’s very important to change our perspective about your life for the better. It’s never too late to start. If Vera Wang, Robin Chase, Julia Child and Betty White thought they were too old to start something afresh, the world would have missed out on some really amazing talent. I mean, come on, get that sense of humour, will you. Go hit that gym, work out and get that great body – not for anyone else but for yourself. If you’re too stuck within the four walls of your domesticity, there has to be a time and space when you can squeeze out some time for yourself. Yes, I am aware that even now, in most Indian households, women, no matter how educated or qualified they are sometimes confined to several responsibilities – but if we learn to let our hair lose and enjoy the sunshine, it just allows us to enjoy the journey of life a little better. Even at the risk of sounding and being ‘rebellious’ – do it for your own sake because, at the end of the day, you’ve got to live with yourself, so do that favour to yourself starting now.
On a parting note, write down these five points on a yellow sticky note and put them where you can see them every day and watch the miracles of 40 and beyond open up in front of you:
- Fill your cup
- Ban the Guilt trip
- Start with yourself
- Forgive yourself & others
- The glass is half full
Contributor: Tanya Munshi
Writing Mentor & Founder of The Lifestyle Portal.