Years ago, a former boss said: when a woman turns 40, an upgrade happens. I was shocked when she said this. I’ve been operating on the idea that once you reach a certain age, life starts… to go downhill. I was clinging to my thirties, desperate to petrify every minute to keep myself from getting any closer to the next birthday ending in zero. (And I would have a hard time understanding my birth year. To this day, some of my friends don’t know my age because society is afraid of being judged.) Well, that birthday has come — this year. I turned 40. And indeed, something changed. An elucidation reveals itself. Perhaps, dare I call it an awakening. Whatever it was, my former boss loved what she fervently said: turning 40 is truly the ultimate upgrade.
It took me about six months since turning 40 to allow this life-changing idea to permeate my mind. Our limited, binary view of age has something to do with our difficulty — and that difficulty comes from being immersed in a culture where epochism is rampant. Yes, rampant. Thanks to social media and a wide range of societal expectations, the narratives are still abound with claims that a woman is “over” after she speaks this. [enter subjective number here] grow old. It is deeply harmful. It is also completely untrue. Because I’m here to say, things get better as we get older.
There is science to support my anecdotal claims. In her new book Upgrading: How Women’s Brains Get Stronger and Better Between and BeyondNeuropsychologist Louanne Brizendine writes that as women age, our brains change shape for the better. We begin to embrace our innate strength, authenticity, and purpose. We also get happier.
Now I fully operate from this place of confidence and understanding. I admit: it’s complicated and surreal. It’s also refreshing, which is why I’m sharing these 6 facts. (I’m sorry ex-boyfriends I let down!) While I don’t regret it, I wish a decade ago I’d known how I feel today at 40.
So no matter how young you are, I hope for the following serves. This is to have the courage to face 40 — and 60 and 100! —With a reckless abandonment of fear and a total commitment to who you are.
These are the most transformative life lessons I learned when I turned 40.
#1: Age is just an arbitrary number
I want to scream this. There’s no overarching rule that says we have to feel or look a certain way according to the number of birthdays we’re lucky to have. Numbers quantify everything — time, distance, measurement — not people. When it comes to our mental and emotional health, our age should never dictate our opinion. Just ask Norma Kamali.
#2: When you respect yourself, others will too
This has been difficult for me. I’ve spent my adult life yearning for more respect. This is a woman’s conflict, but we can change this by respecting ourselves first. Indulging in self-esteem enhances our self-worth and shows others how to treat us. Once I started doing this, the “disrespectful people” were gone.
#3: Our friendship is worth commitment (and sometimes a good audit)
That parenthesis may sound cold, but it is truly life changing. In How to break up with your friends, Erin Falconer writes that we need to be more intentional about our friendships. In short: We go to therapy for our family and close relationships, but not for our friendships. Falconer challenges this by suggesting that when we consider who we call our friends and the needs they fulfill, we get more out of these relationships in return.
Also, sometimes we need to assess whether a friendship is worth keeping. If a connection feels difficult, reevaluate your commitment to that person. You can love someone and break up with them.
#4: Don’t fake orgasms. When.
I faked 95% of the orgasms I “had” with other guys — until now. I will never do this again. First, it causes resentment and disrupts communication. Second, it’s not fun. Opening yourself up and being frantic, visibly vulnerable during these intimate times is the hottest thing ever. So please: slow down and really. Even if you don’t have an orgasm, act Not forgery is a leap towards deeper satisfaction. (And if you buy a product for yourself, make it with this oil. My life has been made great thanks to this tool.)
#5: Earn more money for a better thing
It wasn’t until I was 40 that I realized that a) I had been completely underpaid my entire career, and b.) Making more money wasn’t about greed, but about health and things better. Research shows that when women earn more, it promotes economic development, including diversification and income equality. Women are also naturally better at investing. I want this on a t-shirt.
So the next time you hesitate to ask for a raise, think about the finer things. The money you don’t earn will likely go to a man. Own it for yourself and the more inclusive world you want to create.
#6: Know your life is amazing
I shiver when I think about it — all those nights I’ve spent feeling like I’m missing something because I’m indoors. Or all the times I’ve gone somewhere against my will, going out just because I felt like I was. Candlestick to be. I spent my social time being pushed and manipulated by others. Never repeat. Now I totally do what I want, whether it’s considered great or not. I do laundry on Fridays. I go to bed with my boyfriend at 8 p.m. Saturday (I mean…sometimes). Damn, sometimes I have dinner at 4pm And it all feels great.
With that said, here’s what I want you to know: your life is amazing. That is. There is no other being like you, living a life like yours — with all its sunshine and troubles. This is quite remarkable. Know this, treat yourself well and consider every minute. When you do this, you will squeeze more life out — no matter what your age.