It’s a simple truth that most women don’t look forward to getting older. Shocker, I know. Considering society’s general attitude toward aging, it’s easy to understand why. And yet, there are some really amazing things about reaching your fifth, sixth, seventh decade and beyond. One of the biggest? Knowledge based on life experience—something no twenty-something can claim.
By the time you hit 40, you’re a veritable font of wisdom on topics as diverse as how to get over a lost love to what truly determines happiness. Ahead, we’ve gathered the top pieces of knowledge experts say women over 40 possess from a mix of lifestyle gurus and, of course, women over 40 themselves. And for more advice on aging gracefully, check out 40 Ways to Conquer Your 40s.
“When we are young, so many women strive to be perfect and put unrealistic expectations on themselves that can then lead to frustration and black and white thinking,” says Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC, a therapist, coach, speaker and author. “The belief that ‘if I am not perfect, I am a failure’ can lead to unnecessary pressure and poor self esteem. The older we get, the wiser we get about recognizing imperfect can be beautiful.” And for more tips on your appearance, here are the Best Tips for Dressing Well in Your 40s.
“I spent so much of my 20s and 30s getting hurt and offended by other people or worrying about what other people thought of me,” says Limor Weinstein, a psychotherapist, eating disorder specialist and founder of LW Wellness Network. “I wish I had known then what I know now about self talk. I am so much kinder to myself at 42 than I was back then and I am so much happier! I now know I am 100 percent responsible for my own feelings and I have the power to redirect my thoughts into positive ones that actually build me up—and in turn I can build others up.” And if you could use a nice happiness boost—no matter you’re age—be sure you know the 70 Tricks to Get Instantly Happy!
When you’re in your 40s, you know that “being a participant and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals are rewards in themselves,” according to KJ Landis, author and creator of the Superior Self series. “I ran 16 marathons in my 40s (began running them at age 40) and was overjoyed by the group energy, as well as just finishing each one!” And for more ideas of things to tackle, check out the 40 Best Hobbies to Take Up in Your 40s.
“By the time women get to their 40s, they’ve hopefully given up the notion that happiness exists within a certain shape or size,” says Stacey Rosenfeld, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation’s Fixation with Food and Weight. “Instead, they find fulfillment through their connections and their work, their passions and their families.” But if reasonable weight-loss is your goal, follow these 20 Science-Backed Ways to Motivate Yourself to Get in Shape.
And the alternative is much worse! “I’m not saying I plan to age without putting up a good fight (goodness knows I spend enough money on serums and creams each month), but beyond that I am proud of the life experiences, both good and challenging, that those lines reflect,” says Monique Honaman, author of The High Road Has Less Traffic: Honest Advice on The Path Through Love and Divorce. Her advice? “Own your lines and their story.”
“As women, we have navigated the ‘mean girl’ stage of middle school, popularity contests in high school, workplace gossip, and even the mom groups,” notes Amy Rollo, a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. “Women in their 40s are tired and smarter. They no longer base friendships on popularity, but have learned to find their people. Those people are the ones that are there for you during divorces, death of a parent, and those trying times as a parent yourself. They are the ones that would drop everything and bring a bottle of wine, ice cream, and tissues to your place in a time of need. Women in their 40s understand how to find these friends.” Oh and speaking of? Here is The Single Best Way to Make New Friends.
And you don’t have to listen to it. “It doesn’t matter what other people think or say about us. Anyone can say anything about anyone, that doesn’t make it true,” says Cynthia Rowland, author and beauty expert. “What matters is what you think and know about yourself.” And you might want to avoid being the target of gossip by avoiding the 40 Things No Woman Should Ever Wear to Work.
Sometimes, it’s not worth the fight. “After 40 years of saying no or being told no, we’ve learned to accept the response and move on,” says Tracee Dunblazier, spiritual empath and coach who specializes in relationships. “The only thing we have control over is ourselves.”
On the flip-side, women over 40 also know when something is definitely worth fighting for. “Women, by the age of 40, have been witness to gender inequality in one form or another—whether or not we’ve stood up for ourselves we’ve certainly cheered on the courageous women we know who have,” Dunblazier says.
Now’s the time to wear what you like. “Women in their 40s are going to express themselves by wearing what feels authentic, no matter the societal trends, opinions or ‘likes’ of others,” says Dr. Karin Luise is an integrative therapist, author of The Fatherless Daughter Project. And women over 40 definitely know not to wear the 30 Ugliest Dresses Ever.
“You’ve heard the phrase: ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’ It is true,” says Allison Kanter Agliata, a CEO, licensed psychologist, and executive leadership coach. “When you hit 40, you understand that not every battle should be fought. Some aren’t a priority and difficult people are just not worth your time and energy.”
“The personality is like a software program, equipped with biases and boundaries, that plays over and over,” says Aimee Bernstein, a psychotherapist, executive coach, and author of Stress Less Achieve More: Simple Ways to Turn Pressure into a Positive Force in Your Life. “As long as we hold tight to what we think, we end up living a limited life and investing our time in proving that we are right.” Women over 40 know how to let go of thoughts that don’t serve them and move forward.
Those small moments are the stuff of life. “It’s not only the little things, but doing them daily that has the most impact,” says Mary Black, a lifestyle coach. “Eating healthy, working out, hugging those we love, sharing a smile, being kind to others (and ourselves) has a much more profound impact on our lives and the lives of others than we realized.”
“Younger women might be frantically chasing what they or others want for them—promotions in their career, a spouse and family, etc. Women in their 40s have time to slow down and reassess what is important before taking their next steps,” Dr. Rosenfeld explains. “Things aren’t as rushed or time-sensitive and, as a result, there’s more time to explore and focus on what feels authentically right for them.”
“Nothing good happens after midnight, truly!” says Cheryl Cieko, an architect specializing in health and wellness, of her post-40 attitude on shuteye. “Sleep is healthy and fun. Get more of it.”
“Women over 40 have a very strong sense of self,” says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “They know what they believe in, and why they believe in it. Their confidence often comes from years of living with integrity of their values, and fighting relentlessly to make the world a better place. They know that the smallest things can make the biggest impact.”
“Once you’re in your 40s, there is no time to waste in getting the preventative medical attention you need and deserve,” says Kanesha Baynard, a lifestyle and creativity coach.
Life is just too short. “If I could turn back the clock, I would take the countless hours I spent trying to please other people and spend that time with the people in my life I love and actually get joy from being around,” Weinstein says.
Along with all those other healthy habits experts have been recommending over the years. “It was only after turning 40 and realizing that my gums were starting to recede that I realized why flossing is so important,” Honaman says. Once you reach 40, you have the self-discipline to implement healthy habits that may have seemed inconvenient a decade earlier.
Women in their 40s tend to be more open to other points of view, since they’ve learned that you can’t force someone to change. “In this way, you step into the other person’s shoes so you can find the seed of truth in their perspective,” Bernstein says. “To step into someone else’s’ shoes, you have to be willing to take off your own.”
Gone are the years of doing something simply because someone else said you should. “Women over 40 are not going to do what everyone else tells them is ‘good,’ but instead what makes them feel good,” Dr. Luise says.
Feelings, that is. “Women over 40 are really adept at is knowing when to hold on to emotions and when to let them go,” says Backe. “They know that anger and grudges are not useful or productive. They have lived enough and seen enough to know what truly matters.”
Or even your 30s. “Although Miley Cyrus famously told Matt Lauer she’ll probably stop being so sexual when she turns 40 ‘because that’s the age when people STOP banging,’ anyone over 40 probably heard that and spit coffee out of their nose,” says Katerina Cozias, lifestyle expert and founder of FabAfter40.
“Because contrary to Miley’s 20-year-old viewpoint, maturity typically brings a stronger sense of confidence in self. You know what you like, and you’re not shy about asking for it. And so typically you end up having more free-fun! And why not! If you’re a little older and a little more wrinkly, oh well.” And if you’re looking to really spice things up in your bedroom, consider playing one of these.
“Women in their 20s and 30s usually look for someone older, wiser, or more sophisticated, but women in their 40s know that young people can be fun, entertaining and just as sophisticated,” Rowland notes.
“Women over 40 know that the best revenge is success and being your best self,” Dr. Agliata says. Instead of stewing over people who did them wrong, they focus on self care and self improvement.
“Women in their 40s come to know that, while socializing with friends is fun and rewarding, partying out late brings more burden than good,” Dr. Rosenfeld says. “They might choose to invite friends over for a quiet night in or spend their nights engaging in self care (reading, relaxing, taking a bath). Either way, they’ll get more sleep, won’t be hungover, and will face the next day energized and refreshed.”
“Pleasure should not be left for weekends, special occasions, or vacation time,” says Baynard. “Pleasure should be part your daily life. In your 40s, you realize that you have full decision-making power in how you want to feel.”
Things are hardly ever as urgent as they seem, and not all problems need to be solved immediately. “After 40, we can start to understand the importance of being patient and really embrace the idea that slow and steady wins the race,” Maksimow says.
“Modern life puts such pressure on us to do, produce, and succeed that we often find ourselves racing from one activity to another,” Bernstein points out. “In the process, we can easily lose a sense of ourselves. Downtime brings us back to the integrity of being ourselves. In the not doing, we are open and relaxed and thus insights and creative ideas find their way to us.”
“Never more true than as the journey continues, the grey hairs start accumulating, the kids move out and the friends evolve,” Ciecko says. “Enjoy the moment and every moment along the way. No one knows where the finish line is.”
“I was so stubborn in my everyday life when I was younger,” Landis says. “I had to have things my way or I’d be upset. Now, I’m learning to have ‘flexi-legs.’ There are some things out of my control so why should I freak out about them?”
“Many women find themselves sacrificing so much for their significant others, their children, their careers, and their volunteer service that by the time 40 hits, they haven’t done anything for themselves in years,” Honaman points out. “Retirement and empty-nesting will be here sooner than you think. Figure out who you are, and what you enjoy, so that you don’t wake up one day, look around, and wonder who that person is in the mirror.”
“Taking the time to slow down, meditate and focus on staying in the present will affect every aspect of your adult life,” Weinstein says. “Most of all, it has helped me trust in my own intuition and not be swayed by society and other people’s opinions.”
It might sound trite, but it’s true. “Stretch marks signal growth, adventure, and a life that was full of impactful changes,” Baynard says. “Wanting to hide them or get rid of them doesn’t matter when you enter your 40s because you enjoy the stretch mark as a reminder of how far you’ve come.”
“Solitude sparks creativity,” Cozias says. Women over 40 aren’t afraid to be alone, in their leisure time or even in life. “Being alone often allows you time to get back to the hobbies and activities you enjoyed doing as a child. You can also get out into nature, absorb, and observe. When you take time for yourself, you get the chance to connect with emotions and your inner voice. This helps bring a quiet repose to your day which can actually make you a much better a partner in relationships.”
“Menopause is right around the corner, which means muscle mass and bone density both start to decline,” Honaman says. Most women in their 40s are aware of this. “For me, that was a far stronger motivation to get to the gym and to adopt a more healthy lifestyle than the motivation of showing up at the pool in a bikini had been decades earlier. It’s about more than just vanity; the health stakes are higher now that ever before.”
Bad things are bound to happen, but women over 40 know how to deal with them. “If you can find the key learning in a difficult situation you emerge from it better, more evolved,” Bernstein notes. “Every difficult situation and person is your teacher, if you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. By going with the flow of the situation rather than fighting it, it makes the going easier and the learning faster.”
Most people think personalities are set in stone by the time you reach your 40s, but research shows this isn’t true. People can actually become more friendly, agreeable, and responsible well into your 40s and beyond, scientists say, which is probably why women over 40 are constantly evolving.
Especially relationship-related ones. “No one else can love you until you first love yourself,” Ciecko points out. “If being alone is boring, maybe you are boring. Own your fun.”
“When you hit 40, you realize that you only get one shot at life and you’d better use it well,” Dr. Agliata says. “We take the time to self-reflect and figure out what we really want out of life. Living an authentic life and making an impact in the world are a priority.”
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