40 Signs You’re Afraid of Turning 40
Warning: Middle age ahead!
Perhaps no age-related milestone sounds as burdensome as becoming a 40-something. But reaching that great arbiter of middle age tends to come with anxiety and fear, instead of a sense of accomplishment. It is possible to enter your 40s with confidence instead of trepidation, as long as you face the reality.
The first step? Recognizing how you truly feel about hitting the big 4-0. So read on to see if you’re exhibiting some telltale signs that turning 40 is freaking you out.
You won’t talk about your birthday.
“You’re afraid to turn 40 if you are constantly avoiding talking about your birthday,” says Katie Ziskind, licensed marriage and family therapist at Wisdom Within Counseling in Niantic, Connecticut.
Evading the topic completely indicates that it’s a “sore subject,” Ziskind explains. “Your friends and family may be excited to host a party for you…[but] with your bah-humbug attitude, you’re a Debbie Downer.”
You schedule a makeover.
“One sign you’re afraid of turning 40 [is] you start taking some serious stock in how you’re aging,” says Sarah Payne, licensed esthetician and co-founder of Sarah Nicole Skincare. “Out of sheer anxiety and fear, [you] book the first appointment to freshen your look.”
While there’s nothing wrong with a makeover, per se, an appointment out of stress is never a good idea. “Changing your appearance because it makes you feel good is all fine and dandy, but doing so without research or thinking it through can send you down a road of regret,” Payne warns.
You haven’t told someone your real age in years.
If you haven’t had the courage to speak up and tell others that you’re 35, 36, 37, etc., then you’re certainly not ready to say you’re turning the big 4-0.
You’re terrified of the term “middle age.”
Not being able to even hear the word “middle age” without reacting shows there’s some deep-seated anxiety going on. And telling anyone who uses it that it is impolite or outdated means you’re harboring some pretty strong fears about the upcoming decade.
You keep up with the latest anti-aging science.
Even if one study says the fountain of youth is in the roots of some rare tropical nut, hunting for it doesn’t typically doesn’t stem from calm, reasonable thinking. Actually, it’s likely to stem from fear.
You’re obsessed with exercise.
Exercise is a fantastic thing, and crucially necessary after we turn 40. However, thinking that missing one day at the gym is going to cause you to drop dead from old age means you’re not thinking straight.
Your shelves are stocked with products that promise to make you look younger.
Skin care is important for many reasons, but trying to fool people into thinking you’re still in your mid-20s isn’t one of them.
Just because you have shelves of products that all promise to take years off your skin doesn’t mean applying them simultaneously will send you back a decade.
You think you can instantly become fat.
Yes, your metabolism slows after 40. No, that doesn’t mean eating one piece of sponge cake will turn you into a sea sponge yourself. If you can’t reasonably moderate your diet to accommodate your changing body, that’s a clear sign you’re entering your 40s fearfully.
You can’t stand it when people refer to you as “sir” or “ma’am.”
When you reach a certain stature in life, others begin to refer to you by a title. Getting frustrated each time they do so means you’re terrified of aging. With your experience, you deserve the respect the title implies. So get used to it!
You won’t part with clothes from your 20s.
Everyone has an article of clothing or two that, for whatever reason, holds special meaning. But it’s a problem when you’re unable to part with your meaningless (and frankly ugly) oversized JNCO jeans or your hot pink leg warmers.
Just because you wore something when you were younger doesn’t mean it has sentimental value. That is, of course, unless you’re terrified of getting older.
You use cutesy names for your parents.
Referring to your elders as “mommy” and “daddy”—or anything along those lines—is likely the result of trying too hard to turn back the clock. Talking like a child doesn’t mean you’ll become one. It just makes you sound juvenile.
You won’t date or hangout with people your own age.
Hanging out with or dating someone from a younger crowd every once in a while is perfectly fine. Consistently being the oldest person in the room, however, is a problem.
And if you’re making off-handed comments like, “Oh, people my age are just so boring,” it’s clear you’ve got a full-blown fear of confronting your own age.
All the movies you watch are from your much younger days.
Rewatching old movies from your youth as you near the 40-year mark could be because you’re afraid of what comes next. Besides, while we understand the obvious pull of nostalgia, how you could possibly find that stuff still funny?
You’re ignoring your savings for retirement.
Not having any savings because all your money is spent on living expenses and paying off debt is one thing. Ignoring the need to save because you’re convinced you’ll never have to retire is another.
As soon as you begin convincing yourself that your own aging process is going to somehow differ from all those who have come before you, you know you’ve got a phobia on your hands.
You haven’t seen your doctor in far too long.
Missing your doctors’ appointments means you’re afraid of what your doctors have to say—and that means you’re afraid of aging. The fact is, most people are at least somewhat interested in their health, so if you’re avoiding news of your own like it’s the plague, it means something is terrifying you.
You keep telling younger people how much you envy them.
Sure, every now and then telling someone 20 years younger than you how lucky they have it is one thing. Who doesn’t miss the general carefree attitude of being a 20-something? But once that starts to become a popular refrain, it’s probably because you’re dealing with a fear of aging.
You’re still telling the same kinds of stories.
As you age, the stories you tell at social gatherings should mature as well. If your go-to tales still involve dumb indiscretions and impulsive actions, rather than more subdued comedic middle-age musings, it’s probably because you’re having trouble accepting your 40s and all that they entail.
You avoid your reflection.
Actively avoiding mirrors and any reflective surfaces is a clear sign you can’t face the aging process. Sure, you look a bit different at 40, but that’s to be expected. Pretending nothing has changed is a mere delusion, and one that—with the prevalence of glass and screens these days—isn’t going to last very long.
You fantasize about making extreme lifestyle changes.
When you’re younger, it’s perfectly natural to daydream about dropping everything, moving to the Caribbean, and growing and selling coconuts to live out the rest of your days. Engaging in these kinds of fantasies as you near 40, however, is more likely because you’re looking for an escape.
You tease people who are barely any older than you.
When teenagers tease their grandparents about being elderly, it’s rude. When they do it do their parents, it’s kind of funny. When an almost-40-year-old does it to their 43-year-old cousin, however, it’s just sad. Calling someone one of the things you fear most is actually self-loathing—and perhaps, a little mean.
You refuse to consider common health concerns for people your age.
Every decade in a person’s life brings its own set of health concerns to look out for. Rejecting the possibility of these issues isn’t just irresponsible, it also means you’re afraid.
You’re obsessed with stories about people “finding themselves” in their 40s.
Everyone loves hearing about people who didn’t discover their true calling until later in life. But devouring these tales like the complete works of Shakespeare can become obsession, one that’s likely betraying an intense fear of your own age.
You try to reconnect with all your old friends.
It can be a great experience to reconnect and rediscover the bond you once with old friends. But trying to re-establish contact with everyone from your 20s (even the less desirable people) is more about you trying to recover your youth.
You look up famous people who died in their 40s.
People do sometimes die in their 40s. Tragically, people die in their 30s, 20s, teens, and even younger ages, as well. But looking up all the celebrities who died at the age you’re about to reach is not a wise way to monitor your own health. It’s actually a fear-induced compulsion.
You skip your friends’ birthdays.
If other people getting older makes you cringe, you’re probably dealing with some serious apprehensions about your own age. Of course, it’s fine to skip your friends’ birthday parties every now and then, but conspicuously missing all of the 40th birthday gatherings means something deeper is going on.
You hold onto your 30s until the very last second (literally).
When someone wishes you “happy birthday” at 10 a.m. on your 40th and your response is to explain that, actually, you were born at 3 p.m., so you aren’t yet 40, you’ve got a problem.
Sure, it might give you a few more hours to spend in your 30s, but only fear would convince you it’s a good idea to suggest everyone change their birthday celebration customs just to accommodate your phobia. After all, there’s a reason it’s called a birthday and not a birthminute.
You try to convince yourself that 40 is actually not a big number.
Trying to manipulate numbers in order to make 40 sound like it’s closer to 20 is just an attempt to mask your own fear. Besides, reasoning that “it’s actually just like I was 20, then ten years passed, then five, and then another five,” isn’t fooling anyone—except maybe you.
You try everything you can to avoid becoming your parents.
As they age, most people start to appreciate their parents more. Actively trying to distance yourself from your parents as you near 40—like a rebellious teenager would—is the result of a fear of the next decade. The fact is, parents pass on many helpful traits and habits. Let’s embrace them!
You’re trying to get into modern pop music.
Pop music tends to fall out favor with people as they get older. The styles change and allegiances remain with your first music loves. If you find yourself actively trying to get into Top 40 music—even though you subconsciously know it’s not for you—that’s a good sign you’re scared to age.
You’re looking to move into a more youthful neighborhood.
Complaining that your neighborhood just isn’t what it used to be? The problem might be you. While it can be great to surround yourself with vitality and energy, blaming a loss of vigor on your surroundings is a clear sign you can’t face your own ascent into middle age.
You’re already looking into the best hair dyes.
Researching top hair dye brands to allay your own fears of going gray before you actually do is not healthy behavior. Compulsively shopping for dyes while your own gray hairs are seldom is just a fear of your 40s.
You’re still avoiding commitment.
Not wanting to commit in your 20s is perfectly natural. Avoiding making any long-term plans as you near 40 is just avoiding the course of nature. If the thought of buying a home sends chills down your spine, for example, it’s likely the thought of getting older does the exact same thing.
You get upset when people group you with your peers.
If you consistently find yourself saying you’re “nothing like” the people in your age bracket, you’re both wrong and afraid of your age. We tend to share plenty with those in our generation. Denying that is a sign that you wish you were in a different—cough cough, younger—generation.
You ask someone else to do your taxes.
Paying taxes is part of life and a sure sign you’re an adult. But if you can’t sort through all the paperwork involved—and instead shift responsibility onto your parents or a loved one—that’s a clear sign you’re avoiding being an adult. And that’s probably because you’re scared.
You lie about your age on dating apps.
Most dating apps have no way of verifying that you are the age you say you are. But taking the opportunity to drastically misrepresent the amount of years you’ve spent on this earth is a clear sign you’re afraid of aging. (And frankly, it’s also wrong.)
You’re using a lot of slang.
Desperately trying to bring back “dude,” “sweet,” or “gnarly”? You’re probably just afraid of getting old, dude. Using slang is an activity best left in your 20s and those terms specifically belong back in the ’90s.
You treat your body like it’s in its 20s.
When you’re the one person on a basketball court full of almost-40-somethings going full-on with dives and sprints, you’re ignoring your age. The fact is, as your body ages, it requires different treatment.
Ignoring this fact doesn’t show you have skill; it just shows you have issues. Not to mention, it probably leaves you feeling sore.
You still dress like a kid.
Wearing sneakers throughout your 20s is somewhat acceptable. But if those bright yellow kicks don’t go deep into the closet (or get donated) as you near 40, you’re desperately trying to avoid acknowledging your age. Not all 40-somethings need to dress alike, but they shouldn’t come off looking like middle schoolers at recess, either.
You can’t admit that you used to think and do a lot of stupid things.
As you age, it should slowly become clear to you just how silly and boneheaded you used to be. That’s not a knock on your younger self. It’s simply a fact of life: More experience means more knowledge.
If instead you find yourself defending the actions of your 20-something self, you’re likely holding onto the past a bit too hard. And that’s probably because of a fear of the future. But if you’re ready to enter into your 40s with acceptance and confidence, then read on for The 40 Best Ways to Conquer Your 40s.
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