As you get older, something unnerving begins to happen: You start sounding more and more like your age. And if you’re a woman, it’s arguably an even worse experience for you, because you discover that you’re starting to sound more and more like one person: your mother. (The horror!)
But to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, we’ve isolated all of the sayings and phrasings—from tired clichés to common lines older women often say to put themselves down—that no woman over 40 should utter. So read on, strike these words from your vocabulary, and feel your spirits rise. And for more help in the language department, know the 40 Words People Over 40 Won’t Understand.
“When I was your age…”
The intention is clear: You’re trying to bridge the gap with a younger person. We get it. But for all those good intentions, all this saying does is alienate you from a younger person even more. And for more ways to age gracefully, steal these 100 Anti-Aging Secrets for Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever.
“It’s too late”
It is not too late! Hire your best friend to promptly pinch your arm every time you say something so stupid! If you think 40 is too late in your life to do something, what are your plans for the next 40 years? And for more things you should say, know that saying this one word will boost your mood by 25 percent.
“I don’t like change”
Does anybody really like change? After all, change is scary, it’s unknown, and it’s largely out of your control, so no matter what age you are, change is never fun. But you have to change. Things change at 20, things change at 30, and they will continue to change at 40. So rather than rebuke it all, try your best to embrace it. And for more advice on aging, check out these 40 Myths About Life After 40–Busted!
“If I’m being honest…”
This is a big no-no—especially at this point in your life. By prefacing your words with a declaration of honesty, you’re basically saying that you wouldn’t necessarily have been honest otherwise.
“Does that make sense?”
It’s one of the top phrases women unknowingly use to undermine themselves and their words. You should never ask anyone if what you think makes sense. Be confident in your convictions, your thoughts, and your words. Instead, know that they make sense. You’re 40—you no longer need someone’s validation that you’re able to string together words successfully, logically, and clearly.
“Bring on the mid-life crisis”
Sure, you’re embracing life in your 40s. But don’t be so ominous. That mid-life crisis isn’t necessarily an inevitability, so why bring it up? Saying this will only make you look and feel insecure.
“I hate my body”
Your body has carried you this far and you should appreciate it—not put it down. Maybe your 20s and 30s you could be forgiven for a little self-loathing, but now that you’re in your 40s, such superficial self-hatred is beneath you. And for more on your brilliant body, check out the 40 Ways Your Body Changes After 40.
“We made love”
You are a woman and you “had sex.”
Life isn’t fair and it certainly doesn’t go as planned. But you shouldn’t ask, “Why me?” Instead ask, “Why not me?” Don’t dwelling in self-pity. Instead, accept your life, yourself, and your flaws. And for more things you should say, here are 50 Relationship Quotes to Reignite Your Love.
“Life would be easier if…”
If what? If you were richer? Younger? Prettier? More athletic? More sociable? More outgoing? Remember: Complaints change nothing.
“The best years of my life have already happened”
Wrong. Sure, you’ve experienced some great times. Maybe you’ve become a parent, fallen in love, focused on your career or education or a creative project you’re proud of. Regardless of your past life and past accomplishments, you have to believe that the best is yet to come.
“My partner handles that”
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about finances, taxes, handiwork, or car trouble. Do you really want to be a woman who has to rely on anybody? It’s never to late to learn. Instead of writing things off as your partner’s territory, try your hand at learning how to budget, do tax deductions, or change the oil in your car. You won’t be sorry, especially if the day ever comes when your partner’s not around to lend a hand.
“That ‘music’ sounds like noise”
Turning 40 is never an excuse to be dismissive of things other people like.
Has this phrase ever not caused offense?
“I’ll never have a baby”
There are more medical options at women’s disposal than ever before, and women in their 40s are having babies now more than ever. You never know what could happen if you’re open-minded.
“But I’ve always…”
Sure, your way has worked for 40 years, but are you truly not willing to look at things from someone else’s perspective?
“I guess I’ll never travel to all the places I wanted to go.”
Why not? Because you didn’t travel in your 20s? Or your 30s? It sounds like your 40s are the time, now more than ever, to start visiting all of the places you’ve dreamed of.
You’re officially a cranky woman!
“If I said that to my mother…”
Chances are, you probably did (or some variation or another), and even if you didn’t, you shouldn’t use this as a catch-all to describe how you behavior was better than someone else’s. We all fall short, especially as teenagers. So why not come together over that universal human experience, rather than estrange ourselves from each other?
It’s 2017. Donald Trump is president, your phone recognizes your face, and we have self-driving electric cars. Literally nothing is impossible.
“I’m no expert”
It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, but don’t you dare undermine yourself by saying you’re not an expert. Your opinions are valid—regardless.
You can say, “I’m sorry.” You can say, “I apologize” or “Apologies.” But please stop throwing “sorry” around like it’s the new ice-breaker. Never apologize for speaking.
“I’m too old for that”
Unless you’re talking about watching Disney Junior for your own enjoyment, there is really nothing you’re too old for. You’re not too old to drive a certain car, to wear stilettos, or to go back to school.
“You’ll understand when you’re older”
This is a bogus, throw-away line and you know it! Instead, take the time to explain your and help the other person understand what you truly feel.
“Because I said so”
Again, people will appreciate it when you take the time to explain your thinking.
“Not at my age”
Imagine if Viola Davis, Julia Child, and Martha Stewart were given their opportunities and said, “Nah. Not at my age.” Strike it.
“I’m not into trying anything new”
Instead, challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone more often.
“Back in my day…”
Nothing positive ever comes after a sentence prefaced with “back in my day.” You’re simply undermining yourself. Stop!
“Yoga isn’t for me”
Never shut the door on anything, and that goes doubly for yoga. Women over 40 reap so many benefits from yoga—including improved mental health, increased flexibility, and reduced anxiety.
“Exercise isn’t for me”
Get your butt to the gym—no matter how old you are.
“Meditation? I’m no Buddhist… “
Stop what you’re doing, download the Headspace app, and commit to meditating (at first) for five minutes a day. You’ll be feeling better instantly. And no, you won’t have to travel to Tibet.
“Maybe if I was younger”
You’d what? Go sky-diving? Travel the world? Get your scuba diving certification? There’s still so much time to accomplish what you want to. Never let your age be an excuse.
“I was your age once too, you know”
Again, your intention is clear: You’re trying to connect with a younger person. But it doesn’t work. If you’re talking to a teenager, expect an immediate eye-roll.
“There’s no more time for…”
You’re 40. You’re not 96. Stop acting like your life is over.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”
Hold a slice of fresh-off-the-frying-pan bacon in the air and tell your 15 year-old dog to spin in a circle. Congrats: You just taught an old dog a new trick.
“I just think that…”
That little “just” is the word working against you. You don’t just think… You think…
“I don’t need an iPhone”
Why are you still living in the Stone Age with a Razr?
“I could be wrong but…”
Yeah, you could be. But why point it out? Let the other people involved in the conversation make that judgment. Don’t hand it to them on a silver platter, reinforcing the fact that you doubt yourself.
“Do you know what I mean?”
You’re 40 now. You don’t require anyone’s validation. If they don’t know what you mean, they’ll tell you, but asking can be construed as weak.
“When I was a kid…”
Here’s a different saying to lead with: in my experience or when this happened to me…
“I’m just a free spirit.”
While you may genuinely believe yourself to be more free-spirited than most, this phrase is most commonly used to describe a host of bad behaviors. For example, “Sorry I showed up at your wedding three hours late—I’m just a free spirit and I don’t believe in watches.”
“Saying this does not exonerate oneself from said bad behavior,” says certified etiquette instructor Karen A. Thomas, founder of Karen Thomas Etiquette. “Better to simply accept your mistake and move on than make excuses.”
“That’s not my job.”
Though there may be things you’re asked to do at work that weren’t literally in the job description when you signed on, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be willing to go slightly above and beyond the initial demands set out for you. Unless doing so is putting you in harm’s way, either mentally or physically, it’s probably best to at least try to do the thing you’re being asked—or at least direct your co-worker to someone who might be capable of helping.
“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”
You’re over 40: if you want to day drink, go ahead and do it, but let’s call it what it is.
This sentence never ends well. While it may seem as though you’re being tactful by not specifically pointing out the people you’re actually referring to, this phrase somehow seems even worse.
You’ve made it to 40 years old—an accomplishment in itself—so it’s high time you worked on that self-esteem. If you truly think you’re ugly, you’re going to need more than just a self-esteem boost from someone you admit it to, and in most cases, calling yourself that just makes you seem like you need assurance from others that what you’re saying isn’t true. “Derogatory comments, even when directed at yourself, come across as fishing for a compliment,” says Thomas. “Refrain from saying anything at all.”
“Never heard of him/her.”
Frequently dropped in the comment sections of articles online, using this phrase in the era of smartphones is akin to saying, “I’m too lazy to look things up.”
“Boys will be boys.”
Unless you’re actually eager to absolve an entire gender from responsibility for their actions, it’s time to retire this phrase.
“I’m such a [insert Zodiac sign].”
You’re 40. It’s time to stop claiming that your birthdate is responsible for you behaving a certain way. You and you alone are in charge of how you act and respond to things.
Virtually no one who is actually laid-back has ever uttered this phrase. And among the few people who might classify as “chill” who’ve said it about themselves, their “chillness” means little more than, “I wear flip-flops to job interviews.”
“Do I need Botox?”
If you’re asking someone else this, you probably already know the answer to this question. “It’s safer to save this question for a medical professional rather than a casual conversation with a friend,” says Thomas.
“Follow your passion.”
It’s super nice to imagine that everybody can just follow their dreams and live the life they’ve always wanted. However, preaching this gospel to those who have to work—not necessarily on things they’re passionate about—for a living is always eye-roll-worthy.
“That doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Being ignorant is never a good look, and by the time you’re 40, you should know better. Instead of admitting you don’t know anything about a subject when you’re in conversation, try asking instead.
“Work hard, play hard.”
Most commonly used as an excuse for binge-drinking, this phrase sounds even more ridiculous coming from a 40-something as it does a 20-something shotgunning beers on a Tuesday morning.
“That’s not how we used to do things.”
Times change—often for the better. Just because something isn’t the way you grew up doing it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad, as this phrase frequently implies.
The word “journey” gets thrown around so frequently it’s lost all meaning. Despite what your phrasing may indicate, coming up with a skincare routine you like is not actually worthy of being dubbed a “journey.”
“At least I worked for everything I have.”
Many people assume that because they worked hard to get where they are, it means that those who haven’t enjoyed the same success clearly didn’t work hard enough. Of course, this is not true, and implying that it is rude (and often classist).
“I could care less.”
While this phrase is plenty annoying because of how dismissive it is, it’s also incorrect: if you could care less about something, it means you care about it. If you insist upon using this phrase, at least say it correctly: “I couldn’t care less.”
“More money, more problems.”
Unless you’re quoting Biggie, it’s time to retire this phrase. Also, money can certainly buy a way to fix a lot of those supposed problems, anyway.
“Nobody wants to see me doing that.”
Whether you’re talking about wearing a bikini on the beach or dating again, using this kind of disparaging self-talk is only going to make you seem sad to others—and it probably won’t make you feel that great, either.
“From my perspective…”
This phrase is as redundant as it is confusing: do you usually tell people anecdotes from other peoples’ perspectives during casual conversation?
This word has a meaning. You didn’t literally go on a date with a guy who was as tall as a giraffe.
“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”
Commonly used to diminish the experience of someone who’s gotten harmed in some way, this insensitive phrase is about as ridiculous as the people it purports to lampoon.
“My parents would roll over in their graves if they saw…”
Already an unpleasant visual image, using this expression just shows other people how set in your ways you (and the generations who came before you) are and were. Times change. Your parents’ corpses can get some rest.
“All this technology is ruining things.”
Really? Self-driving cars that might save lives and the ability to know what’s going on on the other side of the globe at any minute are bad things, you say?
“They’re just jealous.”
Usually an excuse to brush off why other people might be angry with you, this phrase carefully ignores one of life’s practically-universal truths: most people aren’t spending their days seething with jealousy over the lives other people lead.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Not only is this phrase dismissive, it’s also easy to point out its fallacies. You really think there’s a good reason behind pediatric cancer and world hunger?
As rude as it is dismissive, unless you’re a member of the cast of Clueless, it’s time to retire this expression.
“I need to go on a diet.”
If you’re trying to get healthier, by all means talk to the members of your inner circle about it. However, if you’re just throwing out this bit of information, it comes across as fishing for compliments. “Speaking of weight in a negative light (as well as looking for a compliment) is in poor taste,” says Thomas.
While you may think that your views speak for an entire generation of people, remember this: you don’t.
“Sorry you feel that way.”
By the time you hit 40, it’s high time you learned how to apologize properly. That means not just telling someone you’re sorry that they feel bad about something that happened, but actually acknowledging your part in it.
“Live, laugh, love.”
If something you’re about to say is also something you once saw on a pillow at HomeGoods, it’s time to reconsider.
Only uttered after someone says something unwarranted, inappropriate, or both, there’s no time like the present to drop this phrase from your vocabulary.
“It’s not ladylike.”
While having a burping contest or falling off a mechanical bull into a pool of Jell-O may not be the height of sophistication, acting as though all women have to behave a certain way is both antiquated and sexist.
“Look on the bright side.”
While it may be well-intentioned, if someone’s having a hard time, it’s pretty much never your place to try to show them the good in the situation. Sometimes, things are just bad, and that’s okay, too.
“That’s what I’m here for.”
Whether you’re saying it about role in your relationship or as a parent, this phrase necessarily diminishes your autonomy. After all, it’s not actually your job to do the laundry or cook dinner.
“Sorry, not sorry.”
Did it sound okay coming out of Demi Lovato’s mouth? Sure. Does that mean this snide remark should remain part of your vocabulary? Definitely not.
“Mercury must be in retrograde.”
Does it feel like the world is suddenly in upheaval for no apparent reason? It has nothing to do with the alignment of the planets: things just happen sometimes.
“A case of the Mondays.”
You might not relish starting the workweek again, but unless you’re actually starring in a Garfield panel, it’s time to put this phrase to bed.
What is it about a man doing things to take care of his home or family, like spending time with his kids, cleaning, or cooking, that automatically makes his behavior woman-like? We already have a word for men with kids who do this stuff: dad.
“It is what it is.”
Unless you’re simply intent upon wasting your time by uttering meaningless phrases, you should have retired this ode to complacency by now.
“Teamwork makes the dream work.”
One of the most over-used pieces of office jargon, this phrase begs the question: did you ever really have a dream that included sitting in a cubicle?
“Don’t be crazy.”
Not only is this phrase reviled by those in the mental health community, it’s also pretty dismissive of whoever you’ve uttered it to. Unless you want to shut down a conversation completely, it’s best to ditch this phrase as soon as possible.
“I can never be friends with women.”
While it’s fine to have a predominantly male friend group, if you genuinely think that there are no women on the planet you can get along with, it’s time to admit that you’re the problem.
While most phrases used to specifically disparage women are ugly enough as it is, this one—which presupposes that all women should be warm and fuzzy nurturers—is particularly eye-roll-worthy.
“Only God can judge me.”
Though you may believe this to be true, there are a whole lot of people, like your boss and the police, who will also judge you long before you shuffle off this mortal coil.
“The way women dress…”
Unless someone is wearing something patently offensive (a shirt with a racist slogan on it, for example), it’s probably not your business to judge. Just because you’re not into the way another woman looks when she goes out doesn’t mean she’s in the wrong.
“If it’s meant to be, it will be.”
Much like claiming fate or the universe is at fault for our joys and miseries, this phrase conveniently removes that essential human factor from the things that happen to us.
“Sorry for the delay.”
While this may seem relatively innocuous, apologizing has become a reflex for so many women—particularly those over 40—that even sending an email later than they anticipated seems to merit a long response. Instead, try thanking people for their patience rather than apologizing for the potential (and probably) unnoticed inconvenience in the first place.
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”
Instead of telling people which behaviors of yours they should tolerate, maybe consider not being “at your worst” so much of the time? If people don’t like you at your worst, it’s because, by your own admittance, you’re being the worst.
“Kids are so soft nowadays.”
And 100 years ago, it was fine to send kids to work in a coal mine. You don’t have to like it, but progress is progress.
“I’m here for a good time, not for a long time.”
You’ve already been here for 40-something years—a relatively long time by many people’s standards. Also, you’re not a reality show contestant, so quit it with the catch phrases.
“This is a stupid question, but…”
There’s no reason to put yourself down just because you’re curious about something. Nobody ever got smarter by not asking questions, after all.
While you’re not even approaching old at 40, it’s time to stop referring to your similarly-adult friends as “girls.” You’re adult women—and it’s time you owned that fact.
“I’m entitled to my opinion.”
Of course you’re entitled to your opinion! Also, of course, some opinions are morally objectionable or flat-out wrong.
“Stay-at-home-moms are so…”
Just because you feel like you’ve got this whole parenting thing worked out doesn’t mean it’s a good look to disparage other moms. You may think that stay-at-home moms have it easy compared to the work you do, but you try spending all day, every day, finding enough Pinterest projects to keep an irritable, teething child occupied.
“Working moms are so…”
Similarly, if you bash women for returning to work after having children, you’re only contributing to a never-ending cycle of negativity. Having two working parents is an economic necessity for many families, and it’s pretty silly to assume that moms automatically have to give up their careers when they have kids.
“It’s not fair.”
Sadly, life as a whole isn’t fair. If you’re older than 12, it’s time to put this phrase to bed.
“Not to sound prejudiced, but…”
There has never been a non-prejudiced statement that follows this preface.
“I can’t even.”
The ultimate in dismissive teen-speak, this phrase probably shouldn’t be uttered by anyone under 40, either.
“I don’t care.”
Nobody has ever praised someone else for their apparent apathy. Despite what you might think, not caring just makes you seem lazy, not cool. And for more amazing advice for your best decade, learn these 40 Common Mistakes No Woman Over 40 Should Make.
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