I've just watched an interview between two successful women, one in her 50's and another who's 41. The interviewer asked the younger woman how it felt to be in her forties and if she had dreaded turning 40. Apparently she had - she hated the thought of it, until on her 40th birthday she woke up and everything about her life clicked into place - she had some sort of epiphany.
As I hurtle towards 40 it got me thinking, why does turning 40 bother so many people, especially women? Why is it such a big deal? Do men feel the same? Do we really still put such an emphasis on age that it affects how we feel about ourselves?
At 39, with 2 young children, and a busy professional life, I know I'm physically more tired than I was in my 20's and I would love some more sleep - alas my children do not like sleep and don't believe I should either - but I take pride in my health and fitness and take care of myself. My brain certainly doesn't 'feel' any different. Yes I look in the mirror and see the differences to the pictures from 15 years ago - but more importantly I see the internal changes in the person.
I see how my confidence has grown and it's no longer just an outward attitude but something innate within me.
I see how I believe in myself so much more than I did back then.
I see that I trust in the decisions that I make now, that I would've spent months agonising over back then.
I see the trust I have in myself to accomplish whatever it is I want to.
I see the person who doesn't care about the judgement of others and who doesn't feel the need to please all the people all the time.
I see the 39 year old me, and I'm so much more comfortable with her than I was with the 25 year old me.
I remember the short-lived marriage in my 20's that didn't work out, and that felt like the biggest failure ever.
I remember meeting the man I would go on to marry at 32.
I remember buying our first home and having our first son.
I remember the broken person I became after the traumatic birth of my second son and the aftermath of PTSD and Post Natal Depression.
I remember thinking the cabin fever and isolation would never end and that I'd never be 'myself' again.
I remember that I overcame the things that felt so dreadful at the time.
I remember what age has done for me, and that's a lot.
Is the physical ageing fabulous? I'd be lying if I told you I don't care about how I look, or what I wear - I take as much pride in those things now as I did in my 20's. But my priority is definitely much more about how I feel - I ask myself often 'Do I really want to do that?' And if I don't, then I don't. We too often allow ourselves, particularly when we're younger, to believe that other's always know best, that we don't have enough experience to make the best decisions and we don't follow our instincts - if only I'd followed my instinct when I was younger, many life mistakes wouldn't have been made. But mistakes are what get us to where we are now, and are only there to be learned from and not dwelled upon.
What have been my biggest life lessons?
That it's really not worth the energy sweating the small stuff.
That only I need to believe I'm capable and worthy.
That my self-worth begins and ends with me - it's no one else's responsibility to make me feel good about me.
That the only person you can change is you and spending energy on trying to change anyone else is a waste of time.
That you can change your path at any time - the only limitation to what you can achieve is whether you believe you can achieve it.
That life goes wrong sometimes, and often the things we desperately want to be right - relationships, jobs, family, friendships - will never work out the way we would like and that's not a failure, it's just life.
That failure is never the end of the world but it's often the beginning of a new one!
So, if you're turning 40 soon, or are already rocking life over 40, congratulations. And if you've been dreading a milestone birthday, don't - every single new day is an opportunity to set fresh goals, to work on a new mindset and to achieve brilliant new things.
Life is precious, live it fully, happily, fearlessly.