I turned 40 this year, and it didn’t feel at all the way I used to think it would.
When I was in my 20s, or even the first half of my 30s, 40 seemed both a lifetime away and like the end of an era. The number represented an absolute turning point. I wouldn’t be young anymore. I wouldn’t look young anymore. I wouldn’t feel young anymore. I’d be Middle Aged™, with all that the term implies to a younger person, from the thickening of the waistline and the drooping of the face to the fading of the Fun Part of life as I make my way into its latter half.
Uh. Well, I’m 40 now, and as it turns out, none of those things have come true. Actually, I feel more or less the same as I always have, and I enjoy my life not just more than I had expected but also more than I did a decade or two ago. It’s funny how that happens.
I’m 40 now, and I enjoy my life not just more than I had expected but also more than I did a decade or two ago. It’s funny how that happens.
I’ve long believed that the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives have enormous power over us. This holds true when it comes to the aging process as well—our internal narrative about what to expect and how we should handle it makes a huge difference in how this whole inexorable march into the next decades of our lives will play out.
Over the last five or six years, my own thinking about the aging process and what it means to me shifted drastically from my earlier predictions of doom and gloom. I’ve been waiting for an appropriate time and place to share some of those thoughts on aging with grace. This seems like both the time and the place, so let’s do this.
Accepting Aging With Grace: What Does It Even Mean?
Let’s be clear: When I talk about accepting aging, I don’t mean lying down and letting the ravages of time and UV exposure run roughshod over us and just convincing ourselves to be okay with that. We’re on a beauty site, one that sells SK-II and La Mer, La Prairie, and Obagi. We’re not here to learn to give up.
When I was younger, I heard a million variations on the same theme of life forcing one to give up on taking care of oneself. You’ve probably heard these too. “When you hit 30, things will change.” “When you have a kid, things will change.” “You won’t have time for yourself anymore.”
Maybe it’s my extreme vanity, but I haven’t found any of those things to be true. They’re certainly not as inevitable as many people led me to believe. If there is an age at which one’s physical form just falls apart irrevocably, I haven’t hit it yet.
So we’re not talking about throwing in the towel here when it comes to beauty. But we’re not talking about fighting time tooth and nail, either. Time and life experience will alter the way we look and the way our bodies function—that, at least, is inevitable. What we’re talking about is a middle ground. It’s about practicing self-care in a way that allows us to maintain control over our faces, our bodies, and our experiences of aging, so that we can continue to be the best possible versions of ourselves, no matter how old we are.
It’s an important distinction. To me, aging gracefully absolutely means presenting the best possible versions of ourselves, not attempting to become someone else. Striving to transform into a different person, or into a two decades younger version of ourselves, is how people end up on botched plastic surgery shows. It’s the exact opposite of aging gracefully.
Attempts to become someone different originate in fear and a lack of acceptance of the self. Working to maintain and enhance ourselves originates in confidence and self-love. This may be a beauty site, but we’re here out of self-love. And self-love can take us a pretty long way.
How do we apply self-love and aging with grace to our beauty routines? Stay tuned—we’ll talk about that in the second installment of this series.