How women feel about aging: Women in their 30s and 40s share their views
Updated: Sep 19
Aging is a fact of life, yet many women tend to feel more societal pressure to look youthful. That's evidenced by the billion-dollar beauty industry with countless options of skin care products and in-office treatments that promise to diminish fine lines and wrinkles, fade dark spots, and give you firmer skin. While products and treatments can help to a certain degree, one cannot expect to look 20 at 40 or 50.
Getting older also adds immense pressure on settling down and having children; irrespective of society, many people still value being married and a mother by a certain age.
As I turned 40 this year, I didn't feel old, but the number sounded old. I have friends who are older and younger than me, which prepared me to enter this new decade, and I must admit that turning 30 was more traumatizing than turning 40.
While there is talk of chronological (based on when you were born) versus biological (how old your cells are) age of a person- your biological and chronological age can be the same number, or they can be different because everyone ages at a different rate, and that depends on genetics and lifestyle.
However, when I spoke to my female friends about their perception of aging, they all said they were more comfortable with who they are now than when they were younger, as many of them are more mindful of their overall health.
I asked them how they perceived aging, and they had to say this.
PR* is a 41-year-old mother of two and said, "I feel less resilient and flexible physically but more emotionally and mentally resilient as I age." She said she prioritizes reducing inflammation in the body caused by stress, poor sleep, food and drinks, and practices self-care, which can be different for everyone. She said when she was younger, she spent too much trying to get everything done, and now she accepts that it's okay not to have to accomplish every single thing. Her most important advice is-"Save for retirement."
The change in physical abilities was a concern for many, such as KG*, who is 40. "Aches and pains become a daily occurrence and require daily maintenance with yoga. When I was younger, I used to work out to feel good, and now I work out to feel normal."
Meanwhile, NM*, who just turned 37, said she didn't feel too different physically and added, "I do have a more pragmatic self-perception, which is good as I am not as self-conscious at all."
EB* is 38 years old and has always had a very clear set of boundaries. "I don't care about pleasing other people. I say no and don't overthink it because I know what is too much for me." I think it's important for more women to learn to say no without feeling bad or guilty. EB added, "I resist the urge to be a martyr because I can't do it all." She said she delegates with her spouse, colleagues, family, and child- and makes it very clear what she can help with and can't.
It was refreshing to hear her say she finds herself way more attractive at 38 than she did in her 20s. "I kick my younger self for not celebrating that enough," which is so true. Most women spend too much time focusing on all the flaws rather than appreciating all the beauty in them.
For many women, "old" is a state of mind rather than dependent on their date of birth.
47-year-old AB* believes getting older is more psychological than more people realize. She said, "You're very aware that you're getting older because there are so many young women around you with youth and beauty around you."
While some women might not feel old, they are made to feel old when people find out how old they are, and such is the case for AR*, who turned 47 in spring. "I never felt old till others started mentioning it to me. I feel I have the same mentality that I always had, but when it's said aloud or written about me, it still shocks me a bit," she said.
It's impossible to control what other people think of us and our age because of how we are raised or the culture we grow up in. AG will be 39 in the fall and said, "People have preconceived thoughts on age, and it's not reality. Especially since now, the general public understands the importance of self-care." She added that now people know the importance of staying active and eating healthy, which wasn't the case before, and has changed the definition of what "old" means today.
JE will be celebrating her 41st birthday this month. She said she feels better mentally and physically now than when she was younger because she knows the importance of taking care of herself and practices yoga, stays active, and takes supplements when needed.
I used to have a very negative perception of aging because I thought I wouldn't be able to do the same things I could when I was younger, but as I have gotten "older," it has proven me wrong. I thought I had to accomplish certain things by a certain age, and now I don't feel the pressure of a timeline, and I can do what I want when I want to.
As there is a range of outlooks on aging and getting older, I asked them what advice they would give their younger selves.
PR (41) said she would tell her younger self to have a short-term and long-term plan. Her most important advice was-"It's okay to stop investing your energy on people/objects and jobs that aren't bearing any fruit in your life. However, give time to build your support system because you will need that."
While girls and women are taught that finding a partner is crucial to life, KG's (40) advice is-"Don’t focus too much on boys and concentrate more on yourself. Focus and develop your skills and take advantage of the time, energy, and optimism you have.”
NM (37) said you could prioritize beauty and femininity if that is important, but the most important thing is having a healthy, functional body.
EB (38) doesn’t think you need to know what you want to do with your life at any age. “Make a decision; it doesn’t matter if it’s the right one, but it's yours to make. Don’t make a decision because of other people,” she said. She did that what you do for work will define you in society, and choose your profession wisely. Given romance, she thinks it's best to wait to commit to someone else because rushing into one due to age doesn’t end well for most people.
AB (47) said, “I’d let my younger self know that everyone is beautiful at any age, and I'd tell my younger self to start strength training years ago.” AR (47) also said she’d make her younger self start exercising earlier and not overindulge in unhealthy foods because they will catch up. As we can see, caring for one’s health is a recurring factor among many women.
AG (38) was the only one who said aging never bothered her no matter how old she was, but she was more focused on “being skinny”- she’d remind her younger self that being healthy is more important than the numbers on the scale.
JE (40) sees getting older as a good thing and that it's not something anyone should be afraid of because we become more confident in ourselves.
My advice to my younger self would be- "Focus on being a good person and don't waste too much time trying to be liked by everyone." Another thing that changed my life now is learning to be more grateful for the little things in life, and I wish I had started practicing that sooner.
There is a strong possibility that physically, you might not have the same energy as you did in your teens and 20s. However, with proper nutrition, sufficient exercise, and the support of loved ones, you could be stronger and healthier in your later years.