I’m officially “over the hill”. I turned 40 this week.
It’s interesting that as a kid, I remember hearing that phrase and not really understanding what it meant. It didn’t seem to me like life “ended”, or was “downhill”, after one turned 40.
However, as I moved into being a 40-year-old, really in the few years leading up to it, I began experiencing feelings that I now can see stem from this belief system surrounding this age.
Feelings of resistance and apprehension arose. I began to feel self-consciousness about my increased grey hairs and wrinkles. I noticed a sense of denial and, admittedly, a bit of shame that I was, in fact, aging.
Despite those feelings, in my mind, I thought that 40 was “just a number”. However, as I began to approach the actual day, I began to accept that there was more to this day, or period of life, than my mind wanted to acknowledge
What I observed about myself through this birthday has left me feeling more excited and hopeful about life than I believed and thought would be possible.
I’ve seen that we have the opportunity to challenge the societally-ingrained narrative about what turning 40 means, and that it can be an opportunity to embrace and value the complexity of beings that we are, versus the superficial metrics that society wants us to believe determines our value in this world.
Our unconsciously inherited beliefs shape our experience
Whether we wish for it to be so or not, we absorb the messaging that exists throughout the society in which we exist. Going through life, if you heard messages about what it means to turn 40 (or get older for that matter), it’s likely and possible that those messages influenced how you experience this milestone.
In my mind, I didn’t think I believed there was anything wrong with turning 40. However, what I noticed, especially in the week leading up to 40, was that those messages had gotten into and shaped what I anticipated this age would bring.
It’s as if I had convinced myself that if it was happening to someone outside of me, there was nothing wrong with it. But, underlying was the messaging I had received over the course of my life so far.
Observing this phenomenon showed me how unconscious and unaware we can be to having our beliefs and thoughtforms being shaped by the narrative of society.
Where do our beliefs about turning 40 come from?
You’re likely well aware that the messaging is pervasive, especially in US media and culture, that youth at any cost is what is desirable. So, signs of aging encourage us to take measures to cover up or delay these changes.
In a belief system that puts emphasis and value upon physical and superficial appearances, it’s easy to confuse physical signs of aging as a place we don’t wish to go to. If our looks are what we value, when our looks begin to change, it’s easy to confuse our value and worth as a human being.
In that paradigm, of course, we would feel like we lack value when have to begin hiding the natural process that happens to our physical structure.
The limiting vs expansive view of turning 40
This process of going through my 40th birthday was interesting for me. I saw the image of a graph of an inverted “V’ where the peak was age 40, and then it was a downward slope afterwards.
That was the image that was created from taking on the belief system from society. I could use the framework as a structure to live the remaining years of my life, and my experience would reflect that.
Or, I could follow with a completely different framework.
That framework is one of expansion and growth in a non-linear slope as I continue to challenge and release the limitations that have been with me for much of my life. I could live by a very 3D, linear model or one of quantum and exponential expansion.
We get to choose the paradigm we wish to live our life in
I saw that I get to choose. Every day, I get to choose how I show up and what I give my attention to, and that will allow me to exist in the paradigm of my choosing.
I can choose to accept the downward decline over 40. Or, I can believe that there is another way than the messaging and programming that I unconsciously received during my earlier decades of life.
We all get to choose. And, when we choose, we get to contribute to breaking the mold and being an example for the generations looking and absorbing what it means to grow older.
How to embrace this milestone birthday in an expansive way
My suggestion would be to simply begin to observe your beliefs around this time of your life. See where you feel guilt or shame about this age or the signs of growing older.
Ask yourself how you view this period of life. Reflect on the examples that you have had and how they experienced this transition in life.
I realized that my mom’s health began to deteriorate around 40. Unconsciously, that likely created a template for me that health declines during this time in life.
However, I also have examples in my family lineage where this isn’t the case. For example, my paternal grandmother took on tennis in her 50’s.
Consider journaling about what comes up for you. Really, just begin to get curious, and trust and be okay with whatever comes up for you. Have your intention be to observe without attachment or judgment.
Questions to consider
- What comes up for when you think about turning 40?
- If you’ve already crossed this threshold, what did you notice about how you felt about this age and what has been your actual experience?
- If you haven’t yet turned 40, what comes up for you when you think about this period of life?
- On your highest timeline or your best case scenario, what do you envision your life after 40 looking like? (go big here ????)
Next actions steps
One aspect that can come up for many during this period of life is the realization that life can go many ways after 40. The preciousness of time can be much more obvious.
With this realization, the need to act on one’s life desires and dreams can become more pressing. Unfortunately, as we get older, we can feel more “locked in” to life, and going after and creating our dreams can feel much more challenging.
I’ve experienced what it’s like to sit on my dreams and operate under the belief system that prevented me from taking action and creating this life path. And then, I challenged those beliefs and made (and I’m still making) my dreams my reality.
If you’re feeling ready to go beyond the limitations that have prevented you from actualizing your dreams, I’d love to support you on that journey through the coaching session that I do with clients. Learn more about Dream Creation Sessions, and become a client if that feels aligned with you.
Here’s a TikTok/Reel that I created about some reflections about this milestone. If your prefer, you can watch it on Instagram here.
@amandadreamleaper Reflections on turning 40… #turning40 #selfactualization #followyourdreams ♬ original sound – Amanda Richardson-Meyer