Oprah Winfrey, Camille Cosby and various other women have spoken about how liberating it was when they turned 40. In an interview Winfrey did in 1997 with Ebony magazine, the mogul spoke about this magical thing that happens when you turn 40.
“You acquire a healthy disregard for what other people think. You gain the confidence to define yourself boldly and on your own terms. You don’t accept anyone else’s judgments but your own. In short, you stop living your life for other people and start living it for yourself. The force is with you because, at long last, it is in you,” she told Ebony.
Hearing things like this always made me excited about reaching that life changing age and then I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just stop caring now?”
For many women, 40 is the age when you realize that life is short and you no longer want to spend another second of it caring about what people think about you. This means that the way you dress, talk, do your hair, apply your make-up and just everything you do becomes uniquely tailored to what you want. You start to live your life for no one else but you and that feeling of freedom is priceless. Some women may think that they have reached this point, but if you still pause before you say or do something because you are unsure of the reaction you will get from others then…you’re still not there yet.
Why is this so hard to achieve before that age? In our teens and 20s we are trying to find ourselves, fit in and live up to other’s expectations of us. Women in their 20s want to keep up with the latest styles and try things even if they don’t 100 percent agree with what they are doing. If it’s hot and fresh then they must try it.
The 30s are the years when women begin to care a little less, but still put some importance on what others have to say. Not only do women still care, but they start to beat up on themselves if they are not married, have children or have reached a particular career goal by their 30s. This is when they become slaves to their own criticisms because they don’t want to be seen as less than the image they portray to others.
I am 26-years-old and though there are many things I could care less about in terms of what people think, there are other things I still do. I can admit that I haven’t reached that amazing pinnacle in my life, but I see myself moving closer and closer to it. Growing up I had one friend who literally didn’t care what anyone had to say about her hair, clothing or decisions she made in her life. We were in high school and I would always tell her how crazy she was for the things she wore, said and did. I was constantly surprised that soon after she did something “different” people were all of a sudden saying it was hot and trying to do the same. I see now that it wasn’t really about what she did, but the manner in which she did it. That bold, fearless attitude she had made whatever she did seem hot.
The more confident and accepting we become of who we are, the less what people have to say matters to us. You ever notice how our elders always seem so funny to us because they don’t hold their tongues about anything? Being politically correct is a foreign concept to them because at their age they feel entitled to say whatever they want and it doesn’t matter if what they say offends someone. I’m sure at some point in their lives they cared, but with age comes experience and with experience comes wisdom. Once you reach a certain age you realize that you really have no reason to hide any aspect of who you are. Basing your words and deeds on what society deems acceptable can cause more personal harm than good.
For those of you who have already reached this turning point before 40 I applaud you. It is something easier for some to accomplish than others. That kind of freedom is beyond exhilarating. I truly believe this happens after we go through all of those other stages in life and come to the realization that you only have one life to live so you better make it count for no one else but YOU.
Im going to end this article with the same words that Laura B. Randolph ended her Ebony piece in 1997,
“If life really begins at 40, it’s because that’s when women finally get it. The guts to take back their lives. Seize the day. Glorify the new season and seasoning–the spice of experienced Black womanhood. It’s their time and the time is right for a little self-indulgence.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.