Things I Learned in My 40s, I Wish I Knew in My 30s
42. An age that when I was younger seemed sooo far away. An age where I’d be so put together. So arrived. Yet, here I sit, feeling young as ever, not sure what I’m doing as ever and making it all up as I go along. I’m LOVING this decade so far and all the change, confidence, exploration and growth that is coming with it.
At the start of my thirties, I was chasing a list. Get married, have a baby, get promoted, check, check, check. I measured my happiness by this list, and also by what people thought of me. A people pleaser by nature, I spent much of my life being the girl who did exactly what was expected. I loved it. As I approached 40, things began to shift for me. I began to find new hobbies, new passions, new interests that made me more ME. I started to measure my life in how much joy I was sharing. What other’s thought of me fell away – and instead, I started to wonder if the life I was living would measure up in my daughter’s eyes to the authentic, compassionate, purpose-driven life I was teaching her to build.
Five Things I’ve Learned in My 40s.
+Be the student, not the expert. I spent much of my thirties trying to not be found out. I talked more than I listened, hoping to seem qualified and knowledgeable about the topic at hand and rarely accepting responsibility if things didn’t go as planned. I spend much of time these days listening, learning, asking for help. It’s much more interesting to be the student in life. Embracing problems and mistakes as opportunities for growth, having fun with the journey along the way.
+Confidence and self-worth come from within. I’m more comfortable in my own skin at 43 than I have been before. I know better what works for me and what doesn’t. In fashion, social settings and life in general – I’m more trusting of my gut and check in with it often. In my thirties, I was trying on a lot of personas, fashion trends and obligations to see what stuck. I’m glad I did. They helped me to arrive where I am today, knowing what I need to do to feel and look my best – for me.
+Relationships matter. Who you surround yourself is AS important as what you surround yourself with. I’ve been lucky, always, to have an amazing support group of friends + family. Until recently though, I was more concerned with how many friends I had, versus the strength of those relationships. Today, I’m happiest when I’ve had some time to connect 1:1 with another human. It builds a deeper connection and leads to more interesting conversation + adventure.
+Self care is not selfish. In my thirties, I frequently ran myself to the point of exhaustion and burn-out. My to-do list would be a mile long, full of calls to make, things to do, boxes to check. The one task ALWAYS unchecked on my list was anything to do with caring for myself. A workout, yoga class, scheduling a haircut. I prioritized nearly everything and everyone over myself in an unhealthy way. These days, spending a few minutes a day on myself is at the top of my list. A workout, some quiet time to meditate or journal, a glass of wine and a good book before bed – I have many options and know that I am a better human when I spend some time filling my own bucket.
+Show up and be present. As a female, and especially a working mother – I tend to have a lot on my plate. Always. I say yes to things I don’t have time for and then show up as a distracted, frenzied version of myself. In the past two years, I’ve worked hard to establish boundaries around what I can and will do at any time. This has helped me to show up and be present for each moment. Little things like putting my phone away during playtime with my daughter or out with friends, turning off email when I’m writing have been game changers at keeping my focus and presence right where it should be.
I’m still a work in progress, evolving and learning each day. I make as many mistakes in my 40s as I did in my 30s, but I see them as blips, as gifts. As opportunities to show up, do the work, have a laugh and get on with my life. Little did I know that true happiness lies in flying without a list. That seeking growth and change and learning are what makes me ME, and that makes me happy.
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Jill Elliott is a creative consultant, strategist, and thinker constantly seeking inspiration and balance. As a writer, artist, and founder of The Color Kind she seeks to inspire others to live creatively every day. She can often be found making art and messes alongside her 7-year-old daughter and Goldendoodle puppy.