10 Benefits of Being Over 40 That People Don't Tell You
Everyone has heard of the “mid-life crisis”. For many, this is a natural part of the transition to the mid point in life. In a youth-obsessed society, there is a lot of pressure to avoid aging as long as possible, but the truth of the matter is no matter how many “anti-aging” products you purchase, age comes to all of us, and more quickly than we realize. So much energy is spent coercing us to dread and fight aging, and scarcely any attention is given to the positive life-changing benefits that come with entering the 40+ club.
So with this article, I want to focus on the top 10 benefits I've gleaned from crossing this over-hyped and often feared milestone. Hopefully, those of you who are in the 40+ club can relate to these. For those of you who are facing your 40th birthday, hopefully, it will inspire more optimism about what's to come.
Here are 10 amazing things the media and others don't tell you about 40 and beyond and why for many of us, it is indeed the highlight of our life.
More Personal Time and Space
As we get older and our kids go off to school; many of us finally have the opportunity for more personal time. Children become increasingly self-sufficient, leaving more space for us to breathe. I enjoyed my children as babies, but it felt like I never sat down during my 20's and 30's while taking on the baby and toddler years.
Now, I have more time to focus on myself, and this balance between self and others is easier to maintain. It has lead to a happier state of mind overall for me. I don't feel like I am running 100 miles an hour and getting further behind constantly and it's nice!
In my younger days I struggled a lot with self-esteem issues, constantly second-guessing myself, wondering if I'd ever measure up. In our teens and twenties especially, it seems we spend a lot of time figuring out who we are by comparing ourselves to others. I was always a bit of an "odd duck", which I appreciate much more now in middle life than I ever did as a young person. I wasted a lot of time trying to people please and mold myself to societal standards.
I started giving that up in my 30's and truly became comfortable with myself as I approached 40. Now, I can honestly say that I embrace my unique spin on life and I don't waste time worrying about what others expect from me. Many of my friends in the same age range have shared a similar mindset, that the pressure to be someone else or to change ourselves to "make others happy", radically subsides around this time of life.
Better Love Life
For women especially, perimenopause and menopause can really ramp up the love life. At this stage, you are more experienced and more comfortable with yourself and expressing your desires and needs. As you go through “the change”, there are fewer fears of unintended pregnancies and other hangups.
It isn't limited to women either of course. Men also get the benefit of more time with their partners once children are older and there are fewer distractions to contend with.
Overall, this phase of life just lends itself to better couple time, especially when both partners take care of their health and spend quality time focusing on bettering their relationship in general.
For those who are single, dating can be easier during this time and partners in a similar stage of life often come with less "baggage" than when in their 20's and 30's.
A Positive Shift in Priorities
In general, middle age brings a progressive shift in priorities. You start to see what truly matters in life and change course to align with those ideals. For many, this means a new focus on health, well-being, quality time with family and spouses and time spent pursuing things we love.
In our youth, it seems like we'll be young forever. We postpone our dreams more, spend more time obsessing over day to day things that really have little meaning. Middle age is a wake up call to just how fast time flies and how precious life is. There is a new desire to make the most of our time and that tends to bring higher awareness and greater focus to the things that truly matter and bring joy.
Less Pressure to Conform
This kind of ties into the greater appreciation of individualism, but there seems to be less pressure at our age to conform. I don't care about the latest trends, I do what I want. Of course I've always kind of been that way, but at this age, people seem more able to accept me for it. I've found that when a middle aged person bucks trends, no one really holds a grudge about it or pressures you to change.
Perhaps this is my experience only, but others now seem to admire me more for being an individual, and I didn't get that sense at all when I was young. When I was young, we were all rebels and invididualists who mysteriously all dressed very similar and had the same tastes...
Now, not so much and I don't feel pressured to be like my other friends who are my age. I also truly value and appreciate their differences and we can agree to disagree while fully respecting one another. A nice change from the younger years where everyone pressures you to be what they want you to be.
Making Better Choices
In most cases, with age comes perspective and hopefully, but not always, wisdom. The beauty of this is that as we age, we are capable of making more well-rounded and carefully considered decisions. We have more life experience to gauge our decisions on, and we've tried and failed numerous things many times. This brings learning, which ideally leads to better choices.
Improved Mental Capacity
Ok, so we may forget where we put our keys more often or seem a bit more absent-minded, but in our middle years we have this amazing ability to learn that most dismiss. There are constant jokes about becoming forgetful, but what most fail to mention is that life experience makes us better able to creatively solve complex problems.
We can conceptualize scenarios in our mind because of our ability to glean the knowledge of past experience when faced with new challenges. Over the years, I've also developed my creativity. Things that would have baffled or overwhelmed me in my younger years are easier to take on now. I approach problems with a better blend of both logic and creativity.
I may have forgotten why I just walked into that room, but present me with a problem and I'll find a way to solve it, and probably in a more unique or interesting way than I would have when I was younger and more inexperienced. What we lose in one capacity, we gain in another - a bit of a trade off, but one I'll take.
Authority and Respectability
Fair or not, middle age brings with it an heir of authority. This is one area where young people, even the brightest minds, struggle. There is a tendency people have to take you more seriously when you're older.
When I was young, I was very passionate and politically active in my community. The reactions I often received from the opposition were not based on logic or merit, but were directed at my age. I remember hearing things like “You're too young to know any better, tell me all about it when you have more life experience.”. Well, now I have that experience, so no more being dismissed for simply not being old enough. If you want to debate me now, you need to have facts on your side.
I try not to be "that person" and to listen to anyone regardless of age, but society at large does not. Although I hope that changes, I'm not too confident that it will. There will always be a natural tendency to value the opinions of those with a bit more life experience. While I may not agree with it; it does pose certain advantages.
This is a great time to learn new skills and hobbies. Most of us have a strong desire now to live life more fully. Couple that with the life experience that allows us to think more creatively, and hopefully a bit more “me time” and voila – the perfect blend of what one needs to take on and master a new skill or hobby.
The year I turned 40 I trained for and ran my first 5k. I also devoted a great deal of time to my art again, something I had all but given up due to other priorities. I'm also taking a couple of classes to build my skills in new ways. I have a motivation now that was overshadowed before.
I've noticed many friends of mine in this age bracket have also taken on new hobbies and interests with great enthusiasm.
We're Still Attractive – Deal With it!
One of the most maddening things to me is the media push of all these so-called “anti-aging” products. Why the need to demonize age? There are many of us at this stage that look and feel better than we ever have.
In our 40's most of us have a bit more time to make our health a priority. For those who don't let themselves go, our 40's are a great time to really get fit and see what we are made of. I trained for and ran my first distance run at 40 and I never felt better. I have more energy now and look more refreshed in the mornings than I ever did in my 20's and 30's when I was dealing with small children and sleepless nights.
I'm taking steps to improve and maintain good health and my husband sure finds me desirable still. I didn't shrivel up and blow away the day I turned 40 and neither will anyone reading this.
I am more self-confident now than I ever was in my teens or 20's and confidence is sexy! Laugh lines are a sign of a life lived joyfully – what is more attractive that a beautiful smile and someone's laughter? It boggles my mind how many women inject their faces with chemicals to avoid looking like they have facial expressions. Seriously?
I don't know, I find a man or woman who is confident and a little bit older and wiser to be more genuinely attractive because we are usually less focused on the superficial things in life. The little lines on the face that start to appear strike fear into many, but I enjoy a face that shows signs of a life well-lived.
Bonus The Gift of Letting Go
As I was writing this hub, something else occurred to me that is pretty profound. Another benefit of being middle aged is that we tend to let things go, at least in my experience. There is a sense of not wanting to waste time, and what is a bigger time waster than holding on to petty grudges, bickering, past regrets and other such nonsense.
I faced a lot of hardships growing up, grief, pain – a lot of it was caused by others, but much of it was also my own doing. I spent a lot of time previously beating myself up, having regrets, wondering what might have been had I taken a different road.
Almost magically it seems that this phase of my life has allowed me to release those things and start over with an almost clean slate. It has lightened any previously held burden and given me more peace in my life than I thought possible.
What do you think is the most important benefit to being 40+?
These are my perspectives on what it means to enter this middle phase of life. I don't choose to fear it, to cry over lost youth, because to do so would rob me of the opportunity to enjoy the best part yet. We're young enough to accomplish many great things before our twilight years and old enough to do this with the benefit of experience and perspective. Hooray for the 40+ club!
Have something you want to share about your own perspective? Thoughts on what you just read? Share below!
Comedian Louis CK takes a humorous view of some of the quirks of turning 40 and how people like co-workers and even your doctor react differently once you reach a certain age.
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© 2015 Christin Sander