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The upside of ageing: every silver hair has a silver lining…


By IMAGE
23rd Nov 2023
The upside of ageing: every silver hair has a silver lining…

Despite everything going south, you actually gain more than you lose by hitting the big 40. Let Virginia Foley explain.

Did you ever hear the phrase ‘life begins at 40’ and want to scratch your eyes out? How about the greeting cards that read ’40 and fabulous’…? Eye rolls all around.

I will tell you what did begin at 40 though; grey hair, chin hair and bingo wings. Fabulous right? The irony of it all – hair on my head getting thinner, chin hair getting thicker. Nature can be cruel. (Even saying the word ‘chin hair’ is traumatic, to be honest.)

Now, I have to go the gym three times a week just to maintain the current (over)weight situation, so I can continue to eat like my 20 or 30-year-old self. I’ve started to sleep with a hot water bottle and have begun wearing concealer under my eyes. The cool, atmospheric lighting in coffee shops (that would have impressed me a few years ago), now induces a headache and serves as a reminder to reach for my reading glasses. Even the sniff of a drink can cause a hangover. A night out is as challenging as some extreme sports!

You gain more than you lose

When I was in my 20’s I definitely had expectations of what my 40-year-old self would look like. It involved being in a wonderful relationship, being a loving mother and a confident business woman full of integrity. I didn’t think for a second of what I would actually physically look like. At that age, you think that your ‘greyhound-breed’ metabolism and thigh gap are here to stay.

On a more serious note though, I’ve also come to the realisation that potentially I have already lived half of my life, based on current mortality rates. A terrifying thought that could add another 10 years on me, just thinking about it.

But despite everything going south, you actually gain more than you lose by hitting the big 40. The biggest transformation is mentally. The changes in the body mean so little in comparison to the growth in the mind and spirit. My idea of beauty has evolved and the people I’ve met along the way have shaped me and forced me to re-frame my own identity. I’ve let go of what other people think and have a clearer sense of what makes me happy and content. This frees up a lot of energy to channel into other things that really satisfy me.

I can look back at the old photos and think ‘God, I thought I was fat then?!’ and not a hint of a wrinkle or the dreaded cellulite to be seen. But that girl knew very little about herself at the time and was more focussed outwardly on fitting in and making others happy.

Turning 40 has reminded me of what’s really important and I see that as a huge gift. Many have asked me what are you doing to mark 40, and it usually ends in discussions about lip fillers, Botox and ‘Marionette lines’. I much preferred when the mention of ‘elevenses’ meant coffee and a scone and not the 2 burrows of wrinkles between my brows. In my opinion, It’s not what goes into your lips that matters, but what passes them; kind words, thought-provoking conversations and of course, good food ( & wine!)

Knowledge and contentment

It isn’t just the body that becomes well rounded with age, but in fact, the mind does too. It is a time to call a taxi for perfection – and lose any expectations you have put on yourself to be at a certain stage of life. It’s a time to say no to anything that doesn’t make you happy.

I find myself no longer searching for the fountain of youth but instead for the fountain of knowledge and contentment. I’ve stopped thinking about what other people expect me to be and instead focussing on my own values, beliefs and self-worth. Nature has gentle forced me to stop worrying about reaching the peak of attractiveness and to start looking inwards to figure out what I want to achieve in the second act.

My circle of friends got smaller but tighter and more supportive. People value my opinion now on things and come to me for advice ( these same people have no idea that I can’t even poach an egg!). Everything I’ve learned over the last 39 years has crystallised and my self-esteem has soared.

Turning 40 has helped me to turn up the dial on my inner voice and instincts and care less about what other people think. The worry and fear of not being good enough have subsided. So thank you 40, for giving me a renewed sense of confidence to roll into this next phase – the ‘Fascinating 40’s’.

Through her writing, Virginia Foley is starting conversations about ageing and celebrating women over 40. You can read her blog here

This article was originally published in June 2023.