Depending on who you ask, turning 40 can feel like an achievement or a death sentence. For some, it is a dreaded landmark of aging, while others see it as a reason to celebrate how far they have come. No matter how you feel about your upcoming birthday, 40 really is the perfect time to reevaluate your goals, make some changes to your life, and let some stuff go. Forget getting older—it can be all about freedom.
So, free your life of these 11 things before you turn 40, and take yet another step toward being your best you.
There’s no need to explain.
A lack of confidence might have caused this habit during younger years, but take turning 40 as your official permission to stop explaining the decisions you make. You know what is best for you and your family, and no matter what kind of decisions you make, you don’t owe anyone the details of how or why you do the things you do.
Aimee Mulligan, age 40, on her turnaround:
“I no longer desire to defend myself or my opinions. I feel like I know my core beliefs and opinions better, and I hold them close, but I don’t have the desire I once had to push them on others at all.”
Shake it off.
You might not be defending your beliefs and choices to others, but you might be easily affected by what others think about you.
Make 40 the year you start shaking off the judgement of others
Now is the time to stop caring what others think, trust yourself, and follow your instincts with confidence.
Kim Bongiorno, 41, says:
“I don’t bother worrying about outside influences as I continue raising my kids and building my career. If people want to judge me, or give me unsolicited advice, or want to just talk trash to me to try to make me feel bad so they feel better about themselves? I just laugh it off, because I genuinely do not care.”
Take note from Bongiorno’s playbook and make 40 the year you start shaking off the judgement of others.
It’s too late to apologize.
People tend to have a lot of opinions about the parenting decisions of others, from their education to how the discipline them when they’ve done something wrong. The truth is, no one knows your children as well as you do, so 40 is the perfect time to stop apologizing for the way you raise your kids.
Dress to impress…yourself!
You don’t have to spend a lot of time flipping through magazines before you notice the heap of rules about what women should and shouldn’t wear. Especially as women grow older, the fashion industry tries to dictate what pieces of clothing are appropriate or fashionable.
Instead of feeling obliged to follow a set of constantly changing fashion rules, age 40 is a good time to start wearing what you want to wear. Whether you find yourself in yoga pants and a workout tank or a dress with a pair of heels, the only person you need to worry about impressing is yourself, which is exactly the philosophy Katie Lawrence-Johnson, age 39, plans to follow moving forward.
I always used to frame decisions, especially appearance type stuff, based on how other people might perceive me. Now I’m finally just focusing on what I actually want.
Of course, it’s OK to set fashion rules for yourself, as long as they’re rules that make you feel comfortable and confident in your body.
Amy Wruble, age 46, said:
“My fashion sense changed after 40. I stopped trend shopping and just stick to more classic items that look good on me. And I stopped wearing stilettos because they hurt!”
Obsessing over your phone.
Smartphones may provide a lot of convenience, but they can also be a major nuisance! One way smartphones make our lives harder than they need to be is by giving us constant access to social media platforms.
At the age 40, most women should be using social media as only a way to connect with others and share information, instead of debating politics or personal beefs, according to Anitra Durand Allen, age 40, Chief Mom at The Mom on the Move.
“Women over 40 should be mature enough to handle personal and professional disagreements and confrontations person-to-person,” she says. “Nothing on social media is ever private.”
Stop pretending you don’t like it.
Let’s be honest, that old stereotype that women hate sex and have to be talked into it by their partners isn’t just annoying, it’s not accurate! Once you hit age of 40, if you’re still feeling embarrassed by your sexuality, it’s time to let that go, according to Durand Allen.
“Women over 40 should be comfortable in their sexuality. Sex is enjoyable. It has to be or any woman who has ever given birth wouldn’t do it again. We have been taught that expressing interest in sex makes you [promiscuous]. That’s a total double standard when men are praised for their virility.”
Quit ignoring these subtle messages.
There is nothing dignified about ignoring the messages your body is sending to you as you grow older. Forty is still a long way off from old age, but it is the perfect opportunity to commit to listening to your body and adjusting your lifestyle to be more in tune with the subtle messages it communicates to you.
“We live in a society which thinks it’s noble to work through pain,” says Barbara Bergin, M.D. and Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon. “As we age and aches and pains are more likely due to wear and tear on tendons and cartilage, nothing could be further from the truth. Listen to your body.”
Pain is a signal from our body that something isn’t right, and ignoring that signal could only make things worse, Dr. Bergin stresses. Instead, she advises adults to take note of their pain and try to determine the cause so they can find a remedy or adjust their lifestyle appropriately.
Eating like a teenager.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring, but it does need to be a regular part of your life as a forty-something. It isn’t about looking a certain way or hanging on to some impossible standard of ageless living. Eating good food is about making yourself feel strong and energetic so you can do the things that matter to you most.
Meg Tietz, age 40, spoke on eating healthily and happily:
“When I turned 40, I started eating my vegetables. I finally realized that it’s OK to hate salad [and] that there are dozens of other ways to prepare veggies that I love. I can honestly say I’ve never felt as well nourished as I do now!”
Stop putting off your “someday.”
During your 30s, you spend a lot of time focusing on taking care of others. Especially if you have children, dreams for your future are at risk of getting putting off for a “someday” that never happens.
“The number one thing to stop before you turn 40 is waiting,” advises Tim Toterhi, ICF Certified Coach and founder of Plotline Leadership. “If there is something you want to do or say, don’t wait. Make it happen. This does not mean being bold for boldness’ sake, nor does it mean adopting a reckless, self-involved lifestyle. Stopping waiting allows you to start becoming what you were always meant to be.”
This is the exact philosophy of many forty-something women, like Bongiorno, who shared she had spent much of her adult life until 41 building stability in her career and in her family. Now, she feels all that hard work has created a strong foundation, and that is exactly what allowed her to pivot her focus to other things.
“While I have been a writer since forever, my 40s are going to be a time when I start the part of my career that I’ve always dreamed of: becoming a novelist,” she said. “I’ve been in 10 books, but have yet to publish a novel…It’s scary putting a few hundred pages of your own imagination out there, but I think the timing for me now is so much better than if I tried this twenty years ago.”
Time to call it quits.
Your 40s can be all about dedicating yourself to your relationships, but it is also an appropriate time for calling it quits when those relationships aren’t working for you anymore. Stop hanging out with toxic people, just like Mylove Barnett, 40, who began valuing her time after her most recent birthday.
“I stopped making time and putting in effort with people who aren’t the kind of people who make me happy to be around them. That means I stay home a lot more, but it also means I’m not stressed out as much or dealing with drama as often,” says Barnett. “I stopped inviting people into my personal space as often or as freely. My house is my comfort zone, and you have to earn the right to be in here.”
Say goodbye to obligation.
The truth is, this list is only a taste test. But overall, being 40 should be about quitting anything that no longer works for you, your family, or your lifestyle. If it doesn’t contribute to your overall sense of purpose and wellbeing, let it go!
Instead, take a note from Jennifer Gregory’s life, who is 42 and making time for the things she wants to do most.
It’s hard to put into words what I stopped doing when I turned 40… but somehow I’m doing everything I want to do and wish I’d done sooner…