40!

I turned 40 on Saturday. 

40!

Even though I’m ready and excited for a new chapter in my life, it still feels a little weird saying it. 

Like everyone, I spent most of my early life not being able to picture turning the big 4-0, to more recently assuming by the time it came around I’d have life figure out. 

Of course, here I am, and I most certainly do not have life figured out, at all, but what’s nice now is that I don’t feel the need to. I’m very content to just see where things go and don’t have that overwhelming need to control everything. 

For years, I heard from friends that once they entered their 40s, they noticed they became more confident in themselves and their choices.

I’ve noticed I cannot hang like I use to, which was evident when I found myself falling asleep at 12:15 the night of my birthday party. I’m pretty sure I need readers, and all the serum in the world can’t give me back the skin of my youth.

BUT!  I have felt my confidence increase over the last few months. I also feel so much more comfortable in my skin both physically and emotionally; I like what I like, I’m less likely to people please or do something out of obligation, and my priorities are just where they need to be. 

So, today I thought I’d kick off December and a brand new decade for me, by sharing a few lessons I’ve learned on my way to 40 and hope you share your own in the comments below.

What I Learned When I Turned Forty 

This is 40
At my birthday party with my husband a few weekends ago. 

1. No is a full sentence, but so is Yes.

I threw myself into my career in my early 30s, thinking I had to sacrifice my personal life and time with my family to reach my goals. I ultimately ended up saying “no” to the wrong things and spent the last few years realigning my priorities. Looking back, I wish I said yes to the things I said no to, and no to the things I said yes to.

2. You are NEVER too good for a dive bar. 

I use to chase a fancy life, incorrectly associating fancy things with success.  Then, a few years back, I was standing in a dive bar at the Jersey shore, drinking white wine out of a plastic cup, surrounded by friends and family, dancing to 90s hiphop and I thought, I’m so happy! That’s when it dawned on me that my happiness wasn’t scaling with what I had access to. So while I can like nice things, and strive to live well, happiness is found in simple things and staying true to yourself.  

3. Don’t follow the advice of people whose lives don’t reflect your goals. 

This is a big, more recent realization. Why in the world would you listen to someone living a life that doesn’t look like your end goal? Beats me, but I did it for years. 

4. You’re not too emotional. You’re full of compassion and empathy. 

Growing up in the 80s was pretty much awesome, except girls still lived with the stereotype of being too emotional. Now that I am a mother to three daughters, I am adamant to never, ever make them feel bad for having feelings and expressing them. Instead, I tell them it’s like having a superpower. You might need to learn to control it, but your empathy is a powerful gift that can change the world. 

5. Don’t take things personally. 

When you’re sensitive, this is hard and takes a lot of discipline. I don’t always succeed here. Still, when I look at things objectively and remove my personal attachment, I’m able to react to adverse situations in a much calmer, healthier manner.

6. Hustle, not talent, equal success.

I’ve never been the most talented, but I can outwork anyone. 

7. Ignore the Critics

Brene Brown’s take on Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena Speech” shaped the way I look at and operate in the world.

When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.

8. Being right gets you nowhere. 

This is the best advice my brother ever gave me. Proving your “rightness” isn’t worth the fight because most people don’t care, so skip the drama and move on. 

9. Not everyone will like you. 

And that’s ok. But, more people like you than you think. 

10. Family is everything. 

My greatest source of abundance, by far my biggest blessing is the family God gave me. My husband, our girls, my parents, brothers and sister-in-law (who I love like my own sister), our good friends who we have build our own little community, or tribe or whatever you call it these days, they are worth finding time for, they are worth the effort, the fight, the figuring out. Don’t put anything ahead of that, because they are the fuel that keeps us going. 

What’s Next

I am excited for everything this new decade will bring, including how our content will evolve. I’m heavily focused on organizing the site for 2020 to curate style content for women in their 40s. I feel fortunate to know many of you from when I was a 28 year old, networking and building our personal shopping business. 

What a gift to be able to grow up together!  The best is yet to come! 

Join the conversation and tell us how did you feel/what did you learn when you turned 40?

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

18 Comments
  1. I agree wholeheartedly that family is everything.
    I’ll add “take the trip” as my piece of advice. I’ve never regretted spending time or money traveling to a new place or on a family vacation.
    I lost both my Dad and my older brother this fall and a day probably doesn’t go by that I don’t think of my family and the memories we made this March in Hawaii celebrating my parents 50th. Life is such a gift.

  2. Happy belated birthday!
    The lessons I’ve learned as I’ve aged….work so that you can have a life, don’t make work your life. People are the important pieces of your life, so cherish those relationships and wear the crazy glasses, sweaters or pants and make yourself happy. 😀

  3. A late Happy birthday!

    Enjoy your forties because time is going to fly faster than ever. Explore, try new thing swith failure and success because we always learn this way.

    I will be seventy next year and I still enjoy life.

    Many say that I am lucky to achive it so many passed away much sooner.

    Francine RH

  4. Happy belated Birthday Megan!!! Great article, and it made me reflect on my 40s. My advice is to enjoy every single day (sounds too logical & simple, and sometimes difficult to do when we are having “bad” days). I have learned that after turning 50, time FLIES by so much FASTER than ever. I met my husband when I was just on the cusp of turning 40. In fact, I took him to meet my parents on my 40th birthday weekend (rather than having a “girls weekend”, etc), and it was the BEST present I ever had, and gave to them as well, as I unexpectedly lost my mom a short 5 years later, just a year before my wedding. She was 66. I entered my 40s with a new beginning meeting my “best friend” and husband…and even though that decade brought so much sadness losing my mother, it was also the decade I fell in love, settled down, and learned what is REALLY important in life. Enjoy your 40s because it flies by, and no one knows how long we have to enjoy it.

  5. My life took a major change when I was 42 years old. My husband of 21 years replaced me with a 21 year old. I had several years of great upheaval, but when I was 47 an amazing person came along who showed me that love isnt a contest, it is constant and kind and even he accepted my children and made them his own. We have been together now for 20 years (Yes I am 67) and he has given me a wonderful stylish and incredibly happy last 2 decades. Moral of the story, stay open. Do not close your mind when bad things happen and your heart is broken. The man in my life has shown me only some men are buffoons not all men. Keep up the great blog I enjoy it very much.

  6. Love it! I turned 50 in September. I am at the top of my game career-wise after an unexpected layoff in 2017 that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. That confidence that I built up in my 40s propelled me with ease through networking my way into a new company where I have thrived!

    Family is everything but so are girlfriends. Take the time for girls weekends and nights out whenever you can. Laugh and celebrate those connections with the women who have had your back for decades.

  7. Happy Birthday Megan! And welcome to my decade. One of the best lessons I
    learned is that responsiveness does not
    equal effectiveness. In our always-on, insta-everything world, it takes effort to slow down and decide when it’s best engage, instead of always being reply-ready. It’s worth it: I’m more effective in my communication and have found purpose has its own rhythm, which is a beautiful contrast to the frenzied feeling of “responsiveness”. Keep doing what you do; your blog keeps getting better and better.

  8. Happy Birthday Megan. Enjoy your life whatever your age. I will be 79 in two weeks and have moved from warm Georgia to cold Colorado. Moved to be with our son and family of three grandchildren. My husband and I are enjoying this life and yes we took that trip to Maui last month and will take many more if it is God’s plan. Just always remember as you said family is everything but as another so are girlfriends. Even long distance they keep us grounded.
    Many happy returns.

  9. Excellent post. Inspiring as always. As a 50 y/o mom, wife and doctor, I strive for balance daily. Time is our most precious commodity. Protect it and cherish it.
    Happiest 40th!

  10. Happy Birthday. Great article. All are good points no matter your age and we all need reminders of each daily. I loved my forties, but honestly when one reflects each decade brings new and wonderful revelations. Welcome to a new decade. with health, happiness, and insight.

  11. Honestly, I found 40 to be anti-climatic. Maybe because I’ve always thought your age is just a number and doesn’t define who you are, so turning 40 felt like any other birthday. I do agree, though, that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found peace with certain things in life. I’ve (mostly) gotten past the FOMO and will happily retire to bed before everyone else if I feel like it. There are still times when I want to “fit in” and “be included” but I’m also okay with just focusing on the life I have with my family and enjoying the moments as they come. The years do feel like they fly by much faster now that I’m older, and I look back and wish I would have appreciated time as it happened versus anxiously focusing on looking forward to what was “next”. I have learned that as I age, I can’t eat whatever I want and those pesky pounds are much harder to lose. My goal for 2019 was to be healthier. I’m not sure I fully got there but I’m taking a page out of our friend Neen’s 2019 book and looking for 2020 to be “lean”!

  12. Happy birthday! I remember my 40th birthday and it was the worst birthday I can remember. I was very ill with Lupus and I felt like life was passing me by. I knew I wanted to live for my family in order to save my life I was declared disabled a few years later. I was obese and in pain all the time. I started feeling better about 4 years ago and I have since had gastric sleeve surgery and have subscribed to your blog to help me learn how to dress. Btw I’m 55.

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