There’s a terrific post over at Women Grow Business today on “the incredible disappearing woman” by Liz Scherer, one of WGB’s regular contributors. As editor of WGB, you could accuse me of being biased, and I suppose that would be understandable… though not, IMHO, accurate, but that’s neither here nor there.

When I read through Liz’ post, these words of Gloria Steinem when told she didn’t look 40, as relayed by Mollie Katzen, struck a particular chord with me:

“This is what 40 looks like.”

What an incredibly empowering phrase.

I celebrated my 40th birthday this year with as much pandemonium as I could muster. My community was incredibly generous, helping me raise money for a cause particularly dear to my heart. And then I had an absolutely amazing time in London, UK, as part of my belated “birthday blowout.”

Complete strangers have been exceedingly kind to me, such as the British Airways employee who, as part of the rigorous screening on our way back to the US after my delayed b’day celebration in London, cocked her head at me and said, “… are you trying to make ME feel old?” (when I told her the reason for our trip).

Still, as a woman who’s no longer on the “right side” of 30, I can’t help but wonder sometimes…

… am I over the oft-referenced hill?

Was my grand proclamation of my age this year a set up for encountering ageism in the workplace when I don’t hold all the cards I think I do now?

Truth be told, I don’t know. Perhaps these words will come back to bite me some day. But this I do know, 99% of the women I encounter really do grow better as they age.

Perhaps it’s a question of “growing into my skin,” as I told a former boss of mine 10 years ago, when she asked how I was adjusting to life in the US after moving from India.

But if I could turn back the clock, I would, right?

No. I wouldn’t. Whatever I’ve been through, whatever I’ve done, have made me who I am today, and have put me in exactly the right place at the exactly the right time.

You can call that new-agey, if you like, but that is really how I feel.

I’ll say it loud and I’ll say it proud. This is what 40 looks like.

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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