On My 39th Birthday—Some Honest Thoughts on Aging Well

Beauty is an attitude.

By Camille Styles
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Recently, three things happened that reminded me: aging is inevitable and it happens to all of us (if we’re lucky.) First, I read an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow about turning 50 (“Aging is a journey to knowing your actual self.”) Then, I went to my friend Kelti’s disco-themed 40th birthday party. As we put on fake lashes in her hotel room before the party, I heard myself saying, “You know? Age is really just a state of mind,” (especially true, since Kelti is one of those freaks of nature who could still pass for 28). The next day, I listened to a podcast with poet Rupi Kaur in which she mourned being almost 30. I wanted to give her a hug, and reassure her that your thirties are THE BEST.

Three talented, beautiful women navigating three very different life stages but so many of the same emotions. There’s a letting go of one chapter and some level of apprehension about what comes next.

Aging, especially for women, is a rollercoaster of emotions. For me at 39, it feels like the topic is everywhere, though maybe I’m at an age when I’m just noticing it more.

As much as we all love a new anti-aging product or longevity hack, that’s not what today’s article is about. Though I’m all for a little dermatological help if it makes you feel good, I also think that cosmetic enhancements can make things harder if they’re done in a state of resistance. If our sense of our own beauty isn’t rooted in something deeper, an inner knowing of who we are, it’ll never be enough. Looking and feeling youthful is more about our mindset. You know when Gwyneth actually looks her youngest? Not when she’s painted gold and posing in the most flattering light—it’s when she’s laughing.

As I enter the last year of my thirties, here are a few mindset shifts about beauty and aging I’m embracing:

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Aging well is all in how we see ourselves.

I’ve heard women of a certain age say that they feel invisible. Paulina Porizkov (who I love for her honest conversations about beauty and aging) has said that after 40, women all but disappear in our society. I’m not here to deny someone else’s experience, but I am choosing to reject that narrative for myself. The stories we tell ourselves are powerful. They infiltrate the way we carry ourselves through the world. I’m choosing one that says I’m not invisible, irrelevant, or past my prime. It really doesn’t matter who sees me or doesn’t see me, it’s about how I choose to see myself. And radiating confidence is irresistible at any age.

Beauty is an attitude.

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Aging well is having female friends to navigate life with.

To me, my friends are the most stunning women because they radiate a beauty that’s about who they are as people. Plus, there’s this lucky phenomenon where I always see them as the same age they were when we met. Find yourself a friend who sees you as forever 28, even as you’re evolving and growing right alongside each other. Sometimes I think about sitting around, drinking coffee with my girlfriends when we’re all 80. Suddenly, growing old doesn’t feel so scary after all.

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Aging well is being cool at every age, instead of frozen in time.

I often hear older women described as “elegant” or “chic,” but the type of woman I want to grow into is cool. Julia Roberts. Padma Lakshmi. Julianne Moore. Alicia Keys. Norma Kamali. It’s almost beside the point to mention these women’s ages—they’re so engaged with life, pouring themselves into their art, their music, embracing a sense of adventure, and finding deeper meaning with each passing year.

When I start stressing about getting older, or thinking that I need to “fix” something about myself, I channel these (unknowing) mentors of mine who are eternally confident, beautiful, and sexy.

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Aging well is getting to know myself.

Learning to embrace my “flaws” as part of my unique beauty. Laughing more. Drawing kind but firm boundaries. Not being easily offended. Making time for things that light me up. Being curious and open-minded. It’s hearing a song that I love come on the radio, turning it up and singing along at the top of my lungs just like I did when I was 16 and will still do when I’m 70. Aging well is being fully present for each season of life—the hard ones, too.

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Aging well is not caring so much.

My biggest attitudinal shift toward aging is to NOT THINK ABOUT IT that much (I know, you wouldn’t believe it from this article, lol.) I’m a work in progress, but let’s be honest: we have better things to be doing with our time. There’s a sigh of relief that comes when we let go of the endless quest for perfection and instead choose to focus our attention outside of ourselves. I think back to that contracted feeling I used to get when I’d look at Instagram and start comparing, and it makes me proud to realize how much I’ve released that negativity from my life and replaced it with thoughts that are more productive.

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As my friend Kate said in her newsletter recently:

Reacquaint yourself with the knowing // that this shift in what has been and what will be // is an awakening // a moment of growth // happening for you, not to you

Besides! Today is the youngest you’re ever going to be.

Enjoy it.