40 Things to Stop Believing About Yourself After 40
You aren’t still wearing the same clothes or driving the same car as you were two decades ago, so why are you still punishing yourself with the same outdated beliefs?
“I’m a freak”
It’s really common to worry about whether you’re “normal,” especially when growing up because everyone wants to fit in and have friends, says Traci Stein, PhD, MPH, author, psychologist, and adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University. This line of thinking can lead you to do some terrible things in the name of being accepted by the crowd. But one of the best things about getting older is freeing yourself from caring so much what others think. Let your freak flag fly! Here’s how to develop a positive attitude in six easy steps.
Reframe it: “I’m different and unique and that’s what makes me awesome!”
“I’ll never be good enough, no matter how hard I try”
If you’ve received a lot of criticism in the past, it can be easy to believe that you’re a failure but that belief can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating a cycle of the fear of failing that holds you back from trying. Then that fear is reinforced if/when you don’t succeed, Dr. Stein says.
Reframe it: “I am good enough to try and failure is just part of learning, not a statement about who I am.”
“If I can’t do it perfectly, it’s not worth doing”
Having a perfectionist mindset is a quick way to torpedo your happiness and progress. “Many people overestimate the probability that they will not do well or assume a negative result which can lead you to avoid doing things altogether or not put forth your best effort,” says Flo Leighton, RN, certified mental health nurse practitioner and therapist with Union Square Practice. These are the clear signs you’re a perfectionist—and it’s ruining your life.
Reframe it: “Trying something new is always worthwhile even if I don’t get it exactly right.”
“My boss thinks my work sucks”
Everyone worries about their performance at work sometimes but trying to anticipate your boss’s reaction or put words in his or her mouth will just make you anxious and unnecessarily stressed out. Instead, look for real evidence of how you’re doing and focus on your strengths, Leighton says. Talk to your boss, read through your performance review, and get an outside opinion to help you look at your work realistically.
Reframe it: “My boss gives me constructive criticism on how to make my work the best it can be.”
“Everyone is doing better than me”
Call it the social media effect or simply human nature but it’s very common to look at others your age and think that they’re much further ahead in the game of life than you are, says Jo Eckler, Psy.D, licensed clinical psychologist and author of I Can’t Fix You Because You’re Not Broken. This can make you feel depressed and discouraged, leaving you wondering how you fell so far behind. To find real happiness, however, you’ve got to resist the urge to compare, she says.
Reframe it: “Social media isn’t reality and it isn’t fair to compare my worst to other people’s best.”
“I’m just a hot mess”
At some point it became “cute” for young adults, women especially, to act as if they don’t know what they’re doing and are constantly living in a state of crisis. As you get older, though, you may look around at others and wonder how they got it all together while you’re still figuring out Adulting 101, Dr. Eckler says. It’s time to stop shaming yourself for choices you’ve made in the past and embrace your smarts! Instead, try following these things naturally successful people do every day at work.
Reframe it: “I’m a competent, reasonable adult and I can handle this.”
“I have to find my purpose in life”
It’s a myth that you have to have one concrete reason you’re here in order to live a fulfilling life, says Helena Lass, PhD, psychologist and founder of Wellness Orbit. In reality, spending all your time trying to find that “one thing” that will answer all your hopes and dreams can make you miss all the small-but-great things you have going on right now. As you get older, give yourself permission to keep looking for the big answers but also to be satisfied with what you find along the way.
Reframe it: “It’s more important to find meaning in my life now than to spend my life searching for meaning.”
“If I’m not in a relationship right now, it means I’m doomed to be alone forever”
Everyone has a time frame for which they’d like to accomplish major life milestones like graduating from college or getting married. Unfortunately, life rarely sticks to our schedule and unless you learn to roll with it, you’ll end up really frustrated, says Forrest Talley, PhD, a clinical psychologist and founder of Invictus Psychological Services. These are the top dating mistakes to avoid when you’re after 40.
Reframe it: “Just because I don’t have a special someone now doesn’t mean I never will. The right person is out there.”
“I work hard, I deserve to have that Lexus”
Feeling entitled to having certain things can set you up for disappointment and financial ruin, Dr. Talley says. Life is hardly ever “fair” and the sooner you recognize that no one owes you anything, the happier you’ll be.
Reframe it: “I work hard, I’ll save up for that Lexus.”
“If I buy this Instagram workout or this powder off Facebook, I’ll get the body of my dreams”
If there’s one thing social media does really well, it’s sell dreams—and products to “help” you achieve those dreams. But rarely will you find what you’re lacking by poring through other people’s feeds and timelines, Dr. Talley says. And if you’re looking to lose weight, chances are it’ll mainly be your wallet that ends up lighter. “My advice for someone who struggles with this is to do a ‘cleansing fast’ of Instagram, Facebook, and the like then use that extra time to build deep, genuine relationships with a small number of people in real life,” he adds. Try these science-backed tips to start losing weight right now.
Reframe it: “There aren’t any shortcuts. It will take hard work to get what I want, but I can do it.”