Yesterday, I turned 39. Today, people asked me what it is like to begin my 40th year. In all honesty, today felt a lot like yesterday with a little less fanfare, and for certain less cake. As I begin to think about what this 40th year will be like, it has made me reflect on how far I have come in a decade. Today, I am a confident (at least half of the time), humble (most all of the time), professional, mother and wife. I like to believe that I have helped more people in my 30’s than I have hurt, unlike my 20’s, and that I will help even more in the next decade.
One of the most vivid memories I have of turning 30 was celebrating that I could say “I am in my 30’s” at work. For some reason, I felt like being 30 would instantly give me the respect that I craved at work, and it would help my coworkers (mostly men, 15 – 20 years my senior) to respect me. At 30, I had been working in a corporate setting for almost ten years. I came out of college young into an amazing job, and continued taking on progressively more responsibility from Procter and Gamble to Pepsi. In 2006, I was working as a Marketing Director for Mrs. Fields Cookies in Salt Lake City.
I was enjoying the work. It was challenging, both intellectually and organizationally. I continued to work hard and stay committed to success. Despite my positive performance feedback, and my commitment to the company, and me asking for them, my bosses and co-workers wouldn’t give me larger assignments or the nod to lead stretch projects. I truly believed that they didn’t respect all that I could deliver.
So, in my immature mind, turning 30 was the answer! I somehow convinced myself that this milestone would bring me confidence and help them to recognize that I wasn’t a “little girl who just graduated from college.” Wow – was I wrong. Sure, for several months, I found a new confidence based on this belief, but I quickly realized that nothing changed around me. I was still the same person the day after I turned 30 that I was the day before. My work relationships were still the same work relationships. My feeling of “lack of respect” still existed. I felt like I didn’t get taken seriously for what I had to offer. I decided to just put my head down and work harder than anyone around me. My last ditch effort to earn the respect I felt that I deserved.
As I reflect now, I can see how foolish this all seemed. What was my problem? Why did I worry about what now seems so trivial? I know today that this feeling of self-doubt had nothing to do with how my bosses and co-workers were treating me, but had everything to do with my own self confidence. Instead of believing in myself, I looked outward for affirmation.
Almost a decade later, I believe that living through this challenge in my life shaped how I live today. So, I am not celebrating the start of my 40th year nor lamenting it. Today, I am a professional, a leader, an athlete, a wife and a mother. I still struggle at times with a feeling of “lack of respect”, but I try hard to celebrate what I have accomplished myself versus looking for someone to affirm my contributions. I try act with respect for myself and for others, and to be humble about what I know and what I don’t. I work everyday to value each person on my team and in my life, knowing that each person brings a unique value. As I lead people, I listen and try help people find their inner confidence and encourage them to respect themselves.
So with 39 in the rear view mirror, and 40 around the corner, I don’t start this 40th year with any grand hopes that being “in my forties” will change much. What I am celebrating is that I have learned a lot in the last decade and hope to learn as much as I head toward the next one.