Beyoncé, the multi-hyphenate queen that she is, has achieved a lot.
On her 40th birthday, she remains the first artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 with their first six solo studio albums, she has broken the record for the most Grammys won by a woman, and is one of the world’s biggest trailblazers.
Most of us pale in comparison. And when it comes to birthdays, it’s especially difficult to not tally up all that we’ve achieved.
But comparing yourself to the greats or even those around you can have serious detrimental effects. At cliched as it sounds, there is only one you, marching to the beat of your own drum towards your own timeline.
Grammy or not, there’s a lot to celebrate if you’re approaching a big birthday (let’s not forget to commend our sheer resilience in navigating the pandemic). And it seems plenty of people are doing just that.
We spoke to four people about milestone ages – and how they’re rejecting ideas of where they’re “supposed” to be.
“Time is precious and short.” – Vicky Clapham, business owner, 40, Leeds
“I actually feel ok about turning 40 – and much more accepting than reaching 30! I have more of a ‘age is but a number’ type mentality.
“For my birthday this year I’m having a party at my home with family and friends followed by a weekend away sans children with my husband, best friend and her husband. We’re going to see the Tina Turner musical and can’t wait! I’ll really enjoy doing these things that only a few short months ago wouldn’t have been an option.
“I do think a birthday can be a bit of catalyst to think about what you have or haven’t achieved, and changes that need to be made. Personally, I don’t feel like that now. It was definitely something I was more conscious about when I was younger – especially the pressure around having children, getting married, career etc.
“I’m much more self-assured and accepting now and realise that everyone is on their own path. Time is precious and short – which this last 18 months has been an incredibly stark reminder of – and you’ve just got to make the most of it, including celebrating getting older.”
“As I turn 30, I actually feel a level of freedom.” – Taimour Ahmed, mental health consultant, 30, Lisbon
“There really is societal pressure to achieve things by a certain age and in my view, it’s quite detrimental to our mental wellbeing, [causing us to] chase things and achievements we think we want, when in reality this might not be the case.
“As I turn 30, I actually feel a level of freedom, knowing that I am setting my own pace in life as opposed to living to society and other peoples’ rhythm, which effectively destroyed my mental wellbeing.
“In terms of achievements [we’re expected to reach], it’s very black and white i.e. progressing on the corporate career ladder, having a property and potentially being married, depending on your cultural context.
“In my view it’s not possible to achieve them because 1) London living is so expensive 2) we need to better understand at a base level whether or not these things are actually what we want.”
“Covid and turning 30 have made me reconsider what’s important in my life.” – Joanne Goldy, marketing specialist, 30, Isle of Man
“I’d love to say that I’m not sweating it, turning 30, but I do have mixed feelings. On the one hand I’m telling myself that 30 is only a number and other clichés like ‘you’re only as old as you feel,’ but I can’t help feeling a little sad that my 20s and that time of my life is over.
“I definitely feel more reflective around this birthday than I have in previous years. For my birthday, I’m hoping to have a big family get together – less to do with celebrating my birthday and more about reconnecting in light of the Covid situation. Both that and turning 30 have made me reconsider what’s important in my life.
“Ageing is an interesting one for women as many of us naturally begin to question if/when is the ‘best’ or ‘right’ age to have children. In part I feel there’s a societal expectation to have settled down by or in your 30s, but there’s also a biological pressure there too. Many female friends my age already have children and although kids aren’t on my radar right now, it’s tricky not to compare lives sometimes and wonder ‘is time running out?’. At the end of the day, there will always be societal expectations of some sort around age, but my opinion is that most people are fortunate to have the choice of whether to live up to them or not.
“I used to be very future-driven and focused on having achieved x,y,z by age x. Over the last couple of years though, my outlook has changed significantly; I now try to focus much more on living in the present (literally day to day) and avoid thinking too much about the bigger picture or ticking things off by a certain age.”
“I never beat myself about anything”– Sarah Lee, mum, 50, Worthing
“I turned 50 this year and I felt fine, and quite proud, actually. Unfortunately my birthday was spent at home with my husband due to Covid. However, he did a gorgeous breakfast spread for me.
“I never beat myself about anything, take every day as your last, do things when you can or when monies allow, don’t stress as life is too short.”