Hitting your thirties can be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life.
For starters, it’s when women reach their sexual peak (officially, this happens at age 36, according to new research from contraceptive app Natural Cycles).
It’s the decade containing many pivotal life decisions when it comes to career (should I continue my career ascendancy and success, both professional and financial, in a certain profession, or take a leap of faith and switch roles?), and personal life.
It’s a great decade to pursue new hobbies with passion and travel the world – which looks quite different to travelling in your 20s. You can finally afford a restaurant meal AND hotel for the night, for starters.
Let’s be honest - it has also become the decade to settle down and start a family. According to CDC figures, for the first time in recorded history, women in their 30s are having more babies than women in their 20s.
And we can’t deny that turning the big 3-0 can be scary, especially when many of us are nowhere near the point of settling down, having kids, buying a house or being the editor/manager/head honcho we imagined we’d be. In fact, lots of us are still paying off student loans before - and long after - our Dirty Thirty bashes.
With all this pressure to have your life sorted before starting your third decade, is it any surprise researchers have found that one in six young people will experience anxiety of some sort?
Your 30s may be a decade packed with adventure, excitement and new beginnings, but that milestone birthday can inspire fear and anxiety. Especially if you’re a single woman in Asia, where the pressure to marry and have kids in your 20s is often much higher than in the West.
Indeed, the video below, commissioned by global prestige skincare brand SK-II, explores how three different women from three different countries look to challenge age-related pressure.
It explores questions such as through who’s eyes do we see ourselves?
Can we decide for ourselves who we are? And can we change destiny by changing our thoughts?
SK-II also undertook a survey as part of their #changedestiny philosophy which questioned 4,280 women and 3,261 men aged 18 and older across Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the US, the UK and Australia.
A big takeout was that four out of ten women in Asia have experienced age-related anxiety when comparing themselves to their friends.
Part of the problem is that both Asian men and women think women are in their prime in their 20s - age 27 to be exact - and disappointingly, being at their prime has nothing to do with feeling liberated or successful in personal life or career.
It all boils down to appearance.
Of the women surveyed, 59% felt their prime age was “when they are most physically attractive”.
If that’s the attitude, no wonder being 30+ can inspire more fear than waking up in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.
You won’t be surprised that men’s prime age was thought to be when “they have achieved a good career” according to 54% of respondents. Which doesn’t usually happen by 25, does it? So men and women don’t feel that men reach their prime until age 32, or 34 in China.
Interestingly these attitudes vary by geography. In the US, for example, women feel their prime age is 32 years old.
One of the issues that crops up as we get older is that feeling of stress about what we’ve achieved personally and professionally, or haven’t achieved yet. It doesn’t help when celebrities and particularly irritating social media friends seem to have it all figured out by the of age 25.
For Asian women in particular, their marital status can be a major source of anxiety, with 45% of women saying they fell pressured to get married (compared with only 28% of men). This was especially high for Chinese and Korean women, partly because of expectations from their parents, but also because of internalised stress, according to 66% of Chinese women.
In fact, 62% of Chinese women under 30 said that the reason they were most concerned about ageing was worrying they wouldn’t find a suitable spouse. Seven out of ten Japanese women feel the same way.
Again - given the figures, this is not surprising. According to Priceonomics (using United Nations World Marriage Data 2015), in China, the average age of marriage is 25.3.
SK-II’s survey also found that women generally feel unhappier about ageing than men – 40% compared with 32% of men. Single women especially dreaded ageing, with 46% declaring they weren’t happy about getting older, particularly in countries like Japan and Korea.
In China, unmarried females are often considered “sheng nu” aka “leftover women”. Families put extreme pressure on their daughters to get married prior to age 27 to avoid this label.
“In Chinese culture, respecting your parents is the most important quality. And not getting married is like the biggest sign of disrespect,” says one woman who stars in a mini-documentary, Marriage Market Takeover, made by SK-II to shed light on the issue.
“People think that in Chinese society, an unmarried woman is incomplete,” said another.
It’s why 55% of Asian women surveyed said they felt uncomfortable or have been offended by other people’s view of their marital status or age. Another 46% said that society puts an expiry date on women that makes them feel like if they don’t get married by a certain point, they’ve blown their chances.
And one out of three women in Asia still feel there’s a predetermined, prescriptive timeline for how to live your life. If you haven’t ticked those boxes at the right time, you’ve failed.
Happily, single women over 30 are rebelling, as the above video shows, rejecting conventional norms and choosing freedom, independence and the chance to live their 30s - and the rest of their lives - exactly how they want to.
And that is something for all cultures to celebrate.
SK-II brings the power of Pitera, a fermented yeast ingredient which contains amino acids, minerals and vitamins to keep skin looking refreshed, rejuvenated, soft and smooth, to all of its skincare saviours. In the 1970s, SK-II scientists saw how supple and youthful the hands of aged sake brewers were, inspiring them to use the ingredient in their products. And the rest is history. And gorgeous skin. #inpartnershipwithskii