Advice For Your 20s And 30s: What They Don’t Tell You About Ageing

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Mental Health

It’s rare to find an older woman who doesn’t wish they could give their younger self some advice. With age comes adaptation, lessons and a good dose of resilience. So why not tap into those who have lived it – consider this a page from a thick-ass adulting textbook. We asked three women, all with varying qualifications and experiences on the joys of ageing. Below, some lessons for women in their 20s and 30s as they look to the future. One thing’s for sure: so many things get better with age!

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Advice #1: Let Go Of Self-imposed Limitations

The forties for Palesa Boka have been about fully owning and embracing who she is, sans any societal limitations. In the process, she’s decided to show up the best way she knows how. As many of us already know, growing older is always a daunting thought or that arduous but necessary task we avoid, until you actually turn the page!
AGE: 44

I turned 40 in 2019 and oh boy what an unpredictable ride it has been! No one warned me about the self-assuredness that comes with this age! The constant taking stock of all facets of my life, and the self-growth that comes as a result, are just some of the things I wouldn’t trade in for anything. Then there’s the ‘I choose
me’ that comes with this age! I’m learning to prioritise myself and my needs despite the urgency of others’
requests. I’d like to believe that I’m a late bloomer. A lot of changes started taking place later in my life. Our 40s aren’t about trying to fit in, I’ve learned. It’s as though our bodies and souls fight back any forced effort placed on them to conform, be likeable or to tone down.

“I can confidently say that I have finally met my truest self at this age. I’m letting go of self-imposed limitations and embracing the fact that I’m right where I need to be – well, on most days.”

It’s also the best time for me spiritually, physically, emotionally and sexually. I’m more confident in my skin. I honestly couldn’t give two hoots about what anyone thinks of me [chuckles]. My body? This is all I have to work with, so let’s! Mentally? I can only do better and that’s that! Financially? Well, this remains a tricky area but one that I’m working hard at. The sins of my 20s money mistakes are catching up with me. For instance, if I’d bought a house in my 20s, it’d be paid up by now. But all’s not lost!


You don’t suddenly wake up one day to find the guilt, shame and past mistakes magically gone, but your mind evolves to see them differently. In a way, this approach is gentler and more solution-driven than self-pity.

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Advice #2: Live For Yourself

Thami Magele, founder of Leungo Education Learning Circles, a company aimed at preparing future-fit children for their active participation in building a better Africa, is passionate about curating a life that overflows with purpose, love and rich experiences.
AGE: 49

As I edge closer to 50, I find myself sympathising with my own mother more and more. She married her parents, siblings, her husband and her children before marrying herself. As a result, her self-worth was left in their hands, and nothing for herself. My mother’s worst mistakes came from the depth of her love for her children, as well as wanting to honour her parents. Her lowest point was her inability to reconcile her mistakes as courage – she could only recognise them as shameful because her decisions didn’t attract the applause of those people whose opinions she valued the most.

Now more than ever, I’m sympathetic to how we, parents, can hold onto and do things for the sake of our children – to a point where we are broken and left functionally handicapped. Just because a plan failed, doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent. Children need their parents whole.

With that bit of reflection out of the way, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciate the grace I receive daily. I’m not self-made and my life is not in my hands. I do my absolute best daily to indulge in some of my favourite
things. Those include watching the sky at night while sleeping alfresco in nature, swapping playlists with my daughter each morning, solo morning walks in nature and spreading love however and wherever I please.
The thought of being in love no longer scares me because I now measure love, first and foremost, by how much of it I give to myself, how I choose the company I keep, the spaces I visit, the activities I spend my time doing and the people I choose to share my life and love with. In fact, my worst fear is not doing what I love. My joy and peace are currently my greatest currencies!

“Whatever fears used to plague and contain me are gone. My life is richer right now! I no longer fear losing assets. “


Identify and invest in the things, spaces and people that always bring you peace, joy and fulfilment – instead of those that leave you feeling depleted or questioning yourself. Remember that the societal
definition of success is informed by an inferiority complex, maintained by power and control and continually instills a feeling of inadequacy. The sooner you ditch the societal definition, the better. Lastly, spend the bulk of your time creating pleasing memories and experiences for yourself and those less fortunate.

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Advice #3: Do Things Without Needing To Excel

After a long spanning career as an education consultant, Vanessa Francis took her expertise to Room To Read, an NGO dedicated to improving children’s literacy and girls’ education across Asia and Africa – a job she describes as purposeful.
AGE: 65

In 2019, just a few days shy of my 60th birthday, our house burnt to the ground. Days went by and I waited for the shock and sadness at how much we’d lost to kick in, but it just never came. We lost some sentimental items such as family photos, but I was most grateful that no life had been lost.

Naturally, friends and family thought I’d postpone the 60th birthday celebration that was scheduled in Ballito, KZN, a week after the fire, to another time. I think everyone became more surprised when I announced that the celebration would go ahead as planned. This incident confirmed two things for me: that relationships are important. The photos may be gone but I still have many more chances to create and capture happy memories with my loved ones. I also realised just how much resilience I’ve built over the years. We were now careful and minimalistic about what we were accumulating. I mean, I now have a woman cave as a result of this rebuilding and renovation exercise!

“When we’re younger, we get upset over the smallest things but as we get older, we allow painful experiences to glide past without getting stuck in that sad moment. Ours was a real cleansing by the fire and an opportunity to do things anew.”

READ MORE: How To Get Fit At 40 – And Thriving Healthy Tips

Also, 65 is when I should be slowing down and preparing for retirement. Yet I feel more energised, grounded, centred and eager to learn (which is key for me). I’m also more amped to leave behind a legacy rooted in meaning and purpose through my work as country director for Room To Read. Years ago, I signed up for a drawing class. Now,
I take pottery lessons – and I’m so bad at it [chuckles]. The point here is to learn to go with the flow and not listen to my ego’s need for perfection. My perfectionism serves me well at work but in pottery, I get to learn to do things for pure enjoyment without needing to excel.


Whatever’s happening now is for now. Basically, this too shall pass. Your task is to balance yourself and create space for the storm to pass through with ease.

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