Ladies, let’s talk about age. More specifically, let’s talk about the unspoken pressure we face to stick to a one-size-fits-all timeline for our lives. So often, this means getting married, becoming a mother, and finding career success in stride with our peers. When we disregard this “societal norm” and take our timeline into our own hands, we often face sacrifices, but it can also be liberating. As someone who fast-forwarded through these milestones, I know this well. Yet still, age pressure is a constant undercurrent in my decision-making, and it’s time to address it.
I’ve recently been encouraged by the skin care brand SK-II to share my experiences with age-related pressure. Through their #INeverExpire campaign, they are bringing to light age-related societal expectations for women and asking, “What does it mean to live life on your own terms?” Their compelling film, The Expiry Date, explores this question in Asian culture. So today, I’m teaming up with SK-II to share how I live my life on my own terms.
I’ve always been ambitious. Straight A’s, perfect attendance, class president, captain of the soccer team — even spelling bee champion! I graduated college early, founded Brit + Co at age 25, and grew to have a family of four… all by age 30. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I should also acknowledge the sacrifices I made to reach these goals. Being ahead of the curve at this age comes at a price: being a kid. The enormous pressure I put on myself to achieve certain things by a certain time caused me to miss out on things my friends were experiencing.
We as humans rarely take a moment to pause and consider whose timeline is best for us – the one society pressures us to stick to, or our own? I think that every person on this earth has the potential to do great things, and believing in ourselves and what we can accomplish is step one of that journey.
For me, living life at my own pace meant that I got right down to business! I graduated college in three years and soon after married my husband, Dave. On the trip back from our honeymoon, I decided to start Brit + Co. Six years later, I’ve not only raised two amazing sons but have also raised nearly $50 million for B+C.
But here’s the part I rarely talk about: With two toddlers, a husband and a startup, I hardly have time left over for friends. One of the biggest holes in my life is a super-tight group of girlfriends I had while growing up in middle and high school. Furthermore, getting married and having kids relatively early meant a pretty abrupt change in friend groups. My single girlfriends and I still hang out, but it’s definitely more difficult to align with nap schedules and the overall craziness of toddlers. That being said, yes, life is busy and there have been a lot of hurdles along the way, but I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished on the timeline that’s right for me. I’m living the life I imagined.
I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was a little girl. People told me I should get more real-world experience in the workforce before founding a company. But I knew myself, and I knew that nothing else would give me “experience” like just buckling down and trying it. It’s a testament to the notion that you can forge your own path at your own pace and that there are multiple paths to the same goal.
Just as I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I also knew I always wanted children. Balancing being both a mother of two and the CEO of a young company was something else I knew I had to learn through experience — planning and building timelines can only go so far. Growing the company and, simultaneously, my family, have proven to be two of the most rewarding experiences of my life and happened at exactly the right time for me. Of course, my lifestyle doesn’t go without critique from others. Before having kids, it was, “She’s never even built a company before,” and “But what will happen when she has children?” After having Ansel and Austin, it was, “She’s lucky she’s still young and has all the energy to do both at once!” But it truly does boil down to this: I’m living my life on my own terms. Society will always have opinions about what you should be doing with your life and when, but only you can set the timeline that’s best for you.
Since watching this powerful SK-II film, one of its central queries has lingered in my head: “Can we change our destiny by changing our thoughts?” For me, the answer is yes. As we age, our north star changes, and it’s important that we remain present in listening to where our internal voice tells us to go next. It’s time we limit the negative voices — external and internal — to realize we can achieve our unique ambitions at our own pace. No matter what anyone else expects of us.
Pssst, one more thing! Recently, SK-II and Vanity Fair invited Sophia Amoruso, Elaine Welteroth, Aimee Song, and Lauren Abedinito discuss the topic of age-related pressure together. Their take on the topic is so inspiring — especially coming from such powerhouses in their industries. I highly recommend!
Take a look at the SK-II film that inspired this reflection. I’d love to hear your takeaways too. What’s your experience with the pressure to achieve certain things by a certain age? What does “living on your own terms” mean to you? Share with me on social media by tagging @Brit and #INeverExpire.
Design: Marisa Kumtong