Confidence in my 40s

This is part 3 of a 3-part series on Confidence 

We have always been told that life begins at 40. And now, I am truly beginning to think that it does. As I move closer to the big 4-0, life seems to be more about actions and the difference you can make in the world. You learn to love music, learning, reading, and being silly, but also to love listening, mentoring, coaching, and teaching. You are more comfortable being who you are.

Above all, you learn to be mindful of judgement. This means you don’t worry so much about what others think, as you cannot please everyone. For every opinion, there are 100 billion more out there in the world, many of which will contradict your own — it is ok to have a differing one.

As you reach your 40s, you also know whom you can count on. You have learned of the hundreds of people whom you can rely on for advice and guidance and you start to see the few whom you have made a difference to over the years start to flourish and succeed.

You start to become that best version of yourself, but also become aware that no one human is perfect and no Robot or AI will be either. And you are more aware that these imperfections make us unique as individuals. You also realise that “best” is often a matter of perspective — it depends on who is being used as a benchmark and what the comparison is that is being made.

Confidence Blog 3

If we think about every person’s “best version” as a rainbow, each one would look slightly different. This becomes apparent in your 40s, and so you learn to compare yourself against your own scale. If you have high standards to keep, then keep them high for yourself but work with others to help meet their own set of standards.

In your 40s you also learn to be quietly confident and to share any overlapping confidence with others. For example, you let others know that you are there to support them as they glance at you in a meeting or ring you for advice. Just being there for others — and giving others self-confidence — is an extremely valuable gift. How many colleagues and friends have you given confidence to today? Have you helped and made a difference?

I recently read an article from Wired by Karen Wickre, and some of the strategies are really useful, now that I am too old for the Young Professional Group. It looks like I will need to put many of the strategies mentioned in place. And some I actually already have. My mentees really do teach me every day, and they encourage me to continue to make a difference and connect with many groups across the organisational spectrum. Now to make the most of the 30 years or more I have left in the Technology Industry!

One of the problems which Wickre discusses is that we often don’t embrace the opportunity to coach and mentor others. We struggle with this new role in our 40s and go into this new realm not knowing that we could actually learn a lot from our mentees.

In addition, the reverse mentoring that she discusses in the article works and it works well. Thank you to all the graduates and my mentees around the world for teaching me many things daily. Without you there is no way I could keep up with the change in technology, especially the rate of that change, which has led to a fundamental shift in the industry, over the last 5 years. You keep those of us on the verge of 40 and above relevant.

Lastly, even in your 40s though, there will still be those odd moments of self-doubt.  In those times, look around — who do you trust to help? Then, ask for that help. There will be others willing to help you with your confidence, in both your abilities and your ideas, and you have to trust them.

“When something is important enough. You do it, even if the odds are not in your favour.” Elon Musk

In the next few years, I hope I will be able to look back and see many people that I have personally helped navigate this complex world of technology. To borrow a metaphor from my earlier posts from this series on Confidence, if I can remember to live every single moment like I am meant to be there — like a rainbow between times of sunshine and showers — I believe I can help make a difference. In my 40s I hope to further develop the colors of my rainbow — perhaps building up the last layers of shade that are required and tweaking the amount of sunshine and showers so that the colors are as vibrant as possible.

Sarah James was ANZ lead for Authentic Leadership in DXC and an advocate for DXC’s Women in Leadership and STEM. Prior to leaving DXC in September 2017, Sarah founded the Empowering Future Leaders blog and was its primary author. With over 15 years of experience in the world of IT, Sarah’s specialty is spatial information and includes integration on projects as diverse as mapping volcanoes in Hawaii to delivering high-tech police vehicles.


Confidence in my 20s

Confidence in my 30s

Actionable career advice for aspiring female leaders

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