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Dreaded Midlife Crisis or Midlife Awakening?
What would ageing look like if we took the ‘crisis’ out of midlife?
Whose Voice Will You Believe?
Are you at the brink of midlife struggling to find your footing in this lifescape?
Do you believe the voices that are telling you that ageing is a crisis and something to fear and dread? And, that your best years are behind you because you no longer hold value?
Yet, among the voices telling you to go quietly into the night, a gentle voice whisper:
‘It’s not true. You still have so much life left in you.’
Having been on the midlife journey for over seven years, I’ve learned to trust that inner voice. Particularly, over the many voices scrambling to impose identities on you that don’t fit your true nature and unconditional worth.
The Midlife Landscape
The midlife transition undoubtedly involves a shift in physical and psychological well-being. For many, midlife coincides with an empty nest and a shift in the parenting role. It is also a time when midlifers take on new roles and responsibilities as grandparents and caring for ageing parents. They’re dealing with changes in your physical health while at the same time reflecting on mortality and existential questions such as your life purpose. They’re questioning their career satisfaction and how well it aligns with their dreams and passions.
Depending on their level of satisfaction in these life domains determines how well they’ll transition and adjust to this new life stage.
Midlife, like any major life change, can cause a period of emotional turmoil often compared to stages of grief. As creatures of habit, most of us thrive on familiarity and stability. Any disruptions to our ‘comfort zone’ such as transitioning to a new life stage can be naturally challenging.
However, coining the midlife transition as a ‘crisis’ doesn’t help. Particularly when studies show that only 10 to 20 per cent of midlifers, experience it as such. The term only intensifies the natural emotional adjustments associated with ageing. Alongside disparaging ageism narratives, it contextualises midlife as an emergency or catastrophe which can lead to panic and dread.
Remove the Panic from Ageing
The transition to midlife is an active process of evolving into your deeper, authentic self. You take stock of how you've evolved and re-examine your major life choices. You reconcile your insights and extensive life experience. You reflect on how you wish to spend the remainder of your time, energy, and resources.
That’s not a crisis, it’s natural growth. And if that’s the case, what could happen if we removed the panic from the term dreaded midlife crisis and help promote positive views on ageing?
According to existing research, it can literally extend your lifespan. Specifically, it shows that positive self-perceptions can prolong your life by up to 7.5 years.
That sounds like a worthwhile incentive. At least, to someone like me with several life goals still in infancy and who looks forward to enjoying grandparenthood and a healthy, flourishing retirement someday.
With midlife adults preoccupied with up to eight essential roles, their influence transcends multiple generations. They’re not only a spouse or life partner and a parent, but they’re also sandwiched between generations as a grandparent and caretaker of ageing parents.
Midlifers juggle careers, navigate complex family dynamics and are actively involved in their communities and social lives, hobbies, and interests.
By midlife, you've gained the life skills, wisdom, and resilience to competently mitigate the associated challenges and opportunities with confidence and sound rationale. Therefore, wouldn’t a term such as midlife awakening fare better as an alternative to a dreaded crisis, particularly to:
1. Better reflect the gentle and gradual transition that this period offers?
2. Reduce the negative connotations currently associated with ageing?
3. Shift the ageist mindset, thoughts, and emotions of individuals in transition?
4. Help to embrace midlife as a time of growth and discovery?
5. Encourage a natural life transition with ease and grace?
This newsletter challenged the term ‘midlife crisis’ in favour of an empowering term such as midlife awakening. If viewed as a natural life transition, midlife can be managed successfully with an empowered and resilient self-perception, psychoeducation and other forms of support.
The midlife objective shouldn’t be fear, dread, and instil apprehension about ageing. Instead, it’s better captured in this provoking quote by Maya Angelou:
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with passion, humour and some style.
For more insights into how to thrive on purpose in midlife, subscribe to my newsletter.
Until next time!