40 is a big number for many women I meet. It means they have just hit about the middle of their life.
It means the biological clock is about to stop ticking for good.
It means that either her kids just entered primary school or just left school and home for good. It means being together with the same man for a long time and wondering where the spark is. Or it means just being left by a man, living alone with the kids and worrying about, well just about everything…
Or it means not having a man and being afraid to never find one and not being attractive enough anymore.
It means midlife crisis territory.
Small or big, these crisis can range from simple boredom, frustration and routine to fullblown identity struggles and purpose searches.
I have gone through my own midlife crisis.
After having had two kids, priorities changed and I was not happy with the purpose of my life. So I went soul searching, got a coach, attended retreats, tried to fix myself. And when I started to figure things out, I discovered there was a whole new crisis going on at home, which I had totally overlooked.
It’s a difficult time to talk about. So let’s dive right into it.
Crisis. Turmoil. Turbulence. Upheaval. Renewal. Reinvention. Whatever you call it, it appears that more women are experiencing a midlife crisis than ever before. After spending much of their adulthood doing “all the right things”, middle aged women are increasingly wondering, “How am I going to spend the second half of my life?” In most cases, the answer includes, “With more meaning”.
A midlife crisis is a time of potential turmoil that is estimated to occur at some point between age 35 and 55. It is a psychological, emotional and sometimes spiritual experience linked to questioning personal identity and meaning. It’s a time of transition; no longer willing to live as we were, yet uncertain about the journey ahead.
Middle age can be an agonizing time as we get “real” and make difficult choices that can have significant consequences. According to author Sue Shellenbarger, a midlife crisis stirs two goals:
· To find and understand our limits; and,
· To discover new meaning in life.
“One task posed by midlife crisis is to act upon what it signifies – that repressing creative, productive, or expressive parts of yourself comes with a cost, and that you must either integrate those facets into your life or come to peace with the fact that you cannot.”
In either case, midlife crisis usually leads to change. This can be challenging, not only on a personal level, but also for those closest to us. It is no superficial matter.
At one time it was thought that women got grumpy at midlife because they were going through menopause. Now, studies show that midlife crisis and menopause are separate events; however they are not mutually exclusive. For example, menopause is a physiological change that both affects and is impacted by general emotional and psychological well-being.
Same for men and women?
Men and women appear to see midlife differently. Men have been more fear based, suddenly realizing that the end is near and reacting in more impulsive ways. Women tend to be more optimistic and see midlife in terms of a newfound freedom to live out the desires that they pushed aside at an earlier age. For women, this process is more introspective and changes are vaster. Time Magazine: Midlife Crisis? Bring It On! is an interesting read on the topic.
How serious is midlife crisis?
The more authentically you live, the less severe your midlife crisis is likely to be.
Shellenbarger suggests, “In all cases, midlife crisis brings traits, needs, or desires that have been ignored or repressed roaring back on center stage in one’s personality. We strive at midlife to integrate the pieces of ourselves that we have been missing – to become whole.”
The more you have already integrated the pieces of yourself, the less change should be required at middle age. Still, we all change over time and the priorities we had at an earlier age may not be the same. Midlife is an important time to remember and honor our authentic self.
What are the signs?
A midlife crisis in women is often triggered by a significant event. This could be the death of a parent, grown children leaving home, an inheritance, early retirement, marital problems, or the scare of a medical diagnosis. This event leads a woman to question who she is, what’s important to her, and what kind of life she wants to live. This Telegraph story describes more.
Signs vary and may include:
· Boredom, frustration, impatience with normal routine
· Emotional deadness, fog, numbness
· Lack of meaning in activities, relationships, work
· Overwhelming feeling of unease, unrest, irritability
· An extreme desire to escape
· Unwillingness to settle or stifle personal dreams anymore
· Realization that it’s not worth the effort to pretend anymore
· A sense that time is running out, it’s now or never to get real
It is normal for middle aged women to experience a midlife crisis. If you are feeling this way, there’s nothing wrong with you. It is a time of change. While this change may have been triggered by a negative event, you have the intuition, wisdom and power to create positive results in the end. A midlife crisis can be a gift of growth. Respect and embrace it.
And now what?
That’s all very nice you say. I am in it too! But how the hell am I supposed to navigate through this mess of a crisis???
Well let me tell you that I have gone through tears, swearing, stupid actions I’m not proud of, laughter, drinks, a-ha moments, etc and I can say that I am through it.
I have learned so much about myself and others on the way. It is why, back then, I chose my word of the year to be REAL that year. Because only by living authentically will you avoid upheaval.
And you will have to wait until next week for some advice on that 🙂