By Alana Kirk, The MidLife Coach
For something that labels many of us, defining midlife today is surprisingly difficult. The term still hankers to an outdated vision of a disappearing woman who has outgrown her sexuality, use and status. Yet you are very much here, thank you very much, bursting with desires and ambitions but often not quite knowing what to do with them. That’s because none of the standard rules about age – and mid-age – apply anymore. We need to be redefining midlife.
You’re part of the generation of women who are redefining midlife.
Firstly, you’ve been gifted an extra twenty or thirty years of life expectancy – to be lived in the middle of your life, not the end. In midlife, not in old age. We also have unprecedented freedoms and opportunities that no generation of women in history has experienced. But what makes it so utterly unique, is that women like you and me now get to have a decades-long stage of life before old age, that is not centred around the traditional role of ‘Breeder and Facilitator of Everyone Else’s Lives’.
Throughout history, women have been most valued for and defined by, their role as mothers and nurturers. Once this responsibility was fulfilled, they were deemed ‘old’ and fecked into the corner to knit, desexualised and devalued. But today, women are living a third to half our lives post-menopausal and for the first time in history, have the chance to live creative, vibrant, fulfilled lives not just in relation to who we are to others, but who we are to ourselves.
This is why investing in yourself is key.
You are likely mid-flow in midlife. It’s time to press Refresh to assess the messy mayhem of your life, having possibly accumulated partners, marriages, divorces, children being born, children being raised, children leaving home, parent care, parent loss, career building, career stagnation, redundancy, change of direction, change of pace, change thrust upon you, change created by you, unexpected outcomes, disappointments, disillusion, wine bellies, unwanted chin hairs, and opportunities, passions and ambitions.
The most important decision in midlife is the one to invest in yourself by signing your own permission slip. Invest money certainly, but not necessarily. Invest your time, energy, thoughts, focus, light, strengths, compassion, curiosity, imagination, your mind, body and soul in yourself. That is one of the most important advantages that we women of this magnificent midlife generation have been given – even though it still feels risky, or subverted. Investment is making sure the light you shine on so many other people gets turned back on yourself too.
It means paying attention to what’s making you tick, what’s energising you, and then living intentionally. It’s letting your mind explore an idea rather than immediately shutting it down because you’re too busy, too overwhelmed or too scared. It’s about not believing the belief we were handed as young girls, that taking time out for ourselves is selfish. It’s about stopping asking who am I supposed to be, and learning who you actually are and want to be.
No generation of women has ever had this mid-age before so you get to define what it can be.
Western culture often gives women two beliefs that hold us back. The first is that we are indispensable (because our role as mother/ daughter/partner/colleague defines us) and the second is that we have no right to put our own needs first. Redefining midlife means ditching the extra pounds by ditching the dead weight on your shoulders instead. Ditch the grandiose ideas of your mother that you’re the only one who can do things right.
Ditch the martyrdom of your mother that you don’t deserve as big a helping on the plate as everyone else at the table. Ditch the criticism of your father that you’re ‘too’. Ditch the rejection of that early lover that you weren’t perfect. Ditch it all, and show up as worthy of the same investment you give to others. Your midlife mission is to turn your light firmly back on yourself and shine in your own right, whatever that means for you.
Forget age. Those numbers of forty, fifty and sixty are arbitrary. They don’t mean anything anymore. The only age that matters is the age you finally own your shit. Every generation of women has slowly evolved women’s quality of life, but this generation is completely redefining middle age in a way the teenagers of the 1950s redefined children. I
look at my mum and the life she might have lived if she had been given permission. I look at the generations of women before us who never had the chance to explore their potential. Sometimes we have to take inspiration from the people who couldn’t have what we can and invest in ourselves in a way they could never have done. And then we have to become role models for the generations to come.
Research has found that once conditions such as income, employment, health and marriage are factored out of the equation, life satisfaction declines from our early twenties until we hit our fifties. Then it turns around and rises, right through midlife. We assume (mostly because of the militant anti-ageing propaganda) that ageing is a bad thing and therefore will make us miserable.
But instead, ageing fights happiness until midlife, then switches sides. The myth that at fifty our best years are behind us is one of the biggest causes of discontent because we assume that if we’re not fulfilled at fifty, we never will be. In fact, the happiness curve shows that all things being equal, the best of life is yet to come. From that point, ageing makes us more positive, and less stressed and regretful.
The things I have achieved DESPITE ageing, and DESPITE trauma and grief have been life-enhancing. I feel that this is the time I’m glowing and growing the most (notwithstanding the challenges and responsibilities that midlife hurls at us with record-breaking force).
I finally give less fucks about stuff that isn’t actually important and more fucks about me and how I want my life to feel. But it takes intentional investment. It is never too late to invest in yourself: your body, your mind, your peace of mind, your creativity, your health, your career, your joy, your pleasure, your passions, your interests, and your adventures. It is a daily commitment.
The false assumption that we will have peaked by middle age not only makes us miserable, but it also stops us from striving to grow and evolve. That stereotype of the midlife crisis is just not borne out. Societal recourse and reality are at odds. We’re not becoming de-sexualised; we’re seeing more and more women in their fifties, sixties and even seventies on TV being vibrant sexual beings.
We’re not fading into the background, redundant; one of the largest cohorts of people setting up businesses is women aged fifty plus. Instead of falling apart, we’re more likely to be strengthening up – the female upsurge in pilates/yoga/running/football/cycling is a testament to that. We’re not being devalued: non-nubile celebrities such as Winona Ryder, Emma Thompson, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, and Jane Fonda are being used by leading designers in advertising and playing leading women in movies. Female leaders all over the world are changing the world.
Yet you would never guess this from the way we often still think and talk about ageing. To invest in yourself, you can look for inspiration rather than intimidation to live a life that energises you rather than drains you. You can keep intentional about how you want to live. You don’t have to love your wrinkles, but you do have to accept them and then not let them hold you back.
Body image is a trend; don’t let a trend dictate your self-worth. Instead, be inspired by those who feel comfortable in their own skin, whether they’re wearing Christian Louboutins or crocs. In our twenties, we talked a lot about who we fancied and wanted to love. In our thirties, we talked a lot about our children. Now, it’s time to talk about ourselves.
We each of us never stop having the potential we had from our childhood. Midlife is a time for us to let that potential become more powerful. Nothing is more inspiring than that.
Click here to read the author’s book: Midlife redefined: Better, Bolder, Brighter
Alana Kirk works with women as The Midlife Coach and when she had to redefine her own midlife after losing her marriage and her mum within a year, she wrote the book she needed to read. A self-guiding book that takes the reader through an adventure of self-discovery, midlife design and action planning, the reader will end up with their own bespoke midlife (wo)manual.
Last Updated on May 23, 2023 by Editorial Staff