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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Midlife Crisis for Women: How It Makes You a Better Person

Midlife Crisis for Women: How It Makes You a Better Person
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A couple of years ago, the wife of my cousin “snapped.” She had recently crossed the north side of forty-five, had a teenage son, a good job, a steady marriage, and comfortable living. That is, your perfect epitome of a “normal life.” However, that didn’t stop a midlife crisis in women from appearing.

Something was “off” with her, a common friend told me. And indeed—because they live abroad, when I saw her, I barely recognized her. She looked great, no doubt—courtesy of the combination of a fitness instructor, a tanning bed, and regular visits to an aesthetic clinic.

“I feel different,” she told me. “I have more self-respect now and want to take better care of myself. I refuse to feel gloomy that my life is over.”

To outsiders, though, it looked like she was having a midlife crisis and entering menopause. Everyone in the family expected her to run off with a hunky barista so that she could feel young again for a while.

Well, this didn’t happen (to some people’s disappointment perhaps), but the stereotype prevailed. Why go through such a sudden transformation and life crisis if you don’t want to prove that forty-five is the new thirty, and that you still “got it”?

This is the typical way of thinking, indeed—the midlife crisis narrative fueled by the image of a guy buying a luxury sports car and driving into the sunset with his 20-something new girlfriend. Or a middle-aged woman finding a younger fling so that she can feel wanted and sexy again.

This social cliché paints a picture of a reckless behavior—of overspending, unfaithfulness, and an uncontrollable desire to turn back time. And all this is presumably fueled by a bubbling frustration the person feels underneath—because of dreams unmet, goals unrealized and life, and feeling unable to leave a dent in the universe.

But all this begs the question: Just because something is a decades-old stereotype, does it make it true today? Does midlife foster more carelessness or thoughtfulness?

What Is a Female Midlife Crisis?

A midlife crisis in women is basically a period of transition of identity and usually occurs between the ages of about 45 and 65. It’s often thought of a psychological crisis triggered by an awareness of age and mortality.

First coined in an article by the Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques in 1965, the term has quickly become a mainstream explanation for anyone who “snaps” after they pass forty. “Must-be-the-midlife-crisis” adage makes it all easier for us to understand and label this transitional period as something that seems more of a catastrophe than a catharsis.

An interesting thing to note is that one study shows[1] that it manifests during different times for middle aged women and men. For the former group, it is between thirty-five and forty-five, and for the latter, it’s between forty-five and fifty-four. Other studies place lock-bottom around fifty for both genders.

Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis in Women

As described in the common literature, the “typical” symptoms of midlife crisis are:[2]

  • Feelings of depression and disappointment
  • Anger at oneself for not being as successful as others
  • Nostalgia about the younger years
  • Dissatisfaction with one’s life in general
  • A sense of pressure that there is much you still want to do in a shrinking timespan
  • A heightened need for a change or “something different”
  • Doubts about your achievements and the choices you have made so far
  • A desire for passion, intimacy, and to feel wanted again

Simply put, you may feel progressively but somewhat unfoundedly unhappy. Life appears to be hollowed out of meaning.

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Why Is the Midlife Crisis Getting Such a Bad Reputation?

Going through the typical manifestations of a midlife crisis, it is easy to understand why it is not a time one should excitedly anticipate.On top of the above-mentioned signs, there are deeper and darker waters running underneath your sense of unhappiness.The period marks the beginning of the sunset of your life. It’s the stage where you start to notice more vividly the streaks of grey hair, the wrinkles, the sagging skin, or your feeling out of place amongst younger crowds. In a sometimes-desperate attempt to summon back youth, some may embark on, as shown in the movies, rather reckless behavior, such as overspending, excessive working out, or a fling with the young hot gardener in the style of Desperate Housewives.Most importantly, however, a midlife crisis has come to be associated with a dip in happiness, as described by the famed “U-shape” of Happiness. One of the first pieces of research supporting this idea is from 2008 by two economics professors, David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald.[3]

Under 50? You still haven't hit rock bottom, happiness-wise. - The Washington Post
    Using data from 500,000 people from the U.S. and Europe, they found that the lowest point of subjective well-being happens around the age of 46[4]. After this, it begins to increase. However, it’s unclear what exactly causes this—there seem to be different explanations floating around.The prevailing rationale seems to be that it’s due to “unmet expectations,” which are, naturally, accompanied by the gloomy feeling of depression and a sense that we have wasted our lives without achieving anything truly remarkable.Therefore, a rather joyless picture emerges—a period which feels more like the Dark Ages—to be dreaded rather than celebrated as the new chapter of one’s life.

    Why the Hype Is Untrue

    The evidence from studies has been somewhat controversial on whether a midlife crisis really exists.

    Some research has shown that midlife transitional period does exist, but not at a specific point in time.[5] It’s more part of the aging and maturing process, which happens gradually during adulthood. It is more a hype about the hype, an expectation that creates a “reality,” which is not nearly as dramatic as we have been led to believe.[6]

    Other recent tests also chime in with a similar tone—two Canadian longitudinal studies found that, when accounting for variables as health, employment, and martial status, our happiness tends to rise, not fall, during adulthood. That is, people in their 40s are generally more joyful and satisfied than people in their 20s or 30s.[7]

    A piece in The Atlantic points out that, as more research began to come in, “most scientists abandoned the idea that the midlife crisis is biological. They regarded it mostly as a cultural construct. The same mass media that had once heralded the midlife crisis began trying to debunk it, in dozens of news stories with variations on the headline ‘Myth of the Midlife Crisis.'”

    However, the same story points out that “the idea was too delicious to be debunked. It had become part of the Western middle-class narrative, offering a fresh, self-actualizing story about how life is supposed to go”[8].

    Basically, it became a convenient way of putting a name to moments in our life that were difficult to explain.

    A U-shape of happiness may exist, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to a crisis. And there is no proof that the experiences are universal to all people.

    Decades ago, by the time aging women hit their forties, they were considered to be well into their mature, older years. They would marry in their twenties, have kids almost right away, and twenty years later, they would be sending them to college and going through the empty-nest syndrome.

    Now, we live longer, and we have kids later in life, often after thirty-five. The way our career and personal life trajectories unfold is very different.

    Do not fall a victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just because we are told to expect something dreadful, it doesn’t mean it will happen.

    What Midlife “Crisis” in Women Is Really About

    Although many may be bracing themselves for the dark times that are coming, it’s important not to develop tunnel-vision and to only focus on the bad.

    Midlife transition is part of the natural aging process that everyone goes through—it is about the physical changes to your body.

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    Apart from the outer shell, it may also change our inner landscapes, and often in a positive way.

    Here are some of the benefits to the midlife transformation:

    It’s a Great Time to Do a Life Audit

    You can reflect on what has worked and what has not.

    Once you reassess the past, you can have a better idea of your strengths and how to put them to work in the most efficient way in the future.

    It’s a Chance to Change Course

    When you feel the imminence of old age and realize that time is limited, you learn to appreciate it more.

    There is no deluding yourself that you have unlimited number of years left—it can be a sort of “Now-or-Never” moment in your life.

    You Learn to Let Go of the Petty Stuff

    You can see the bigger picture now and are able to figure out that some things are just not worth your energy, anger, or time.

    Therefore, you can really focus on achieving your goals with less distractions.

    It’s an Opportunity to Let Go of the Past

    You have lived long enough now to fully recognize that the past is not a predictor of the future. Leave it where it belongs.

    Therefore, midlife is also a time for a mental cleanse.

    You Can Learn Proper Self-Care

    This is more relevant for those with grown children. It is finally time to treat yourself better.

    After all the years you spent neglecting yourself to be a good mom or wife, it’s finally the time to give yourself some appreciation.

    It’s a Chance to Make a Lifestyle Change Through New Habits

    A midlife crisis for women can be a turning point where you can let go of bad habits that are holding you back. It’s high time you start going to the gym as you have always wanted—one New Year’s resolution after another.

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    It is also the period to attempt quitting smoking, eating better, or reading more. Whatever it is that you want to improve, use the midlife years as a “wake-up” call to do so.

    It’s a Chance to Figure out How to Make Your Life Count

    Finally, according to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, between ages of 40 and 65, we start asking ourselves how to make our lives count.

    The answer, he advises, is something called “generativity”—which is simply a “concern for establishing and guiding for the next generation”[9]. That is, what makes your life meaningful is to ensure that you care for and guide your kids into the future and raise them to become good human beings.

    If you don’t have children, there are other ways to “care” and “guide.” You can volunteer, start a charity, become a mentor, etc. Find what helps you feel that your life means something to the world.

    How a Midlife Crisis Can Make You a Better Person

    The midlife years do not have to feel like a stone around your neck. They are not about depression and mood swings, or about feeling stuck in a rut and having an existential crisis.

    They are about reassessment, reflection, and the opportunity to become an improved version of yourself[10]. It can be a long-term silver lining when experiencing moments of regret.

    Choices women made at midlife - graph based on two long-term studies

      Here are some ways in which this period can also make you a better person in the process:

      1. Your Mental Health Improves

      Faced with the transience of your existence, you realize that some things are not worth stressing about. You become calmer and wiser, and you learn to accept the things you can not change.

      In fact, studies have shown that, as we age, responsiveness to regret decreases.[11] Therefore, our “emotional health” improves.

      2. You Have Stronger Relationships

      You become nicer with people—you let go of old grudges and are willing to overlook small disagreements. You don’t get hinged on the trivial stuff, as you start looking at the bigger picture.

      In fact, you may become more appreciative of your relationships and spend more time with those who matter in your life.

      3. You Are More Motivated

      As you have gone through some ups and downs in the past years, you can become more focused, driven, and motivated.

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      You can craft new goals, use your lessons learned, and find better ways of going after what you want.

      4. You Take Better Care of Yourself—Both Physically and Mentally

      You will seek balance, will stray away from extreme emotions, and may adopt a more philosophical way of life—more in line with the Eastern philosophy of focusing on the Now.

      5. You Feel More Connected With Others

      As you think more about leaving a mark on Earth and doing something meaningful during a midlife crisis for women, you may look for ways to make the world a better place. You will want to have a positive legacy, so you may start helping others more, donate to charity, or volunteer.

      You will come to realize that the good life is more about connectedness and less about social competition.[12]

      6. You’re More Grateful

      In this vein, you also start appreciating more what you have—i.e. there is a spike in gratitude as we age, studies tell us.

      You may shift focus from career to personal relationships and start nurturing them more. You will spend more time with family and friends and rekindle your connections.

      7. You’re More Positive

      Finally, if you chose to see the positive regarding what you have achieved and what you have in your life, you will adopt a more optimistic outlook, too.

      You will be proud of our life unfolding the way it has, rather than feeling miserable that it has not taken another direction.

      Summing It All Up

      In the end, there are few take-aways regarding the midlife crisis for women.

      Remember that it is more about an opportunity for a re-assessment, improving your life and relationships, not about going haywire in your behavior.

      e should, in fact, stop calling this period “crisis”—as it is really not. It is more about midlife chances to finally summon the courage to become the person we are meant to be. If it really does feel like a crisis, it may be time to seek professional help or look into life coaching.

      Rather than being scared, you can anticipate it with excitement—it is finally the time to “put your ducks in order” and focus on what truly matters to you.

      More Tips on Surviving a Midlife Crisis

      Featured photo credit: Christian Gertenbach via unsplash.com

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      Reference

      More by this author

      Evelyn Marinoff

      A wellness advocate who writes about the psychology behind confidence, happiness and well-being.

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      Last Updated on July 21, 2021

      20 Invaluable Things Money Can’t Buy

      20 Invaluable Things Money Can’t Buy
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      George Lorimer contends,

      “It’s good to have money and all the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.”

      In reality, everyone likes money. It has enough power to determine happy or sad moments for some people. This happens partially because money can trigger your emotions. However, there are many invaluable things money can’t buy.

      Money will allow you to experience the luxury of things like a Tesla, an estate, or first-class tickets to anywhere in the world. But, money cannot buy you everything. There are aspects of your life, yourself, relationships, and encounters that forever will be priceless.

      So, what are 20 invaluable things money can’t buy?

      1. Love

      You must have seen this one coming because of how much it is preached throughout life.

      Love is a genuine action with beautiful emotions that develops between people who know each other to an extent.

      People fall in “love” for different reasons. Love is unconditional and keeps people in connection with each other.

      Money may earn you attraction and attention, but love? Not at all.

      2. True Friends

      Everyone likes to have money because there’s almost no way to survive if we didn’t have a cent or two. And it’s only normal for people to associate themselves with people who are making efforts to make the money.

      But sometimes, people are only attracted to what you have and what you can give; not who you are.

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      It works just like love. When your money runs low, true friends should remain.

      3. Family

      We all know that family consists of a father, mother, and children, so let’s consider the individual elements.

      A father is only a father as a result of the relationship between him and his child. Can money buy a relationship?

      The same concept applies to the mother and child and if a relationship with a father cannot be bought, then neither can one with a mother nor child be bought.

      Even if it’s an extended family, you still have to have a relationship with someone who connects you to the other person. It’s not rocket science.

      4. Wisdom

      Someone defined wisdom as “the mother of knowledge,” and how does one acquire knowledge? He or she receives it from experience.

      So, if you cannot buy experience, then you cannot buy knowledge. And if you cannot buy both, then wisdom is definitely out of your league. You have to study, meet people and just experience life to earn it.

      5. Happiness

      In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt,

      “Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

        Mrs. Roosevelt even acknowledges things money can’t buy. She emphasizes that money can’t buy happiness.

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        Despite all the money a person may have in the bank, he or she still may not have the happiness that we all crave and deserve. Money cannot afford happiness.

        6. Health

        Money can help us afford the best health care services, but health itself? Not exactly.

        We’ve seen millionaires and billionaires lose their lives to a range of diseases that all their money put together could not cure.

        The Dalai Lama said,

        “What surprises me most is ‘man’ because he sacrifices his health to make money then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health.”

          So, besides the fact that it doesn’t buy us health, sometimes the pursuit of it takes good health away from us.

          7. Long life

          During birthdays, we wish people a long, prosperous and healthy life. Money would be the best gift to send to loved ones to buy these things.

          But since you can’t, you wish these individuals the best life has to offer. You may also give them fun and loving experiences without money.

          8. Time

          The universe has been impartial enough to give us all 24 hours to do whatever we want to. But nobody, with all his or her wealth, has been able to purchase an extra hour, not even a second.

          9. Respect

          They say it is reciprocal. In other words, you can only get respect when you give respect and the last time we checked, there was no money for respect.

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          So if you can’t give something in any currency, then you can’t receive it in any currency either.

          10. Character

          Character is the sum of a person’s attitude. Attitude has to do with the way you behave and although money can influence a person’s character, it cannot buy a good one.

          11. Confidence

          Any “confidence” built on money really isn’t confidence. It’s a shade of pride and usually ends in sheer show-off. That, dear friend, is not confidence. Confidence is a quality you build with time.

          12. Beauty

          There are countless beauty products in the market and all of them cost money. These beauty products can only enhance beauty by covering up blemishes and some go as far as altering some features of the body.

          But none has been able to change the natural beauty of anybody. If you consider surgery, then you are still altering the natural features, not changing it. You can’t buy good looks from your mother’s womb. It’s just not possible.

          13. Sense of Humor

          Some individuals are born with the gift to make others laugh. Most of the comedians around became wealthy as a result of their sense of humor.

          The humor did not come after the money. Nobody became funny overnight because of a swell in their bank account.

          14. Trust

          Why do you trust people? Because they’ve proved themselves to be trustworthy by character. Their character earned them that trust.

          15. Talent

          Talent is a natural skill that has to be discovered and honed. Just like beauty and every other thing that comes naturally, talent cannot be purchased.

          16. Purpose

          People attend conferences and seminars to help them discover their purpose in life. These conferences may be free or paid but the money did not buy them the purpose.

          They already had the purpose way before realizing that they needed to find it. Lots of poor people discovered their purpose and leveraged it to become rich. This goes on to illustrate that money can come as a result of finding purpose but it cannot get you the purpose.

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          17. Satisfaction

          If there’s one thing that money can never buy, it is satisfaction. Even if money finds a way to get any of the other items on this list, it can never afford satisfaction. Money increases our desire for more money. The more the money, the more the hunger.

          18. Empathy

          Never have we ever heard of a man who bought the ability to empathize and never would we ever because empathy is a feeling. Feelings cannot be bought.

          19. Peace

          Why do people employ sophisticated security systems? Because they want to have peace when they go to bed but even with all of that, peace has never been received in exchange for money. It comes as a result of a clear conscience and a good heart.

          Ironically, money may bring enemies which would end up disrupting your peace.

          20. A Good Name

          A proverb says “a good name is better than silver.” This is like comparing two different things: a name and silver (which could be referred to as money).

          What is a “name?” It is a form of identity and how is it received? Your way of life and character helps people to receive you.

          Conclusion

            Overall, these things are invaluable and confidently show that money can’t buy everything.

            While this is the case, money is necessary, so don’t quit your job just because it can’t buy you happiness. And do spend your money and time wisely.

            Also, go out of your way to make people happy. Their money can’t provide this needed emotion. Do not lose or mismanage your health trying to get money.

            More About Happiness

            Featured photo credit: Yingchou Han via unsplash.com

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