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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

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

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

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 September 16, 2021

      Feel That Life Is Meaningless? Here’s How to Find Meaning

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      Feel That Life Is Meaningless? Here’s How to Find Meaning

      Have you ever felt like you’re unable to feel anything? You know exactly what this feeling is if you’ve been through it. The feeling of a meaningless life is unexplainable.

      A meaningless life may not look bad. In fact, there’s likely nothing obviously wrong. You may be living in your dream house with the love of your life. Your well-paid job in the company that you dreamt of is doing great, too. However, you feel like a part of your heart and soul are missing.

      If you feel like nothing is right, you may be living a meaningless life. But don’t you worry, because you’re in the right place to find the perfect solution for you and your unique life.

      What Is a Meaningless Life?

      Let’s start by helping you put a finger on your issue. Is it actually a meaningless life or just a rough slump?

      Be clear on one thing: no human’s life is ever truly meaningless. Basically, your life can never lose its meaning and purpose. If you’re living in this world, there is some reason deep down. The only issue is that you have lost the vision to identify it. Your perspective is too blurred to figure out what you are in this world for.

      A meaningless life may mean you’re going through an existential crisis. You could be borderline depressed. The feeling of emptiness may prevail all other emotions. However, you can be sure that, despite all of this, there’s still meaning to your existence.

      All you have to do is push through to find it.

      If you feel that you’re living a meaningless life, negativity will surround you like wildfire. However, you’ve got to keep your head high so that you can look ahead and find an answer. You have to strive to find your life’s meaning to continue to live a life of high motivation.

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      Before you move on with the rest of the process, make sure to first imprint this in your mind. Only then will you be able to guide your thought process in the right direction.

      Is There Any Meaning to Life?

      Life, in its literal term, means to exist and reproduce. The reproduction not only includes the creation of humans like yourself, but also of thoughts, ideologies, and philosophies.

      A person who is living a meaningless life has a very different view of what life is supposed to be. That is where the issue arises. To understand the meaning of life without any misconceptions, one should look at the philosophy behind this concept.

      Like most branches of research, philosophy has numerous diverging answers to answer what the meaning of life is[1]. Here’s a quick summary of what I consider the most suitable understanding.

      It all starts from a human’s expectations and, ultimately, reactions. Every individual expects something from the world and, in return, has to react to the expectations of others. Generally, this idea is surrounded by wanting goodness. To achieve that, a person has to do good deeds as well.

      This cycle continues. But, of course, it is very complex. A lot of factors contribute to this cycle, such as selfishness, a different point of view of what’s good, emotions, likes and dislikes, etc.

      The point of this entire concept in philosophy is that, ultimately, the process of growth and reproduction comes to an end for every human. There’s no escaping that. Therefore, the goal is to live life in a way that, when the individual’s growth comes to an end, something good is still left behind for the cycle to continue.

      Where Does the Good Come From?

      This is the point where the differences come in. People with different beliefs opt for varying methods to reach the same goal.

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      There are four main schools of thought in philosophy in this regard, and they all offer different advice on how to move past living a meaningless life[2].

      1. God

      One school believes that God is the center of everything we do. Hence, goodness is anything that goes in line with the religion that you believe in.

      2. The Soul

      The other school of thought centers their actions on the soul. For them, anything that satisfies and calms your inner self is the path you should follow, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

      3. Objectivists

      The objectivists say that everything in the world is defined; the good and bad are certain, so no one should go beyond the set boundaries.

      4. Subjectivists

      The subjectivists, on the other hand, believe that since every individual’s cognition varies, the meaning of every single thing in the world is different. No two individuals can have a similar thought process.

      All in all, life comes down to one thing only: goodness. That is what life should be, and that is what you should leave behind. How you achieve it depends on which school of thought you agree with. Whatever you believe in is ultimately what the meaning of your life is.

      How to Stop Living a Meaningless Life

      Now you know that there is a meaning to your life, without question. You also have an idea of what this meaning is. You’ve got to figure out what you consider “good” and build your life around it.

      Regardless of which school of thought you agree with or what you have decided your life’s meaning to be, the process to implement will be a bit hard. To make it easier, here are some universal tips.

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      1. Unlearn What You’ve Been Told All Your Life

      Do not be distracted by what you’ve learned in your life until now. The truth is, you could have been told something for 30 years of your life only to find out that it was all baseless.

      The only thing in life that is definite is that there are no rules. We didn’t come into this world with a rule book or defined meaning. Every individual was given the ability to make choices in their life. So, take hold of yours, learn your right and wrong from scratch, and make sure nothing is detracting you from the real meaning of your life. Don’t be afraid if you learn something that goes against your lifelong motto if it gets you away from living a meaningless life.

      2. Know That You Matter

      This has been said a couple of times by now but, honestly, the more you emphasize this fact, the easier it will be for you.

      The fact that you’re alive, living in this world, and taking another breath to take means that you matter. Your life purpose is yet to be fulfilled, so you’ve still got to make some impact in this world.

      You are the one person that has to change the world, even if it is something as small as changing the life of one tiny creature. Keep this in mind at all times.

      3. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

      If your life’s meaning was somewhere inside the circle that you stay in, you would’ve found it by now. Isn’t it obvious that what you’re looking for is out of your comfort zone? Then, what’s keeping you from stepping out?

      Don’t hesitate to step out. The short-term discomfort will help you find the long-term purpose of life, which will give you a lifetime of relaxation and a constant way out of a meaningless life.

      4. Follow Your Heart

      Whether you’re choosing which school of thought to follow or opting between what good to go after, never ignore your heart. Your intuition is your heart’s way of guiding you. Don’t let it take over, but also don’t forget to take it into consideration.

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      5. Do Not Let Go of Your Passion

      You know that one thing in life that you just cannot give up no matter hard you try? Stop trying to get rid of it. You’re passionate about something for a reason. It is a step for you to reach your life’s meaning.

      6. Be More Mindful

      The big things in life tend to take over the tiny details. These little things are signs to help you decode and find answers. Meditate if you have a hard time focusing, but always try your best to pay attention to the little experiences that you usually don’t notice.

      Conclusion

      If you’re a person who is going through the dilemma of living a meaningless life, try to use these tips to help you seek out your unique meaning. Although your life seems meaningless, rest assured that it’s not.

      The ball is now in your court. You’re the one who has to do the rest of the work. Use the tips to help you find the true meaning of your life, and then stick to it. Get on with step 1 from today without losing any motivation at all.

      All the work that you’ll put in the process now will help you achieve a life of happiness and peace worth living.

      More Tips on Living With Meaning

      Featured photo credit: Frida Aguilar Estrada via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Philosophy Now: What is Life?
      [2] Philosophy Now: What is The Meaning Of Life?

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