When I was in my 40s, I experienced a lot of success, objectively speaking. I was in a stable and happy relationship and my wife were having alot of fun raising our two sons. I was healthy; I was financially secure, with a good career and great coworkers, I was pursuing a doctoral degree and was planning to launch a business.
If you had described my life to me as someone else’s, or for that matter if you had offered it to me when I was just out of college, I would have said, “Wow, I want that!”
And yet each morning, I would wake up feeling disappointed, my head filled with thoughts about my failures rather than on my achievements. I had come to believe that I had accomplished too little professionally and my personal life was average at best and I believed that life was passing me by.
Looking back on that time in my life I now know that I was experiencing what is commonly known as a midlife crisis. I realize now that what I experienced several years ago is much more common among more people than many of us realize.
According to Psychology Today, a midlife crisis is defined as — a central period of a person’s life, spanning from approximately age 40 to age 65. It can be a stressful time, as many people come to feel discontented and restless as they struggle with aging, mortality, and holding onto a sense of purpose.
After my experience in midlife, I learned that some of the most common symptoms of a crisis in midlife are —
- Awareness of getting older — One of the main characteristics of a midlife crisis is the recognition that you’re getting older, often with some negative feelings attached to it. This can be brought on by things like menopause or changes in your appearance and physical abilities. I noticed that I could play sports like basketball and tennis at the same level (I was no longer able to beat my teenage sons in those games) and that impacted how I felt.
- Decline in mental or physical well-being — The decline in my physical abilities was also accompanied by a diminishing memory. I would often forget where I left my keys and I even misplaced my wedding ring or forget my cellphone at various public places. This was very frustrating and often angered me which I took out on those that were closest to me.
- Reflecting on the past — midlife crises have a lot to do with reevaluating your life. “You’re hitting a midpoint in life, and you’re reevaluating what you’ve done in life, including any regrets, and questioning what you’ve done so far. I found that I reflected more on what I didn’t accomplish in my career — the roles that I didn’t get, the business failures, and the opportunities that I missed out on.
- Contemplating purpose and meaning— Along with reflecting on the past, there’s a lot of concern for the future — and what you’re going to make of it — when going through a midlife crisis. This contemplation usually leads to questions about life purpose and meaningful work. I asked myself questions like — What’s next? Can I still make an impact? If yes, how?
- Desire to experience new things — By definition reaching midlife means that half of your life is now in your past. That realization can make you want to experience new things. Whether that is traveling, starting a whole new career, or taking on a new hobby the desire for life change is real. For me, the change was to start a new business as a side hustle.
- Overly concerned about appearance and status —Aging is tough, in a society that puts so much value on youth. The focus on youth has caused many people to go to great lengths to maintain a youthful appearance — such as resort to cosmetic surgery, hair dye, or start dressing more “hip.” I tried hair dye — which I ditched almost immediately. However, I also began a daily exercise routine and that has helped me look and feel better than I have 20 years.
The midlife crisis is generally considered to be a bad thing— however, I’ve come to realize that it presents us with an opportunity to review and evaluate our lives at the halfway point. It’s best to think of it as — “finding out who you are as a person and trying to find the meaning of life”
The truth is, it’s not uncommon to go through a midlife crisis at some point in your life. So if you or someone you know is experiencing a midlife crisis, know it won’t last forever, there are resources available to help you get through it, and aging can be a beautiful thing when you fret too much over it.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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