Middle age doesn't have to be difficult, but a joyful confirmation of your life's direction.
There are many elements that can usher in the dreaded “midlife crisis” — our children becoming teenagers or leaving home, our bodies showing signs of aging, our lives feeling stale and routine. Far from being something horrible, however, this period can be an opportunity for us to live more in tune with the person we are today, according to Florence Leroy, a family counselor and author from France.
A new relationship with our body
First, there are physical signs that things are changing. The appearance of gray hair, wrinkles, or a slightly rounder belly is a reminder that time is passing.
“Some people take this philosophically; others feel that they’re turning a corner. Some drown their worries in sports and body care, while others accept these changes as normal,” says the counselor.
Leroy urges people to accept their bodies and free themselves from the current obsession with looking youthful at all costs. She sees this transition as a period of life “where you can learn to love yourself as you are, and welcome your wrinkles as proof of your rich experience. A time when you can stop putting pressure on your appearance and recognize that being has much more value.”
A new relationship with time
Middle age is that peculiar time when the desire to live another life is still possible, with the unfortunate feeling that the countdown has already begun. For Leroy, this time can be compared to a harvest: “You’ve invested a lot of energy in creating a family, a career, and forming a group of friends. Things may seem settled, going smoothly.”
But this is also the time when the question arises, “What do we do now?” This is when it’s time to take stock: “Did I choose the right job, the right friends, the right spouse, or the right lifestyle? Is my life in line with the values I hold dear? Am I a good parent for my children? Have I passed on my values to them?” These are all questions that allow us to rectify or work on our situation if necessary.
Revisit your professional choices
Midlife is also a good time to look back on our professional life and ask ourselves,
“Have I dared to make a place for myself, according to who I am? Or have I been making choices to conform to the expectations of others? Have I let myself be carried away by life and opportunities, or have I made choices to build the career that suits me? When my children were small, did I choose a job (if I had the chance) that offered flexibility and freedom so that I could take care of them; or on the contrary, did I work so hard that I now feel that I have missed out on my family life? Have I tried to balance my private and professional life, risking burn-out?”
Leroy awakens people’s minds and invites them to take stock. “A job is a salary, and recognition. But what about your values, your talents?” If your children are now independent, maybe it’s time to think about what’s really important to you.
Examining your marriage
After 15 or 20 years of living together, it’s also a good time for couples to take a look at how far they have come and where they are today:
“What have we learned together? What can we build on to continue our journey together? What are our respective and common talents? What are the points we don’t want to let slide in the way we raise our teenagers? What adventures or projects do we want to carry out together? What lifestyle do we imagine once our children leave home?”
Of course, this evaluation does not necessarily lead to radical changes: “This questioning sometimes leads to simple adjustments, especially when our main life choices in the past have been the right ones,” explains Dr Françoise Millet-Bartoli, psychiatrist, psychotherapist and author.
But simply asking these questions is an opportunity to grow in maturity, coherence, and inner richness, so that we can make the years of midlife and beyond our best yet.