What if We’ve Been Wrong All Along About the So-Called “Midlife Crisis”?

By Rachel Puryear

There’s a common cliché in our culture known as the “midlife crisis”. The phenomenon is widely perceived as someone throwing away a good life path for questionable choices – such as, for example; “abruptly” leaving a “successful” career, and at the cost of one’s professional and social reputation – or, some variation of reliving youthful indiscretions.

People believe that fast-appearing changes in midlife are rooted in a person’s fears about aging, and despair over their dwindling youthfulness. People also associate midlife crises mainly with lost, immature men.

There are a lot of judgments and misconceptions about the so-called “midlife crisis”. So let’s challenge common notions, and view what happens in a more balanced light.

A happy middle-aged couple enjoying a foggy, tree-dense forest.

Frequently, as people reach a certain age, they experience an inner shift. Contrary to popular belief, it’s often not a crisis, but rather a transformation.

Such internal transformations are also more inclusive than we believe – while they don’t occur for every person, they can and do happen for people of all genders; and they are also common for people who are mature, and self-aware.

Sometimes, changes in a person that seem all of a sudden to observers have in fact been a long time coming for the individual. A person may have felt social pressure to follow a particular path earlier in life; and now, they are finally doing something they have wanted to do for a long time.

People commonly choose careers early on in life that prove later on to be deeply unsatisfying. (It happened to me, too.) There are many reasons why. Peer pressure, family expectations, a need to earn a living and support a family, limited opportunities (or the perception of such), a lack of confidence to follow one’s passion, and many more.

However, as people get older, they may become less and less willing to put up with something that just isn’t working anymore (or maybe, that never worked well). They may be more able to leave behind a career they no longer enjoy (or never enjoyed) – and pursue one instead that’s a lot more in line with their talents, desired lifestyle, and personality. They are now likely much better able to identify what fits them and what doesn’t. They also have much more confidence to choose their own path, and to not let others derail their way.

So, when someone appears to suddenly leave a career path they’ve been on for a long time later on in life, people around them may believe that the person is in crisis. After all, they think, why would someone leave a “safe” path to do something untested? And, why now?

Well, first of all, it’s usually not such an “all of a sudden” change as it might seem to onlookers. It’s probably something that’s been brewing a long time, but the person is only now finally opening up about it. They probably didn’t want to mention it until they were pretty sure they were ready to do it, rather than announce something that they were not likely to actually follow through on.

Furthermore, the notion that one is better off staying on the “safe” and “successful” path doesn’t take into account that there actually is no “safe” path, and that what is “successful” can be highly subjective from one person to the next. Enduring something you hate and that doesn’t fit you or serve you anymore isn’t actually “safe” – health problems due to excessive stress, and depression and anxiety claim a lot of lives prematurely every year, while diminishing the quality of life and personal relationships of many more. Additionally, “success” includes good quality of life and purpose for many people, in addition to making good money – and even in terms of making good money, again, doing something you hate can end up impoverishing you anyway if it destroys your health and your quality of life.

Accordingly, perhaps we should stop calling it a “mid-life crisis”, and think of it as more of a “life transformation”. When something isn’t working anymore, rather than remaining in a dysfunctional situation, people should instead be encouraged to pursue a change to something more fulfilling.

Are you struggling and in need of a change in life, but aren’t sure yet how to get there? Are you trying to figure out where to go? Want to talk to someone who’s also been there? Reach out here for a no-charge, confidential consultation (remotely) with an experienced life coach. A fresh perspective can be tremendously helpful.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to growth and learning throughout one’s life. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you have not done so already. xoxo

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