Three Benefits of Midlife, Deborah Heiser holds a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology and specializes in midlife and beyond. Posted on Psychology Today.
We know who we are.
We have meaningful relationships.
We become generative.
What words come to mind when you hear the word "midlife"?
Google midlife, and you’ll find scores of results for the midlife crisis, leading one to expect sudden upheaval and decline looming on the horizon. Turn on the TV, and the ads featuring middle-agers all target loss, whether in sexual ability, bladder control, or beauty.
Are there no benefits? Of course, there are.
Here Are Three Benefits of Midlife:
1. We know who we are.
We experience a great deal of freedom once we’ve established our identity. Midlife is our opportunity to pursue the interests and relationships we associate with our sense of self. Insecurities wane, and confidence in work and outside interests increase during midlife.
This is a time when we become comfortable in our own skin, with our personalities; we know what we like and don’t like. This can mean identifying with parenting, a career, a faith, or hobbies.
2. We have meaningful relationships.
As we age, we shed our superficial friendships and spend more of our precious time with people we care about. This is enormously gratifying because we feel connected to others in ways that bring deep meaning and value to our lives.
This is different from our earlier years, when we may have had many more friends and acquaintances. Growing commitments lead to a shedding of less-valued relationships, leaving us with fewer, but deeper committed relationships. The knowledge that a solid base of individuals is available when we are in need, when we need someone to talk to, and when we want to share our good news, is priceless.
As careers and family obligations cut into our personal time, we naturally gravitate toward allocating our time to those we can rely on, trust, and connect with on a deeper level than in our younger years. These meaningful connections carry us through the rest of our days, and to healthier, happier lives. This is a time of quality versus quantity in terms of personal relationships.
3. We become generative.
We care for others without expecting anything in return. We do things for others because we want to—not because we have to. This is something we are built to do in midlife, and it feels so good to do so. This is because we are passing on our knowledge, values, and skills to someone else. We are leaving a legacy.
Whether passing on our values to our children and grandchildren, or guiding a junior colleague, or spending our time volunteering with organizations we care about, these acts make us feel connected to the world.
Being generative helps us to feel like we are leaving our mark on the world and that our lives matter. This is extremely powerful because we are able to reflect on our lives and feel that the skills, values, and knowledge we’ve worked so hard to achieve during our younger years are not wasted, but are passed on to others.
Midlife has much to offer. We have many opportunities to feel productive, emotionally fulfilled, and to leave our distinct footprint on this earth. All of these are gains, not losses. These are midlife fulfillments, rather than midlife crises.
Identity, meaningful connections, and generativity are three things we cannot buy, but they provide us with more wealth than our younger selves could ever imagine.
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