The following is a speech I gave about the new midlife, based on my recently released book Your Best Age is Now. The speech was coordinated by New York Health and Wellness in Westchester and held at the Scarsdale Woman's club. Because it was so well received, I wanted to share this important information with all of you. Hope you enjoy it as much as they did!
When I bring up the term "middle age" it probably doesn't conger up the most positive of images. Let's test this theory out for a second. When I say the word midlife to you, what comes to mind?
The cultural message whether it's subconscious or more direct, tends to be once you hit this point in life it's downhill from here. Midlife is often portrayed as a time of loss, losing it, decline or even worse facing the risk of becoming invisible or irrelevant.
It reminds me of some of the funny birthday cards I've come across. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones that say, you're over the hill, you're not old your vintage or 29 again? One of my favorite cards has a picture of a woman dancing on a bar table (perhaps because this image reminds me of me, back in the day) saying I may be LOL-ing on the outside but I'm WTF- ing on the inside.
Interestingly enough, when the term midlife was fist coined in 1895, the middle years of life were seen as the prime of life. Yet somewhere along the way midlife became infused with a more negativistic image.
And since language has power, this new negative label could and often did prove brutal to our egos.
So this is probably a good time to tell you where my story fits into all of this. In the TV world, it's not uncommon to be interviewed via skype for various TV jobs. On this one particular day, during this one particular interview, I was being asked a series of questions, one of them happen to be about my age.
While I'm not one to ever lie about my age (I feel I've earned all of my years, so I won't deny them) I was a little taken back by this question.
First of all, I didn't think it was a legal question to ask, and secondly, it just seemed like an odd thing to inquire about.
After revealing my age, I wondered for a brief moment, what my age meant to this casting person. Did it count me out of the job in some way?
Had my good years in TV come to an end? Did I already hit my professional peak? These were certainly not thoughts that I wanted to dwell on, but it did get me thinking.
At the same time that this happened, I started to think about the women who I was surrounded by at midlife; my contemporaries. And, what did it mean to arrive at midlife in general?
Well the women I knew and encountered, had never looked better. They were fit and in many cases looked better than they had ever looked before...and weren't shy to say so, either.
My midlife patients were also making great strides and defying some of the odds and limitations placed on them. They were achieving their goals in work, love and life.
So it encouraged me to do some more research. I looked to the books out there and what I found didn't seem to match what I was observing personally.
The books talked about loss, losing it, and the only gain was gaining weight. Not the type of gain I was looking for.
Now I admit, some of these books portrayed midlife in a more funny way than others. Yet when I looked into some of the more current research, the picture of midlife was looking more positive and was way more in sync with what I had observed both personally and professionally.
I wanted to create a space, in this case a book, that eventually would become Your Best Age Is Now that could highlight the positives about this time of life. One that hadn't hit the cultural narrative yet.
In a culture that still has a tendency to over-idealize youth to the exclusion of other life phases, I felt like it was important to turn this conversation around, so we could start seeing ourselves accurately and start taking advantages of our strengths.
For example a 2014 study proved that our perceptions of age are sometimes more convincing than reality. Researchers from Yale University and University of California, Berkley found that people who felt and believed they looked young were more effective during exercise than a similarly aged group who had previously worked out six months earlier.
So just imagine what this negative thinking could do to the way your perceive limitations about your future?
Noted Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert accurately said that "Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished."
People really do continue to change, and these changes during midlife can actually bring about the very best in us.
The Journal of personality and social psychology found that traits including conscientiousness and agreeableness continued to improve all the way into our 60's.
Knowing that we still have time to transform ourselves, we can feel more confident and explore all the ways that we can improve.
Midlife is also the time when women can truly flourish. Midlife gives us the opportunity, even the responsibility, to discover who we really are, what we really want, and then find our true purpose in life. People who have a purpose or passion for their work are far less likely to suffer medical problems like having a stroke or heart attack, or other medical difficulties.
As you can see, this is definitely the time to pursue our dreams not stop dreaming.
By the time we hit our 40's 50's and beyond we are finally allowing ourselves to plug into who we are without making apologies for ourselves.
Once the baby boomers hit their 40's the stereotype of midlife has slowly been falling apart.
The research today is showing midlife to be a vastly different stage of life than anything our parents experienced.
Because people are living longer, there is an increased need to live younger. It's also taking people, in general, much longer to grow up.
When Gail Sheehy wrote the famous book, Passageshttps://www.amazon.com/Passages-Predictable-Crises-Adult-Life/dp/034547922X/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466743134&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=passeages, she talked about hitting her midlife crisis at the age of 35. That was in the 70's. Now people at 35 are just starting out in life, often newly married with young families, and their careers often starting to take off.
The good news about it taking us all a bit longer to grow up, is that feeling younger longer is the antidote to feeling hopeless, overlooked, or as if they future is filled with dead-end opportunities for us. We have more time to accomplish our goals to become who we want to be.
Many women in their 40's, 50's and beyond are currently living their best lives, thanks to preventative health approaches, an improved diet and a renewed emphasis on exercise and affordable lotions and potions that really do work..Thank God!
This idea is supported by the study of epigenetics, which outlines how it's possible to alter one's genetic destiny by changing non-genetic factors, such as lifestyle choices.
Once to one survey, women are define themselves as hitting midlife, later and later. 53 tends to be the new number.
According to the daily mail in the UK women over 50 felt more confident in their bikinis than women at any other age.
Researcher Terri Apter reported in her book Secret Paths that most women she surveyed felt they looked better at 40 and 50 than they had expected, and 25% believed they were more attractive to men than they had been as young adults.
Even the way we perceive the midlife brain is changing. Due to neurogenesis we know we can continue to learn new things, improve our thinking and mood, create new memories and retain cognition all the way into our old age.
-We also problem solve better
-And due to changes in the amygdala tend to see the glass as half full vs half empty; which benefits our relationships.
- Carl Jung and Erik Erikson believed midlife forced people into their greatest achievements.
-Many artists, writers, poets and filmmakers talk about midlife as being a time of greatest artistic insight.
Knowing that our brain and body won't fail us anytime time soon, can help us to look and feel younger and also help us to act more youthful, which allows us to stay more productive longer.
My goal is to dismantle the faulty mindset we've adopted during midlife and replace it with a whole new paradigm,
Think of it as an inner life makeover. Botox for your brain, as I like to call it.
I wanted to leave you with some quick easy tips to get you started:
1) You must continue to transform yourself and your life.
It's never too late to become a more polished version of yourself. We can never remind ourselves of this too much.
2) Dismantle your faulty mindset about midlife and replace it with a whole new paradigm.
Get in touch with your inner adolescent energy by rebelling against society's "It's too late for me attitude." Say, "No" to this old and false idea and 'yes' to the renewed and inspired life of possibilities ahead of you.
3) Resolve your regrets and move on.
Life is about failing up. Use regrets to your advantage. As a wake-up call to inject new meaning and energy into your life. Use them to create new opportunities for yourself and then move on with confidence.
4) Embrace a "you only live once" kind of attitude.
This Yolo attitude will allow you to say yes to life and create more opportunities in a way that's exciting, but hopefully not more dangerous (because we're older and wiser).
5) Determine what "having it all" means for you
During midlife, we need to see ourselves as the successes are already are. Don't define your success too narrowly. Own the differences you make in the world no matter how big or small they may be.
Now is the perfect time to validate yourself.
Midlife has become a whole new phase of life to look and feel your very best.
There is a future to look forward to and get excited about,
In fact, it's the perfect time to embrace a Your Best Age is Now philosophy and remind yourself that the very best is yet to come!