I need it, I want it, I’m ready for it. The midlife makeover.
Do you know what a midlife makeover entails? Have you “done” it? Do you want to? Are you raising an eyebrow?
The fact is, I struggle with taking care of myself — putting myself on my own priority list. And we all know that letting ourselves go is a bad idea. Not only do we ignore our health, but self-esteem plummets. Most of us would agree that when we look good, we feel good. We may even perform better.
When we’re dressed for success (so to speak), we sit up or stand up straighter, we speak with more authority, and we are perceived as more competent.
I hope to take some time here, once a week, to get myself back on track. I need to reconfigure, revive, restore, renew and rediscover ways to spice things up — me, my surroundings, my style, my wardrobe — and yes, on a budget, and yes, with the goal of feeling better about myself. It’s all very “get my groove back,” but I don’t think an exotic vacation or a hot young guy is required!
This is about boosting morale — mine — as I’ve been in a strange state of stagnation (despite being very busy), feeling uninspired (despite my curiosity burning brightly), and in general, feeling smaller. And trust me, at less than statuesque height, feeling smaller in any way (except the waistline) is not a good thing.
Getting myself “back” is the goal, but not going backwards or expecting to turn back the clock. I hope you’ll stick around for the ride, and possibly share your own.
Risking Discomfort to Achieve Change
Are you familiar with the strangeness of experiencing both inertia and restlessness at the same time? You look at your life and see same old, same old — and you feel stuck. You also feel an urgency to do something, go somewhere, tweak and tinker to get the juices flowing. I feel ripe for change. Positive change. And naturally, any new undertaking comes with risk.
The risk involved in whatever I invest — time, money, emotion. The risk of a period of discomfort, uncertainty, even fear. The risk involved in setbacks or failure.
This isn’t the first time I’ve assessed my life and said to myself “things must change.” Facing myself in the mirror, if you will. And I know this: It won’t be the last time I seek to improve and adjust.
With the knowledge of needing to undertake change is the understanding that while it can be helpful, it’s also disruptive. What will the impact be on my relationships? My work life? My dreams? Will I disappoint myself? Will I disappoint others? Can I inch my way closer to what it is that I truly want?
Is this the proverbial midlife crisis?
No. Yes. Maybe. It’s not a crisis; I’m not impulsively restructuring my little world. However, if I’m honest with myself, the origins of my rut are in part the result of aging, the realities of growing older and seeing certain opportunities quite naturally slip away. But those realities are only a piece of the puzzle. The rest is, well… “my life” and even more so — what I choose to do with it. It’s about continuing the journey of refashioning who I am and how I live in the wake of the years spent parenting and simply surviving. During those long years, there has been relatively little time devoted to me contemplating me — what I want next, how to go about it, and believing I can get there.
There is nothing unusual in any of this. When we feel set adrift, and when part of the malaise is dissatisfaction with ourselves.
But when you’re in a rut, you want out. I know I do. Getting “off the island” not long ago reminded me of that, and that it may be easier than I realize, at least in some respects.
Change. Is. Good.
There are times when we all need change for its own sake — change to encourage new perspectives, change to regroup for new challenges, change to make explicit improvements. On down days, I know that a small adjustment like wearing a bright color or fixing my makeup will perk me up.
Of course, significant changes aren’t quite so simple, though these external tweaks are more helpful than we think.
Searching the web for a few words of wisdom, this reference, although a few years old, leaves me optimistic. From The Daily Mail, an article on why the midlife makeover has eclipsed the midlife crisis, survey data on individuals aged 40 to 59 reflect that many are looking to make “fundamental life changes:”
… Some 85 percent have made significant changes to their home, family and work lives, taking a second chance to achieve their ambitions and desires… More than half of those who had changed careers were more fulfilled and had a better quality of life… Two in three have sought out new friends, 54 percent have taken up a new hobby and 56 percent have started a new exercise regime.
Those all sound like reasonable goals to me. What do you think?
Can Looking Better Spark “Happiness?”
I had a conversation with my son a few weeks back on the subject of happiness. I described myself as “not unhappy” with my life. I’ve been thinking about that depiction — an honest one — and while it’s hardly a drama to make a statement like that, it does offer room for improvement.
Some aspects are out of our control — certain life events — and the stress, if prolonged, can drain one’s energy and other resources. Another toughie: Working excessive hours which millions of us must to make ends meet. Long hours lead to less time taking care of ourselves, and women generally take care of their families (and even work) first. For themselves — less sleep, less exercise, careless eating. You get the drill.
Then there’s the fact that I work in my home. I’m not required to go out and meet the world, so while I don’t work all day in PJs, and once upon a time I used to semi-dress even to work in my home office, in the past year my crazy schedule has led me to working in old shorts and t-shirt. Where’s my pleasure in peep-toes? My delight in Dior shadows?
A state of “not unhappy” seems insufficient, especially at this stage, and most particularly when I hear myself say it aloud. And that’s where the midlife issue comes in. I recognize the aspects of aging that are coming into play — aches and pains that are slowing me down, and a certain dismay when I look in the mirror that is not offset by a sense of accomplishment.
Can I do a better, more consistent job of practicing what I preach — getting out, getting out of my own way, going after dreams, and tackling the tough issues? That answer is yes, whatever the outcome.
How to Get Out of a Rut
I take great comfort in these words from Psychology Today. In 5 Powerful Strategies for Getting Out of a Rut, author Peg Steep tells us:
If you feel trapped in a negative cycle, it’s probably not due to lack of ideas or opportunity. To get things moving in a positive direction again, you may need to adjust how you think about change.
Change. I love change! Well, change I choose to take on, that is. Change that doesn’t sink me at the outset because I feel as if I’m starting from behind. And a rut can be as simple as those shorts and t-shirt every day, and as complicated as the fact that weight gain prevents me from sitting comfortably in my jeans!
Small Changes Add Up to Big Differences
We can change in small increments. We can tinker with the elements of change to fine-tune their results. We can manage expectations so we don’t lose faith in “overwhelm.”
Ms. Steep describes what she refers to as “sticky mindsets.” These are thoughts that keep us stuck in situations that aren’t helpful, including looking at how much we’ve already invested in a job or relationship or wishful thinking that things will magically improve. To combat these obstacles, she recommends a number of strategies, among them, embracing regret as she advises:
… the process of constructively assessing how something might have happened, asking the question, “What might I have done?”… prompts a new and empowering resolve: “When X happens (or doesn’t happen), I will do Y.”
As for other helpful strategies, surely we should pay attention to the common sense (and smarts) in this — something I recognize in myself at times, and that I think of as “biting off more than you can chew… on steroids.” Ms. Steep points out:
Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the amount of change required to get out of a rut, and that keeps us in it. To solve this, set manageable interim goals. Be mindful that we tend to exaggerate our abilities or wrongly attribute failure to circumstances beyond our control. Be ruthlessly realistic about how your talents match up with the goal you set.
My Gut-the-Rut Makeover List
Hmm. That covers a good deal of ground, doesn’t it? What was that about biting off more than I can chew?
Here’s the plan. I know I need to take better care of my own needs. That involves health, well-being, and yes, appearance. Appearance involves getting more fit, tightening up, and when I’m able — going shopping in my closet. (Maybe a little aspirational window shopping is in order as well.)
As for career, let’s make that careers — who performs just one job anymore? — the challenge is in prioritizing and making time. I need to work on both. My relationship could do with a bit of attention as well — and much of that will flow from feeling better about myself — taking care of myself so there is a better me to share.
As for environment, since my home is also my workplace, it’s vital that I feel comfortable and productive. Here, too, I’m tired of staring at the same four walls (or even eight) every day. I need a change. What that might be? I don’t know… yet.
First Order of Business: Health & Well-Being
First and foremost, I need to get my physical self into a renewed state of “readiness.”
Readiness for meeting new people and feeling confident, whether socializing for fun or for business. Readiness for getting out there and speaking if need be; something I did once and loved. Camera readiness if required; some months back I was in a tizzy over a news segment on which I was interviewed very briefly, but I was lacking confidence in my appearance. It all went fine, but I might have enjoyed it more had I not been so concerned about how I looked.
I also recognize that my confidence and energy level ratchets up when I feel that I’m taking care of myself. This isn’t a scoop: self-care is a way of telling ourselves that we matter. Women spend so much time and energy nurturing and worrying about others, that often our own needs fall by the wayside.
Shouldn’t we try to move ourselves up higher on the list?
Besides, there are things I want, things I know I need to alter for a healthier, saner, sweeter life. I said it here — my greatest regret would be not trying.
I’m not certain what direction this will take. I hope you’ll offer suggestions or stories of your own.
If you were to list aspects of your life that you’d like to make over, what might they be? Are they a matter of health, well-being, greater financial security, greater professional or social opportunities? Your relationships? Are they about restoring or enhancing self-confidence?
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