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Coping with Feelings of Dissatisfaction in Midlife

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 8 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Midlife Career Dissatisfaction

Midlife can be a time of great change, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well. The realisation that not all areas of one’s life are blissful can lead to feelings of overall dissatisfaction and a need to make changes to some of the core elements.

Career Dissatisfaction in Midlife

Many people come to their careers by default, rather than by design. In young adulthood when it is not uncommon for career paths to be set in motion, the priority is often simply finding a position that pays the bills, with no regard for the thought of staying in that field through all of one’s working years, yet oftentimes, that’s just what happens.

While some are happy to look at work as simply a means to provide for themselves and their loved ones, other people feel a need to derive more that a salary from their work. During midlife, when self-assessment is common, some people come to the realisation that they want all aspects of their lives to be meaningful, career included.

These people may be faced with some tough decisions – whether to stay in their existing careers or make changes that reflect their need to feel that their work is meaningful to the world.

In addition to career dissatisfaction based on a need to find work meaningful, some in midlife are unhappy with their jobs based on their failure to progress in their careers as they’d hoped, their working hours, or what they perceive as low wages.

Improving working conditions can take some effort, but in most cases, those who are dissatisfied can take steps to increase their level of happiness at work. Seeking promotions, asking for raises, and developing friendly relationships with coworkers increase the level of satisfaction at work.

Relationship Dissatisfaction in Midlife

One of the most commonly encountered areas of dissatisfaction in midlife is relationships. Even couples who have successfully weathered many of life’s challenges may have difficulty during middle age, when one or both partners may begin to examine the relationship with a critical eye.

Those who have spent years raising families may wonder what they have in common beyond the children, and as one’s own self-esteem wavers due to the signs of aging, the temptation toward unfaithfulness increases in an effort to reassure oneself that they are still attractive and desirable.

Smart couples take the time to nurture their relationships by participating in fun activities together, providing one another with sincere compliments, and making it a priority to keep active sex lives. By letting each other know that they are loved and valued, couples can minimise the chances that one or both partners will feel the need to look for reassurance outside of the relationship.

Spiritual Dissatisfaction in Midlife

Midlife is often the first time in life when people truly consider the fact that they are not going to live forever, which can make spiritual matters take on a higher level of significance. Questions about the hereafter come to the forefront of one’s mind, and it can seem more important than in years past to live with purpose and direction. Dissatisfaction with one’s previous spiritual path are not uncommon as those in midlife search for answers that feel right to them based on a combination of their preexisting beliefs and life experiences.

Personal Dissatisfaction in Midlife

The most difficult area of dissatisfaction that middle aged people must cope with are the negative feelings that they may harbour about themselves. It is never a good idea to compare oneself to others, yet it is a natural thing to do. Those in midlife may hold themselves up in comparison to friends, coworkers, and siblings to see how they measure up, but if someone is looking to find fault, they usually will.

All people have strengths and weaknesses, but in midlife, when it is common for people to examine their lives and assess their progress (or lack of it), it can be all too easy to focus attention on one’s own faults, giving little credit to the areas that are more impressive.

For instance, those who have dedicated their time to raising children may feel inferior for never having built impressive bank accounts, while those who have found success in business may choose to focus on their lack of romantic relationships. Embarrassment about physical condition is common in midlife, and parents may judge their own success based on how their children are progressing.

One of the best ways for people of all ages to increase their happiness and level of satisfaction with their lives is to focus on the positives. Directing attention to those things that have been done well is important. No one is perfect, but all people deserve to feel good about the things that they have accomplished, and by midlife, most everyone can find things to be proud of, if they just try.

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