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Coping with Feelings of Inadequacy in Midlife

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 9 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Inadequacy In Midlife Midlife Crisis

They don't call it a midlife crisis for nothing; middle age can often have even the most successful people feeling like under-achievers, and this sense of inadequacy can lead to feelings and behaviours that are uncharacteristic.

Many people who have gone along happily for years begin to reassess their lives in the years between 40 and 60, and to their dismay, some find that they are falling short of where they had hoped they'd be.

Taking Stock in Midlife

It is perfectly natural for those in midlife to take a look at their accomplishments, assessing where they are versus where they might like to be. Unfortunately, many people fail to give themselves credit for all that they have achieved, instead focusing on their shortcomings, real or perceived. This type of thought process is sure to lead to disappointment and feelings of inadequacy.

While it can be healthy and productive to look every now and then at goals and the progress that is being made to achieve them, those in middle age should be mindful about allowing themselves the same level of acceptance that they may reserve for friends and family.

Dealing with Unfilled Dreams in Midlife

As children, most people consider their futures and are likely to envision themselves as wildly successful. Adult realities are typically far less exciting, and while most reasonable adults understand this on an intellectual level, it can be hard to accept it from an emotional standpoint. Inside the aging bodies of many in midlife live the unfulfilled dreams of would-be writers and rock stars.

The feeling that the dreams of childhood are out of reach can lead some middle aged people on quests to try to relive their youths, hoping for second chances to do all of the things that they once believed they would. In moderation, this can be a wonderful thing, but taken to extreme, acting to fulfil childhood ambitions can be quite costly. A midlife crisis can sometimes prompt otherwise rational people to leave their families and careers, in search of greener pastures.

Career Success in Midlife

By middle age, many people have reached a level of respect in their careers, well on their way to their top earning years. Others, however, may still be striving for career success, leading them to feel unsatisfied and unproductive, while some who are doing well from a financial standpoint express dissatisfaction because they feel that their job doesn't bring meaning to their lives. For some, a midlife crisis is brought on by the notion that their current path is not leading them toward success.

Success has many definitions, from material wealth to the feeling that our actions make a contribution to the greater good. Looking for career advancement may mean enrolling in classes to gain a competitive edge, actively seeking promotions at the current workplace, or applying at larger firms in order to climb the corporate ladder.

Those who are satisfied with their level of career success but feel the need to work toward curing the ills of society may wish to seek volunteer opportunities. By donating their time and effort, each person can achieve whatever it is that meets their definition of success.

Physical Changes in Midlife

While some aspects of aging are within our control, others are not. Physical signs of age will come to all, even those who take steps to maintain health and fitness thought their lives. A certain level of physical decline is inevitable, and some people have an easier time accepting the physical changes associated with midlife easier than others.

Whether it is fair or not (and it certainly isn't), society tends to define beauty in terms that translate into youthful. Smooth, flat bellies are revered, while those showing evidence of having stretched to accommodate pregnancies are not. Many middle aged people take steps to eliminate wrinkles and grey hair, feeling that these natural signs of aging diminish their attractiveness. Creams and lotions marketed to turn back the hands of time sell well, as do pills and other diet aids, promising not only weight loss, but a return of youthful strength and endurance.

Taking steps to maintain physical health is wise, but the focus needs to be kept on strength, agility, and cardiovascular health, rather than on an attempt to deny one's real age. Health and beauty are not just for the young; they are for everyone who understands that to be middle aged is not to be inadequate - it is to have grown to a point where the definition of words like success, happiness, and beauty encompass all ages, and that knowledge and experience are far more valuable than a wrinkle free face.

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How terribly sensible all this advice is. It left me feeling quite deflated.Volunteering is all very worthy but it is not the same as fulfilling dreams and ambitions. Surely we can leave some space for our childhood dreams? A bit more encouragement would have been welcome.
baszia - 9-Feb-13 @ 8:20 PM
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