Barbara Waxman on Middlescence, Not Midlife
FROM A CONVERSATION WITH BARBARA WAXMAN ON THE REINVENT YOURSELF PODCAST
For years I’ve been saying that midlife is the same as adolescence—but in reverse. Your body is doing strange things, you can’t stop crying, you notice all your relationships are changing, you no longer know who you are or what you want, and you don’t know why. Life-stage expert, gerontologist and author Barbara Waxman decided to make that observation official with her book The Middlescence Manifesto: Igniting the Passion of Midlife. “In 1900, life expectancy was 47,” she tells me. “Now, it’s in your 80s. The [extra] years are not at the end of life, the decrepit years, but are showing up in the middle markers. It starts at 45.” Waxman says, “women gain power in Middlescence…[have] more agency. They want to do what [they] care about and care less about what others think.” Waxman believes now is the “time to discern what you care about…so you can show up with a powerful ‘yes!’”
Barbara’s Tips on Gaining Back Confidence
A lot of people will say to me, I know I look successful on the outside, but on the inside, I don’t have confidence because I feel like a fraud a little bit. It’s not who I want to be but I don’t know how to get my confidence to make a change.
There’s a specific exercise that I have where I ask people to imagine themselves like a beautiful castle on a hill, and you’re surrounded by a moat. And in between you the castle and the moat are these comfort zones, these areas you can go and play in. But if you go any farther, in front of the moat are these gremlins, these guards. And they’re actually there for good reason — they’re there to say, “be careful! Don’t do this. You could get fired. You could embarrass yourself.”
The problem with that scenario that we all live in, is those self-limiting behaviors sometimes serve us, like when we know not to drink and drive. But the magic that we’re looking for in middlescence , that magic is on the other side of the moat. And we have to name what it is and decide what am I really saying might happen, and when is the time I need to tell those gremlins you’re not needed now. I am pushing through this fear. And then find a support buddy to do that with. So it’s naming the fear, identifying what the message you’re hearing is, and then making the choice to go through that message, and finding a support buddy to encourage you to do it.