5 Insidious Thoughts Holding You Back In Midlife And How To Eliminate Them.

I remember turning forty and not really knowing what to expect, it felt just like any other day. But a curious thing happened as the years went by. My attitude towards myself had changed and I found myself more reluctant than ever to step outside my comfort zone. Somehow I'd fallen into a trap, believing that my best years were behind me.

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Photo courtesy of Andre Furtado/Unsplash.
Photo courtesy of Andre Furtado/Unsplash.

I remember turning forty and not really knowing what to expect. When I got out of bed that day, there was no great fanfare but neither was there a portent of doom. It felt just like any other day.

But a curious thing happened as the years went by. I couldn’t tell you exactly when but my attitude towards myself had shifted. Was it because of societal expectations of midlife women? You know the: ‘you’re old, over the hill’, narrative, or was it a natural consequence of getting older and becoming more risk-averse?

Whatever the reason, I found myself more reluctant than ever to step outside my comfort zone. Things I looked forward to doing before seemed impossible and I questioned whether I should even consider doing them ‘at my age’.

Somehow new thoughts had crept into my inner dialogue, thoughts that reflected limited expectations of myself, held me back, and kept me acting small. The future didn’t look quite as exciting as it used to only a few short years before. What the heck had happened to me? 

It was only when I started to examine my thoughts and feelings more closely that a picture started to emerge. I noticed that certain thoughts popped into my head whenever I wanted to take what I considered bold action. These negative thoughts had been playing on repeat and over time had become beliefs I’d adopted. They affected my expectations of myself and as a result, my behaviour.

I was not alone.

Talking to other midlife women I realised that I wasn’t alone. Somehow, insidiously, our minds had been poisoned. We’d fallen into a trap, believing that our best years were behind us. Unconsciously, we were creating that very reality. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can bring excitement back into your life and start to look forward again to a future full of possibility. Here are 5 thoughts that could be holding you back and how you can change them starting today.

1. I’m too old

What are the stories you tell yourself about what is or isn’t possible for you because of your age? Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I’m too old to change career.
  • I’m too old to start a business.
  • I’m too old to find love.
  • I’m too old to start over.

Even when you think you know better you can allow limits to be imposed on you often without realising it. Those limits eventually become your truth and influence your decisions and behaviour.

The scary thing about ‘I’m too old’ is that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every day, every year, you will get older and as you do, the realm of possibility shrinks even more. Can you imagine what a depressing place that would be? A dark place filled with all the things you can’t do. A place where you feel miserable but unable to do anything about it.

What you should do instead

Remember the ‘I’m too old’ thought is just a story, one that you can choose not to believe. Instead, start looking at your current age positively. Think:

‘I’m still young and there’s so much I can do. I’m going to start now because my best years are ahead of me.’ 

How old you are isn’t the issue, it’s your attitude to it. Instead of bemoaning the time that has passed, look forward and invest in creating a future that you want. 

Remember, whatever it is that you think you’re too old to do there is someone out there who’s proven that it is possible. If you look around you’ll find examples of people who have reinvented themselves, people who’ve decided to go for what they want and made it happen regardless of their age.

As long as you’re alive you have a chance and every day is another opportunity to start again.

2. That’s just the way I am

How often do you hear someone say that? Is it a thought you carry in your mind too? The horrible thing about this thought is that it’s so disempowering. It fosters an attitude that can keep you locked in mediocrity. If you’re dissatisfied with something in your life it brainwashes you into believing that change isn’t possible.

What you should do instead

Recognise that ‘that’s just the way I am’ is really an excuse not to learn and grow. Start to develop a more empowering attitude and think instead:

I can always learn and improve.’

Cultivate a growth mindset where you believe that your abilities can be developed. See challenges as an opportunity to work to improve rather than something to avoid. Believe you have what it takes to make change happen in your life.

3. I wish I had

We’ve all felt regret at some point in our lives. It can be an indicator that something was not quite right and acknowledging that is ok. You shouldn’t fight it, deny it or run from it. The problem comes when you get so stuck in past events that it holds you back from moving forward. You’re remorseful and maybe it’s even possible to make amends in some cases, but you can’t change the past, and wishing it could be different isn’t helpful.

What you should do instead

Try to reframe past events as things that happened for you, not to you. Instead of getting lost in thoughts like: ‘I wish I had done that instead’ or ‘I wish I had left that situation sooner’, think instead:

‘What lesson can I take from what happened?’

What have you learned and how have you grown? How have your experiences made you better equipped now? How can you use what you’ve learned to guide you as you move forward?

4. I used to be

I reminisce a lot. Old songs, movies, events from the past, I find myself going down memory lane a lot in midlife. And reminiscing is ok, especially if they are fond memories that bring a smile to your face. But getting lost in the past can be damaging especially if you think that that version of yourself was the best you could be.

If you find yourself comparing your current self to that person you used to be and coming up short, then it’s time to stop. ‘I used to be so adventurous’, ‘I used to be so slim’, the list goes on, is a game that can pull us down into negativity. It’s sometimes hard to let go of what was but that can keep us from letting in what could be even better.

What you should do instead

Remember that the past is just that, the past and it isn’t coming back. Those old photos may remind you of happy times back then but you can create happy times now too. Change is inevitable and your experiences have all led you here.

Think:

So what if I’m not as [fill in the blank] as I used to be, I’m stronger and better in these other areas.’

Create a vision for your future that is compelling, inspiring, and exciting. One that you feel good just thinking about. Decide to take action that moves you towards that vision and believe that the best of you is yet to come.

5. What will they think?

You’d think that by the time you hit midlife you really wouldn’t give a bleep what anyone thinks. I’ve discovered, however, that this thought still has the power to hold you back especially in certain areas of your life. You may not care what anyone thinks about how you dress but the thought of quitting your ‘serious’, high-profile job to pursue something more frivolous (at least to others) may fill you with dread.

‘What will people think?’, ‘What will they say?’, ‘What if they laugh at me?’

Just consider those statements for a moment. A year from now will the people you are concerned about, remember what you did or didn’t do? Will they even care about why you did or didn’t go for the thing you wanted?

What you should do instead

Remember that most people pay cursory attention to others, they’re busy with their own lives and problems. So why let them dictate what you do?

Now more than ever, you’re aware of your mortality. You hear the clock ticking down and know the end is inevitable. But as scary as that may be, don’t hide from it, instead, let it empower you. Make a decision today to stop living to others’ expectations and start doing what you really want.

Think instead:

‘Who cares what they think.’

 If today was your last day, would you rather have made a mistake or be full of regret for what you didn’t do?

Start to feel excited again about the future

The future is filled with possibility and it’s waiting to be explored. Take control of your life and believe that you have the power to create a life you love. Start paying attention to the thoughts that hold you back and replace them with new, more empowering ones. Keep improving and progressing and believe that the best of you is still to come.

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