There is no doubt that midlife comes with a smorgasbord of “confidence-vampire” challenges. Your emotional health can sometimes feel battered. Be it work related (menopause can play havoc with your office confidence), your value in the world (many of us feel overlooked or even invisible) or simply coping with the physical changes of this time of life, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost your sense of self.
So how can you strengthen your emotional health and get your midlife mojo back? By asking yourself four key questions, says Executive Coach, Lisa Quinn. As the former Communications Director of media giant, Hearst, Lisa knows only too well the challenges that come with a busy work/life blend. She understands what women in their midlife years have to navigate.
“Basically, society values youth,” says Lisa. “In your 40s and beyond, the trap doors open and life creeps in: funerals happen, divorces occur, parents get older. It can be a time of confronting difficult reality.”
Lisa takes her clients through four questions that can help re-frame these tricky years, and restore the value and purpose some of us may have felt we’ve lost. Your emotional health matters.
What are my values?
“The most significant piece of advice I give my clients is to understand your own values and amplify using them in your life,” says Lisa. “They are the key to unlocking personal power.”
Simply put, your values are your moral blueprint and make you feel most fulfilled.
“Values can be many and wide ranging, from fairness, honesty, respect, fun loving or creative,” explains Lisa. “Knowing what makes you tick is invaluable, think of it as you at your very best and most potent.”
If you find it difficult to identify your values, ask yourself for a “peak moment” in life: be that at home with the kids, at work aceing that big presentation or on that magical holiday when you were blissful on the beach. Then unpick who you were in that moment, get curious as to what made you “feel” that way.
Another way of identifying them is to look at those you admire and why – is it their professionalism, their compassion? “What we hold dear in others, we hold dear in ourselves,” says Lisa.
Who am I at work?
“This question is all too common in midlife,” explains Lisa. “Think about what perspective you are coming at your career from – is it fearlessness or fear? Don’t limit your beliefs, stay curious, think about what you can learn from younger people.”
These days, there is a new approach to work and a belief that you will have various careers over a lifetime. Embrace that, as it is positive and freeing. “I call your inner critic the ‘safe brain’,” says Lisa. “It’s the one that hasn’t evolved since we were cavewomen and it constantly pops up with a harsh, negative voice. It tends to catastrophise everything and is designed to keep you small.” Not helpful in today’s ever changing fast paced world.
“Realise it’s actually not worst case scenario stuff and take that inner critic down a notch by talking to yourself as you would to those you care deepest about.”
How can I adapt to physical changes?
“Comparing yourself to your younger you doesn’t serve you, it is an obscene robber of joy,” says Lisa. In other words, it’s very bad news for your emotional health. “Instead, celebrate what your wonderful unique body has done for you and re-frame the inevitable physical changes.
“Practice self acceptance and kindness, and spend a few minutes with your physical self asking what it needs: More water? More exercise? More meditation? Keep taking baby steps to connection.”
After all, your body is an amazing tool and you’ve experienced wonderful things with it – it’s had good sex, swum in oceans, maybe made tiny humans. In a society where one in three women will get cancer, just enjoy your good health, right now, today.
How can I have great relationships?
“The good thing about maturity is that we have built a rich tapestry of long relationships,” says Lisa. “We have supportive friends and people that have known us through thick and thin.”
Sometimes though, even people we love trigger upset or frustration. “This is all about values again,” explains Lisa. “This tends to be your own inner critic engaging with their own inner critic, the one designed to keep us small. Instead of boiling over, you are safe enough to express what you feel.”
Fundamentally, you cannot change other people, only how you respond to them, so Lisa urges us to be intentional in all relationships. Ask yourself what you really want from them, then ask for the same in return. And, for the most intimate relationships in your life? “Start from a place of total vulnerability, which isn’t easy to do but it’s crucial to honestly align your core values to the ones you love and value,” says Lisa. “Only then will you reap the rewards of intimate connection.”
Finally, something that is helpful for any confidence-zap moments is what Lisa calls the ABC of mindfulness, which is:
Awareness: acknowledge how you are feeling.
Breathing: take a moment to breathe, it’s instantly calming.
Choice: respond from a more evolved considered place of calm decisions.
For more information on training, workshops or a personal consultation, contact Lisa at lisaquinncoaching.co.uk