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Three Things Midlife ISN’T

Midlife gets a bad rap. But why? After all, we know that happiness is a U shape, with our satisfaction rising by the time we turn 50 (Blanchflower, 2020). We also know that when we reach older adulthood, we will recall our Midlife years as better than other periods of our lives (Galambos, 2020). So, why is it that we are so reluctant to embrace 40-65? Perhaps it is because of the myths that make us believe we will lose all we’ve gained in our younger adult years. Let’s clear up our intermediate years and illuminate what Midlife isn’t.  

Midlife Isn’t:

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1. Loss of sex appeal/desire: the expectation for younger generations that wrinkles, gray or thinning hair, and a closet full of mom/dad jeans await every 40-year-old. However, according to Pew Research (2020), roughly 38 percent of 40-year-olds and 19% of 50-64 year-olds use dating apps. That is a lot of people! And you don’t need a Ranker list to tell you Sofia Vergara, Bradley Cooper, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Colin Firth, and Christie Brinkley are some of the most attractive people on the planet. The aforementioned range is between mid-forties to mid-sixties. Midlifers are dating and appearing on magazine covers and showing their sex appeal more now than ever.  

2. End of job/work opportunities: Work-life stress is natural. However, stale careers are being replaced by midlifers more often than ever before. Side hustles and hobbies are emerging as full-time opportunities for midlifers. The over 40-65 set uses its experience and networks from decades of work to pivot to new ventures.

3. Bleak future: Most imagine death will smack us in Midlife, sending us into depression and despair. However, rather than despair, midlifers feel more generative and desire to give back to the next generation. As Erik Erikson (the lifespan developmental psychologist) theorized, in our middle years, we feel secure in our expertise and identity, so we desire to give back without expecting anything in return. We are preparing to leave our legacy or footprint on the world. Volunteering, mentoring, and Philanthropy are examples of generativity, providing midlifers with a feeling of fulfillment and purpose. This stage of life isn’t depressing.   

Midlife isn’t stagnation, decline, or despair. Instead, it is a time when we know and accept who we are, have gained expertise in work and life, and have the curiosity, energy, and desire to make our mark on the world.  

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Originally Published on

Deborah Heiser, PhD The Right Side of 40

Deborah Heiser, PhD is an Applied Developmental Psychologist with a specialty in Aging. I'm a researcher, TEDx speaker, contributor for Psychology Today, Substack blogger, CEO of The Mentor Project, and adjunct professor of Psychology.

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