Mind

How to turn a midlife crisis into midlife courage

Sharleen Greer helps kiwi women face their middle years with confidence.

"I was lucky my midlife crisis didn't involve me dealing with death, divorce or money redundancy. It was never anything major, just a couple of mini ones when I turned 40 and another when I hit 50. It was more along the lines of a sense of feeling unsettled when I got back from overseas.

I loved the experience of travelling to Italy and didn't know how I could get more of that in my life. After dealing with a lot of confusion and stress, I discovered life coaching. Then everything started falling into place, though I still had issues.

I noticed my confidence levels had gone down significantly. When you pour so much time and effort into being a mother, you feel lost when your kids don't need you any more. It's something many of my clients struggle with, especially when their children leave home. It made me question if I had the confidence to go out and do something new with my life.

I found joining groups with new people and other business women a huge help. I was surrounded by people who would tell me constantly that I was capable. This built my confidence back up and made me believe in myself.

Sharleen's family (from left) Rose, Tessa, husband Richard, Katie and Ella.
Sharleen's family (from left) Rose, Tessa, husband Richard, Katie and Ella.

One of the biggest misconceptions around women over the age of 50 is that they have reached the end of their productive years, which isn't true. Midlife crisis is a term that has been around since the '60s, when women did not have a long life span.

They would go to the doctor and ask what was wrong, then they were often prescribed tranquilisers or hormone replacements. This meant that it was turned into a medical rather than a natural physiological event.

Midlife can be confusing because it's not like we have a road map we can follow through our lives. I think many people enter middle age thinking their life is almost over, whereas in reality, we are now living longer, healthier and much more empowered lives.

I started a life-coaching business at 50. It was challenging because I had so much to learn, but I did it. As older women, we have a lot of wisdom from both good and bad experiences. I tell my clients that we're wisdom gatherers and we need to be passing it on in any way we can – whether that's writing a book or public speaking.

I think it's important for people to ask for help when they need it. That's why I named my company Midlife Courage because for many people, it's very hard to take steps to better their lives. I like to say that I take women from midlife crises to midlife courage.

At a recent conference in Sydney.
At a recent conference in Sydney.

Our previous generations were not good role models for us when it came to asking for help. I was never raised that way. Most people never saw their mothers reach out for support either. They were brought up to soldier on.

A lot of my clients have difficulties asking for help and when they do, they often feel guilty. It shouldn't be that way. As long as they are prepared to do some personal growth and have a look at the changes going on within them, then they'll be okay. People need to understand that when they go through any change, there will be grieving stages that can be very hard to deal with.

I was lucky enough to live in a small community with lots of mothers who had kids. Having women friends to support you is great. When I started my business, I joined groups of people who were doing the same thing. We became each other's cheerleaders.

Sharlene, 59, talking about midlife crises and menopause in Warkworth this year.
Sharlene, 59, talking about midlife crises and menopause in Warkworth this year.

One of the most important pieces of advice I give women who are struggling is don't do it alone and ask for help. Try and find support, whether it's from your girlfriends or a life coach, and make sure someone has your back. If you find asking for help too difficult, try reading some books or listen to podcasts.

Make sure not to fall into that trap of thinking that there is no way out and turn to drinking or whatever it is you do to keep yourself in avoidance mode. It is much better to put yourself out there and take some risks.

The more you reach out, the more positive things you'll see in your life and you will realise that you can ask for help again."

read more from