Finding Yourself Again, At Midlife


I’ve lost myself at least 100 times.

It didn’t happen overnight, it never does.

In my relationship, it started with little things. I started cooking—and eating—what my partner liked, even though I preferred other foods. My partner didn’t like symphony, so I didn’t renew my season tickets.

By themselves, these are not big things—but combined with all the other ways I gave to others in my life, it’s no wonder I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you can relate? Maybe you’ve given slivers, or even chunks, of yourself up to:

  • Raising kids—yours, his, the neighborhoods
  • Caring for aging parents—no one is ready for the role reversal thing
  • Being an employee—“sure I can take on an extra project—again”
  • Or maybe you’re the boss (the buck stops…) or a volunteer (you always say yes and they know it) or a BFF (you’re the dependable one!)

And so it happens, little by little you stop doing what you like to do, stop making time for self-care, put the pause button on your dreams. And you almost forget who you are.

reconnecting with yourself

Yet in the quiet times you remember. You see something, hear something, smell something that pokes you. “I used to love to…” you hear yourself say.

Or you find a photograph of yourself, run across an award you won, stumble onto a note someone wrote you. And you notice your chest aches a little.

its your time

That ache—that’s your heart talking to you. It’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. You’re still in there, still able, still willing. You just need to remember how. How to say no, of course. But more importantly, how to say yes. Say yes to your heart, and to the things you want for your life. Say yes to this being YOUR Time.

Take the first step: See it to believe it

Making a shift starts with a vision. It begins with you imagining, and then believing in, and then manifesting what you want for your next chapter in life.

So how do you do that?

First, you pause, if just for a moment.

And if you can be a little patient, pretty soon it starts to happen.

You begin remember who you were, once upon a time. You reconnect to the little girl in you. The one who hasn’t yet decided (or been told) that she’s not smart enough or pretty enough or worthy enough to ask for—and get—what she wants for herself. Who hasn’t yet fallen into the habit of putting everyone else’s needs first.

a midlife awakening

Because before you were a spouse, parent, colleague, boss, caretaker, volunteer…you had a grand vision for your life. And it’s a pretty safe bet that over the years you’ve traded at least parts of that vision in.

Some of your trades were upgrades and others were compromises. Some you made consciously, others happened when you weren’t looking, and sadly, some may have even been stolen.

If you just nodded…maybe it’s time for you to have a midlife awakening.

Reconnecting to your vision: a guided journey

Are you even the slightest bit curious about what’s still possible? Do you want to know what part of those dreams are still alive in you? If so, there’s good news.

I have a hack to help you find out.

It involves your childhood photos.

grab a childhood photo

I’ll invite you—right now, if you can—to get out your old yearbooks, photo albums and scrapbooks. If now doesn’t work, print or bookmark this for later. Then make an appointment with yourself. Just you. This is a solo journey.

Start sifting through your photographs. Take your time.

And as you go through the images, look into your own eyes. What were you thinking about your future then? What did you want to be when you grew up? What made you happy? Did you have a favorite summer job? Were there hobbies you got lost in, instruments you loved to play? Parts of the world you longed to see?

Really look at that girl in the photos. Allow her heart to join with yours. Wrap your arms around her and pull her close.

what do you really want?

Pick a favorite photo of yourself from the pile. Take a long look.

Now, close your eyes and take a deep, cleansing breath in through your nose and let go with a long slow exhale through your mouth. Do it a second time…inhale in, and exhale….and for good measure take a final deep breath in, deeply into your belly, and a long slow release of anything that could get in your way.

With your eyes still closed, place your right hand over your heart.

Sit there a moment before you raise your left hand and place that on top of your right. Another deep breath might feel good right now so, go ahead. And now, with all the compassion you have given so freely to others all these many years, ask your heart this one sacred question:

What, dear heart, do you want?

Wait for a moment for an answer. It won’t take long.

Open your eyes.

Don't get hung up on the “shoulds”

The question “What do you want?” is the starting point for all of what really matters. Because there are no shoulds in that question. There was no qualifier about being practical. No talk about what’s it cost or who will take care of your parents or the grandkids. Just what do you want?

it can be simple

When I asked myself the question, I had a one-word answer. The word was teach. I wanted to be a teacher when I was a young girl, but instead, I followed the money and went into business. Then, at 53, when I realized I still wanted to teach, I became a coach. In the process, I discovered my bliss. It felt like coming home.

It can be that simple if you let it.

The message from your heart may not be career oriented. Your word might be freedom or travel or animals or something else entirely. When your heart whispers a message in your ear, she wants you to hear it.

taking the step

So, how about it?

What if you made a quick trip to revisit your earlier dreams and see if there are any worth resurrecting? If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

I can help you with one more step…

…and it’s even easier than the one you just took.

turning the midlife crisis into your midlife awakening

I want to invite you to attend my free interview series It’s Your Time: Turning the Midlife Crisis into Your Midlife Awakening. I’ve hand-picked authors and experts I admire and I asked them insightful questions about midlife issues. We talk about things like breaking through fear, skincare and fitness over 40, alcohol, hormones, betrayal and divorce.

This event is like having your own, personal appointment with 40 midlife specialists—professionals you’d have to pay to see in their private practice—at absolutely no cost.

Have you had a midlife awakening? Did you do the photo exercise Sheree suggested? Tell us your experience below!

comments (3 and counting)


Reader Interactions


    • Nancy Louv says

      I’ve been searching for direction lately, being 60 retired with health challenges, it’s hard to pursue what makes you whole. This simple exercise made me hopeful. I’m looking forward to the series too!
      Nancy Louv

  1. Sandy N. says

    What a great article! It definitely resonated as I turn the calendar to 60 years. I’m going to dig out the old photos. I have a feeling that little girl has something to say to me.
    Looking forward to this speaker session!

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