For me midlife is about coming to an acceptance about the past and realising that whilst it may well have shaped the present, there are perhaps some things worth carrying forward and others that need to be jettisoned along the way. That is not about totally wiping everything that has gone before, for much of it is good, it is about learning what is the truth. There are three things I have learnt that I think are worth discussing and I'll throw them up here for anyone to contribute there own thoughts to.
"To thine own self be true" - William Shakespeare
What exactly does this mean? For me it is about recognising that doubts are OK. There is nothing wrong with accepting that there are times when we must compromise what we believe, or what we would really like to do, in order to satisfy the needs of the other people in our lives. That compromise is not about being untrue to ourselves but a recognition that we all have roles to play and there is good in playing those roles to the best of our ability. Thus the father is different to the son, and the friend to the husband or lover. We can be true to ourselves in every role we play if we recognise the boundaries of those roles and the fact that our true self is an amalgam of all of those parts. We should also embrace the fact that each and every role is legitimate and important in determining who we are.
I am coming to realise that each mask I have worn is part of who I am. I no longer need to sort through and seek to jettison any one of them, but I can celebrate the true diversity of who and what I am.
"I yam what I yam and thats all I yam" - Popeye
Simply said but a really important thing to accept. Never try to be something you are not - in the end you will get found out. The person who tries to play a role that they do not believe in will eventually be destroyed by the contradictions and inconsistencies in their behaviour. You cannot be more nor less than what you are. That is not to say that we cannot become better people than who we currently are, which brings me to the next tenet.
"The only person I have to be better than is who I am right now" - Colonel Sherman Potter, MASH 4077
I wrote this down many years ago when I first heard it. It is this tenet that allows us to recognise that we all have weaknesses that we need to work on. We can all be more loving, more compassionate, more passionate and more caring. We can all make a difference to the lives of others, by a smile or paying a favour forward, or volunteering in our community in some manner. And we can do it in small steps that makes us a slightly better person than the one we were yesterday.
If we can come to understand each of these three things, we can begin to place our self into the true context of our lives. The self doubts and the lack of self esteem that seem to be hallmarks of the "crisis" part of midlife can then be put aside. In being true to ourselves we can learn that it is OK to accept all of the parts that make us who we are, and then we can begin to work on making ourselves better people. And the other important thing to understand is that we don't have to get better than anyone else, or wear the burdens of other peoples beliefs of who we are, we simply need to be honest to ourselves and do our best. But don't worry that your best isn't always of the same standard.