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Self-Esteem SOS: Saving Grace or Midlife Mayhem?

I remember when I reached my early 40’s, I started to feel this undercurrent of agitation.  I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin.  

This is the feeling I would say describes the metamorphosis in midlife.  Nothing is wrong, yet, something is wrong.  And when I think about that, I get curious around self-esteem.  Was it that my self-esteem was low?  And that got me thinking about, how is our self-esteem as we go into midlife?  Does it go up or down, or stay the same?

So I did what any gal on a mission would do, I googled it!  Here is what I found, and I figure if I want to know, someone else wants to know…because no one really talks about this stuff.

In an article written and posted online through the National Institutes of Health (, in which they compiled results of studies that looked at how self-esteem evolves throughout one's life used some interesting citations.  Here is a couple that stood out to me, “self-esteem, typically defined as the general evaluation and appraisal of one’s worth” (Leary & Baumeister, 2000; Orth et al., 2011), as well as “individuals that find a sense of mastery and personal control have higher self-esteem.”  This brings home the writing of Bonnie Ware’s  book, Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, in which many individuals stated “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not the life others expected of me.” 

These are good reasons to look within.  To live a life from the inside out and not the outside in.  So often people let the circumstances on the outside dictate how they feel and respond.  If our self-esteem is determined by our general evaluation and appraisal of our worth, then it is worth looking at how we identify ourselves.  

Erik Ericson’s theory on identity development

(, lays out 8 stages of identity.  It is a process of trial and error as we journey through the 8 stages from the time of birth to our final stage, death.  His theory outlines that when we experience failure in any of these identity exercises, it leads us to feelings of inadequacy (ie: low self-esteem).  Our exploration of who we identify as really takes hold in our adolescents.  This leads me to our adulthood.

We are thrown to the wolves so to speak, when we turn 18, we are legally responsible for ourselves.  We are expected to be accountable for our behavior, choices etc.  So we take what we have learned and who we believe we are or who we accept ourselves to be (based on input from parents, mentors and so on).  

By the time we are 30, we have settled into these identities.  By 40, we may be looking around wondering, is this what I intended?  We have built our lives based on identities that were seeded in our adolescence.  Sidenote:  This is a period of time where our self-esteem is lower than other times in our lives.  More than twenty years later, we are looking around and saying, what is this?  Is this what I intended?  Everything feels  topsy turvy.

The truth is, it is.  We are designed to live differently in our midlife.  In midlife, we have gathered enough wisdom to really assess what we want and who we want to be.  We have to find the courage to do it. Our courage is required to say, I choose to live from the inside out, I choose to be myself, I choose to let go of beliefs that do not match my values and I choose to not follow what others expect and want of me.  I am listening and following my own inner voice.  

woman at lake
In midlife, we have gathered enough wisdom to really assess what we want and who we want to be. 

So that metamorphosis that I mentioned earlier, makes sense.  It feels like the rise of the truth, that is breaking through all of the shoulds, coulds and woulds that we were taught along the way.  All your not good enoughs and the lies we tell ourselves so we “don’t go changing,” including all of the micro moments of abandonment, rise in this metamorphosis and let us know, a new version of ourselves is ready to be born.  By becoming ourselves we raise our self-esteem.  By finding the evidence that we can and we do, raises our self-esteem.  

By 40, we may be looking around wondering, is this what I intended? 

We now have an opportunity to be who we truly are in the second act of life and it is up to us to find each other and support each other as we emerge as our truest selves and are empowered to be who we are at our core.  A woman who lives by her own terms, her own dreams, her own passions and is unapologetic and unstoppable.  So that at the end of life, she knows, she had the courage to experience a life well lived.

Josette Diaz | Self Awareness Coach
Josette Diaz | Self Awareness Coach


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Self Awareness Coach for Women in Midlife

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