Who Do You Think You Are?
One of my most profound lessons from our five years of running MEA (3,000 alums and counting) is that many of us in midlife have an outdated idea of who we are or want to be. Our identities—and our mindsets around those identities—are like a straitjacket confining us to being exclusively the hero, the joker, the caregiver, or the underdog (go ahead and fill in your own blank). While these archetypes may have served us at one time, there is a good chance they’ve also limited us.
We recently had a trial lawyer join us who was tired of being a litigation hardass. She knew her career was draining her life force, but after 35 years of living this identity, she didn’t think she had more options. Fortunately, she knew she had a passion for learning, and those breadcrumbs led her out of the dark forest of her historic career.
Our “self-concept” (how we see ourselves as a person) influences our choices, attitudes, and how we treat ourselves and others. Unfortunately, we were given little training in adolescence and early adulthood to understand how to cultivate and nurture this self-concept or how it might evolve if we’re open to it. We were never taught to realize that we are not carved in stone. And because of this neglect, it’s often in midlife that we begin to feel the constriction of our self-concept. At this point, we either submit or rebel. In fact, the classic midlife crisis stereotype—a red sports car and an affair with a younger paramour—is a form of that rebellion. One of many.
“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished,” says Harvard academic Dan Gilbert. Research has shown that genetic factors contribute most to who we are until age 30, and then, self-concept clarity based upon personal experience and reflection increases each decade until approximately 70 years old and then begins to decline. Your mileage may vary, and I will say that I’ve seen quite a few MEA alums in their 70s and 80s who are still evolving who they are.
In sum, society has created formative prep schools for adolescents to understand who they are and prepare them for adulthood. But where are the midlife prep schools dedicated to helping people reevaluate who they are and where they’re going for the second half of adulthood?
Fortunately, we know of one!
We hope you’ll join us in Baja in 2023 or for one of our online courses. Let MEA help you discover who you are while preparing you for the exciting journey toward who you were meant to become.
PS: With the Holidays approaching, please consider a tax-deductible donation to my favorite non-profit, AGE (Association for Growth and Education). AGE drives impact through grants to organizations that support long life learning, midlife transitions, intergenerational connections and overcoming ageism. AGE also directly supports MEA with ongoing scholarships that remove barriers to access and help create a diverse and inclusive community. Donating in honor of someone you love also makes a fantastic holiday gift! Please donate HERE.