Part 1: Survey Says: We’re NOT So Vain!
Midlife…. ahhhhh… such a rich, multifaceted time. Peaks of ease and depths of challenges. I’m personally and professionally fascinated with the gamut of the female midlife experience. My curiosity propelled me to launch a survey this past March, to asked a wide sample of women in midlife the following question: “Pre-Covid, How Much Do These Midlife Issues Concern You?” Participating women rated their responses as either Not at All, Mildly, Fairly or Very Concerned. The categories they rated included the following:
- Health and Body Decline
- Physical Appearance Changes
- Sufficient Money (ex. for kids’ college, retirement, support to others)
- Caregiver Responsibilities (parents, in-laws, grown children, etc.)
- Existential Questions of Value, Direction, Worth, Life, etc.
- Work/Career Dissatisfaction
- Relationships (marital, friends, colleagues, etc.)
- Well-being of kids
- Hormonal changes/imbalances
One-hundred and thirty-four women, including many of you, completed the survey. Thank you! The majority of those surveyed (87%) are between 40 and 70 years of age with the 50-59 age group constituting almost half of the respondents.
This is the first of three articles I’m sharing about the interesting data you provided.
Surprisingly, and contrary to the prevailing stereotypes in our popular culture, physical appearance concerns ranked relatively low. Remarkably, only 13% of us rated appearance as a very concerning area and it didn’t even rank in the top three of the overall concerns.
Yay us! We are deeper and more other-oriented than the narrow versions of us in pop culture. Still, we’re bombarded with messages trying to convince us that wrinkles, muffin tops and sagging skin are the bane of our existence. Whole industries are working to convince us to spend oodles on products to ensure our youthful appearance. But they don’t really know us. Sure, we care about our looks (my hair and I still battle daily) and want to be our best selves, but there are others aspects of our midlife experience that are more concerning than our looks. Bottom line, we are NOT as vain as we are made out to be.
Another surprise in the data was our take on hormones/menopausal symptoms. It’s not even in our top five issues. Wait, what? Aren’t those dreaded hot flashes the defining features of middle age? Again, stereotypes and pop culture don’t match reality, at least not for this sample. Only 13% rated menopause as Very Concerning and it is almost at the bottom of the overall ranking. This is not to say that menopausal related symptoms and hormones aren’t challenging. They definitely are. I still sleep atop the covers, with a fan blowing directly on me to compliment the a/c. But other aspects of our midlife experience are more concerning.
The third surprise was how we relate to existential questions about life and our purpose. The surprise, at least to me, was that we’re not wildly concerned about that in midlife. It is possible that many of us are still too busy in our daily lives to ponder our life’s meaning and purpose. Only 25% of our sample is retired, meaning the rest of us not only work but may also be caring for kids and/or parents. It is also possible that an existential inquiry may never be at the top of people’s radar. Though, spoiler alert, you will be hearing more about this in a few weeks when I present, the Pre-Covid as compared with Covid responses.
There you have the first of three pieces on this data. Are you surprised, too? I’d love to hear any thoughts on these results or answer any questions. Just shoot me an email, message me or even call me (gasp!) 😊