Confidence is a perk of our age says our columnist allison Pearson
OUR BRILLIANT NEW COLUMNIST ON THE MODERN MIDLIFE WOMAN
“My mind is clearer and my emotions better balanced than ever”
Whenever I lack confidence, or am about to pull out of an event that intimidates me, I always think back to the time I appeared on the oprah show in Chicago. Just as I was about to walk out onto the set, in front of a packed audience, the producer smiled and said, “Miss Pearson, you’re going live to 40 million americans.”
gee, thanks for that reassuring thought. not. i was petrified. but as i approached the great empress winfrey herself, i did a deal with my fairy godmother. “look,” i said, “if you will just let me get through the next 20 minutes without falling off the back of that bench or saying something stupid, or clutching the hostess’s hand like a star-struck loon while shouting, “oprah! oprah! omigod, it’s really you!” if none of those things happen, and i don’t embarrass myself, then i swear i will never be nervous again.
it worked. Confidence is not purely built on past triumphs. true confidence comes from the knowledge that we have survived many things, and that even e complete and utter disasters, which w throb in the memory like an angry scar, s will fade with time. Confidence is one o of the perks of middle age. it’s hard to t pass it on to our daughters because young y girls lack the perspective that only o comes with experience.
by my late-forties, i reckon i was the m most confident i’d ever been. happy with m my hair, i’d finally shed that stubborn baby w weight. (Just as well because the “baby” w was now 15!). work was going well and, w with the projectile-vomiting years of little k kids behind us, himself and i were starting t to remember why we g got together in the first p place. then, without warning, my confidence went awol. i became incredibly anxious about things that had never bothered me. My excellent memory turned into a spouting colander. i walked into a room looking for a thingummy and came out unable to remember the purpose of my visit. was i losing my mind? it certainly felt like it.
as for my libido, signals from downbelow were now so infrequent that it was like one of those black-box flight recorders lost on the bottom of the ocean. sadly, it would have taken an entire regiment of Marines to locate my sex drive.
all of the above was enough to make you tear your hair out, but i didn’t dare. if i so much as ran my fingers through it a whole bichon frise came away in my hand. baldness beckoned. hair loss is not uncommon at that time of life. who knew?
i was sort of expecting the physical side of what my grandmother coyly called the Change. no one had ever mentioned the mental effects, the slow haemorrhaging of self-worth. dr louise newson, a menopause expert, says that 72% of women who come to her clinic, complaining they’ve lost all appetite for life, have been prescribed antidepressants, even though they’re not depressed. they’re perimenopausal and they need hormone replacement therapy.
for too long women have been kept in the dark, believing that they have to say a regretful goodbye to the energetic person they once were. a single rogue study linking hrt to cancer caused millions to shun that simple treatment which could improve their midlife 100%.
i spent 18 months wishing that i could check my body into a left-luggage locker and come back for it when it wasn’t going to betray me. an appointment with a gynaecologist in harley street put me right. he said that a) i wasn’t going mad, and b) oestrogen, progesterone and a dab of testosterone would soon see normal allison service resumed. please note: this treatment is available free, on request, from your gp.
you know, i didn’t get my old self back. i did get a confident new me who stopped shedding her crowning glory and rapidly started feeling less like roadkill and more like the easter bunny. My mind is clearer and my emotions better balanced than ever while my libido, if not an aston Martin, is a very nippy Mini Clubman. i’ve even started remembering the name of the thingummy. w&h
How Hard Can It Be?, allison’s new novel with a menopausal heroine, is published by borough press (£14.99)