#134 Rediscovering Identity and Purpose in Midlife

Today's Guest: Jennifer Arthurton

Today, I interview Jennifer Arthurton, whose childhood was a quest for acceptance and attention within her family. Born in England and raised in the Caribbean, Jennifer’s early years were serene until her parents’ divorce. Feeling overshadowed by her younger brother, she continually sought approval through conformity and achievement.

As Jennifer matured, she excelled academically and pursued a successful corporate career, fulfilling societal expectations. However, nearing her 50s, a midlife crisis struck, prompting her to question the significance of her accomplishments. Despite outward success, she felt unfulfilled and disconnected from her true self.

Jennifer’s turning point occurred when her life unraveled—divorced, unemployed, and bedridden with stress-related illness. Stripped of her identity, she confronted her vulnerability, realizing she had lived by societal norms rather than her inner voice. Staring at the ceiling, she began asking herself fundamental questions, finally acknowledging the importance of her own voice and intuition.

To overcome her struggles, Jennifer embarked on self-exploration, learning to trust her inner voice. She began writing, launching the Old Chicks Know Sh*t blog and podcast to share her journey. By connecting with other midlife women, she found empowerment and purpose and now helps other women navigate their next chapters with confidence and authenticity.


Jennifer Arthurton is the founder and creator of Old Chicks Know Sh*t, a community and podcast aimed at inspiring and supporting midlife women in pursuing their dreams and navigating their next chapter. As a former Fortune 500 marketing executive turned midlife mentor, podcast host, writer, and speaker, Jennifer draws from her own experience of surviving a midlife crisis to empower other women.

With a passion for helping women uncover their inherent power and wisdom during a time often characterized by doubt and feeling overlooked, Jennifer is an inspirational speaker and leads a community of powerful midlife women crafting their kick-ass next chapter.

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Transcript of Interview

Transcript of Interview

Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast

Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing

Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com

Episode #134 Jennifer Arthurton

“Rediscovering Identity and Purpose in Midlife”


(00:00) Doreen Downing: Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. I invite guests that I meet along the way that I find to be very powerful in that what they offer now is usually based on something, some challenges that they used to have. And today I get to interview somebody that I met on her podcast, Jennifer Arthurton.

Hi, Jennifer. 

(00:29) Jennifer Arthurton: Hi Doreen, thank you for having me. 

(00:31) Doreen Downing: Yes, you wrote a bio and I want to read it so that people can get a sense already of what I’m referring to about what you’ve already accomplished in your life. 

Jennifer Arthurton is the founder and creator of Old Chicks Know Shit, a community and a podcast designed to inspire and support midlife women in chasing their dreams and creating their kick ass next chapter.

Jennifer is a former Fortune 500 marketing executive turned midlife mentor, podcast host, writer, and speaker. Having survived her own midlife crisis and subsequent course correction, she has a passion for helping other women uncover the inherent power and wisdom of a time of life when they often feel overlooked and doubt themselves most.

Wow, I’ve already got little chills on my body because I feel, not only does it apply to me being in my 70s, but it also applies to so many of my listeners who feel like, “Oh. Do I still have a voice? Do I have a voice at this age?” So, thank you for the work that you do and thank you for taking time to share.

(01:50) Jennifer Arthurton: I’m so happy to be here. 

(01:51) Doreen Downing: Well, what we do is first dive back because this beautifully accomplished you that we get to see today, she didn’t—well, in some sense, she did pop out like that. We all do with the essence of who we are, our beauty and our voice. 

And something happened along the way that we found our challenges, so I always like to first ask if you’re open to go back and dive a little deeper into what growing up in your family was like and where you grew up, just a little bit. Give us some snapshots. 

(02:29) Jennifer Arthurton: Yeah. I always love going back too. So, I grew up, spent half my life—well, I was born in England, grew up in the Caribbean, kind of a very idyllic chapter of my life growing up in the Caribbean, spending my whole time outside. 

Then my parents got divorced and my mother remarried a Canadian man. We moved to Canada. But my memories of growing up—it was always about trying to fit in, trying to make sure that I was doing the right thing, making sure that I was accepted. 

That stemmed actually from my brother, my little brother is 11 months younger than me, so I was still much a baby when he came along. And of course, my mom devoted all of her time to the new baby. That was the beginning of me starting to remember that, or to realize that I was competing now for attention and feeling like I was always coming second. So, it was like, if I could do the right thing and be a good girl and then I would get the intention.

And it’s really interesting because when I asked my mother about that, many, many, many years later, she said, “You were the strong one and your brother just needed me so much more.” I didn’t realize that. I was like, “Isn’t that interesting?” 

So, it really became about me doing the right thing in order to be loved and accepted, which then carried on through adulthood where I did all the things, I checked all the right boxes to be a good girl, get good grades, go to a good college, get a good job, work your way up the corporate ladder, stop somewhere in there, and have a kid, live in a nice place, suburban house. Do all of those things. I checked all of those boxes along the way. 

Then in the year leading up to my 50th birthday, my midlife crisis hit, and it was, for me, a little bit out of left field because in my mind, I had done everything right. I had checked all the boxes, so what was happening to me? How is this even possible? 

It was a bit of a rude awakening, but what it opened up for me was the idea that I had been so busy trying to please everybody else that I never actually checked in with myself along the way to see if what I was doing was actually making me happy because I was living by the script that was handed to me that I thought I needed to become the good girl and get the love and attention. 

(04:42) Doreen Downing: It sounds like it was, “I get to get the good grades, I get to have the good pat on the back, and I get to take care of my little brother,” and that there’s a sense of being appreciated for that I feel, gives us, and my sister, my younger sister is 11 months younger too—and I think, we are Irish twins, right? 

(05:05) Jennifer Arthurton: Irish twins. Exactly.

(05:07) Doreen Downing: Yes. So, I definitely relate to that one. Only I think mine was more like I took responsibility. My mother had some issues with bipolar ups and downs, swings. I think I came in more like, “Oh, I got to take care of people right away. Hello… I’m now a psychologist.” 

So, I ended up… But you, kind of like, “Hey, I did it,” and you lift your shoulders up and have a sense of accomplishment, so I could understand how that felt like happiness at first. 

(05:43) Jennifer Arthurton: Yeah. I mean, my whole identity was built on a sense of accomplishment, right? Like as long as I was accomplishing, it was my face to the world. Like, “look how great I am. I’ve done this, this, and this, and this,” and then when everything was stripped away from me—basically finding myself divorced, unemployed, an empty nester, and also bedridden with a stress-related illness, I literally couldn’t get out of bed most days. 

My sense of who I was really shaken because now I’m not doing anything. I can’t do anything. That was, for me, a real awakening moment, where even my identity was so much into what did my physical body look like? I was big time into the gym and exercising and fitness and all of that stuff. 

Going through burnout and everything, I gained 35 pounds. Literally my whole identity was shattered within a very short space of time, and I was left feeling very raw and vulnerable and not understanding where I fit into the world. What was my value if I wasn’t doing? 

(06:44) Doreen Downing: Well, you used a phrase that just really popped out to me, and that was “front-facing.” Say a little more about that, what that means because I think people could relate to that phrase.

(06:56) Jennifer Arthurton: The identity that I had built was my face to the world. So, it was a corporate executive, mom, and wife. That was my face to the world. And I became those things, but they enabled me to play the roles that I had to play.

I created this persona. She was strong. She was capable. Nothing looked like it was out of place. People would be envious of my life. I had a great job. I got amazing perks, had the perfect house, the perfect husband, the perfect child, all the things, but inside, I was still reckoning with who I was because my sense of accomplishment was never enough to fill who I was. 

And so, when I reached the pinnacle of my corporate career, I found myself saying, “Is this it? Is this all there is? What’s next?” This little mantra would play in my mind over and over, and then I would shut it down because I don’t know how to deal with this.

I’m not about to blow up everything that I’ve worked so hard for. I didn’t know. If it wasn’t this, I had no idea what else was possible. So, I just kept shutting down that voice and shutting it down because it would cause me to face who I truly was underneath all of those things.

(08:03) Doreen Downing: So, Jennifer, that is so amazing. The thought that there’s a voice and that’s what this podcast is about—find your voice. But if you’re not listening, you can’t hear what the voice is saying to you. I’m curious. Was there a certain time a day? When did you start to—that voice, when did it start to talk to you?

(08:27) Jennifer Arthurton: There wasn’t a certain time of day, but it was always present. I would find myself sitting in a boardroom, half listening to a meeting and looking around at the people at the table and going, “Is this really where I’m supposed to be? Is this it? Is this what I worked so hard for?”

Because this is the thing. If I followed the script that they gave me, checked all of the boxes, then I should feel satisfied. I should feel grateful. I should feel accomplished. I didn’t feel any of those things. There was just this gnawing inside me, like there was something else. 

I shut that voice down for a very, very, very long time and I actually know now, looking back on it, that that year that my life completely fell apart, the voices were like, “Okay, we’ve been talking to you for a really long time now and you’re not listening to us.”

So first, you get a nudge, then you get a shove, and if you’re not paying attention, you get a break in the head. Well, that really was my break in the head because that breakdown of my life and who I thought I was, enabled me to find out who I really am, to remove all of those masks, and come back to the truth of myself, who I had never, ever met. I did not know who this woman was. 

(09:33) Doreen Downing: Oh, beautiful. I’m just so touched by the idea that you discovered the truth of who you really are. She was always there, but she was just so much smaller. I could relate that back because of the psychology that was the early blueprint for you. 

The whole sense of self about who you were was not as important as what you had to do to take care of your little brother or do good, do well in school. 

With those nudges, before they become bricks, tell us about one of them or anything that you remember about one of the earlier nudges.

Because I think people are already being nudged, and if there’s anything you could point to, it might help people say, “Uh-oh, something’s happening here.” 

(10:23) Jennifer Arthurton: Yeah, as a kid, it’s funny. I obviously wasn’t aware of that at the time, but when I look back on my childhood, and especially when I look at pictures of myself as a child, I was always the person standing back, studying what was happening. I wasn’t really a participant in what was happening. I was witnessing it and trying to figure out, “Do I fit in here? Do I belong here? Will I be accepted?” 

Some of the pictures I look at now of myself as a child, they make me quite sad. There’s one little picture of me when I’m probably about four or five and my mother had taken my brother and I to this costume competition. It was like Halloween, but we didn’t celebrate Halloween in the UK at that time, so she dressed us up. 

My brother was a pirate. I was the queen of hearts. She’d made these really amazing costumes for us. My brother went up on stage. They called us up on stage. I was too afraid to go up on stage because first of all, I thought my mother was going to leave me if I went up on stage or that I would never find her again. 

My brother went up on stage and he won. He got a little prize. I remember feeling so envious of the fact that he had gotten a prize and I didn’t, but I was too afraid to let go of my mother at that point. I was still hanging on to her, looking for that attention. 

So, that notion of trying to decide where I fit, trying to feel like I belong somewhere started very, very early for me. And then it just morphed over my adulthood when I held up my accomplishments as my “I’m okay” card. It became more about my career and things like that.

But it was always based on trying to accomplish something, to do something to prove that I was okay, that I was enough, that I was worthy of love, all of those things. 

(12:09) Doreen Downing: Well, you mentioned children or a child. I’m not sure if it’s a child, but there must have been some questions about that also as a mother.

(12:17) Jennifer Arthurton: Yeah. One of the things that when my daughter was born was—I was never a confident kid, as I just said. And one of the things that I wanted was to raise a confident kid. I wanted her to have a really strong sense of self. Well, as we plan as parents, it never turns out that way.

She ended up having her own journey, which I felt very responsible for. She struggled with her own value, her own self-worth, her own self-esteem, which I always felt guilty for because I was like, “I failed as a mother because I couldn’t instill this confidence that I didn’t have in her.”

Then after a while, I realized this is her journey and she chose me as a parent for some reason. I’m just here to support her on this journey. I’m not responsible for it. And that was very, very freeing for me as a parent, for sure.

(13:02) Doreen Downing: Yeah, you certainly today already are coming up with some wonderful gems of wisdom that you’re passing on just by me asking you a question and then you just open up and go, “Bing! Here’s another nugget.” 

I’m going to take a quick break because I love these nuggets and I have way more questions but I want to just give our listeners a break and do a short pause here, and I’ll be right back. 

(13:38) Doreen Downing: Hi, we’re back with Jennifer Arthurton. She’s somebody that has been in a life where early on, she was the good girl. She was the one who got the points. She was the one who got the good grades and stood out probably as somebody who the rest of us envied her growing up because then she went on to be a corporate queen, and what society looks as successful.

But what we get to learn today is that inside was a whole different story. The front-facing Jennifer and the Jennifer who invested in the image, all of what that went with that left behind a small voice inside. What we’re talking about is the breaking down later on in life of this image that she had created for this life, she had created for herself. 

So, Jennifer, we’re back. What do you want to share right now then? 

(14:37) Jennifer Arthurton: The whole process of finding my voice was really a journey of self-exploration, to figure out who I was as a person, first of all, before voice because when my life crumbled around me and I recognized that I had no idea who I was, or what I wanted for my life, it began a journey for me of setting out to listen to my own inner voice, to figure out, “Who is this woman?” 

Because my inner voice had always been stifled by the things that I should do, the things on my to do list. My sense of accomplishment was the driver of everything, and that really shut down the voice inside me that when I made a decision and I really did make a decision that—Actually, let me rephrase that.

I was forced into a decision to really pay attention because for the most part, I couldn’t get out of bed. Most days I had no job. My kid was gone. I had no husband. So, everything that defined me was stripped away and there I was, left to face myself, literally just myself. 

I would lie in bed staring up at the ceiling and asking the question, “Who are you? What do you want?” Asking myself these questions and there’s nobody else there. I’m living alone for the very first time, so the only answers were coming from inside me. That was when I made the decision that I need to pay attention to the voices that were coming from inside me because they knew the truth. They knew the truth of who I was. 

It took me a little while to get there. I paraphrased that into a nice short, perfect little sentence, but it was a process because there was nobody telling me what to do anymore. There were no expectations of me. It was like, “What did I want for myself?”

(16:13) Doreen Downing: And what did the voice say? What did you hear? 

(16:16) Jennifer Arthurton: So, the voice was—it was a slow progression of learning, first of all, to hear that voice and then learning to trust that voice. What was really interesting is a lot of the voice was telling me to speak my truth, use your voice, and this message would come to me from all kinds of places.

I remember being in a yoga class. They were putting cards on the mat. What do you call those cards? I can’t remember what they’re called, but like little cards and it would say some message. Every time I would get those cards, it would be about my voice. I don’t know what this means. 

The other thing the voice would tell me was to write, and at the time I would be like, “I’m not a good writer. I’m not a writer. I don’t write.” Then one day I thought, “Okay, I’m just going to honor the voice and I’m going to try writing and see what happens.”

That eventually led to the Old Chicks Know Shit blog. It was a way for me to process my own voice on paper, first of all, a way for me to process. Now very much what I do is using my voice, processing for myself, and having great conversations on my podcast, which are all part of me processing and also helping other people process through my voice. So, it’s been an interesting journey to find it and to honor it. 

(17:24) Doreen Downing: Yeah. Those are two different processes. The finding it, which you’re talking about, the learning to listen. And then expressing it is a whole different process.

Having the courage or the strength to—no matter what. Especially the title that you have, Old Chicks Know Shit. That’s pretty bold out there. 

(17:48) Jennifer Arthurton: The whole premise of Old Chicks Know Shit—and it’s the K-N-O-W not N-O—is about what we know because in a society where women over 50 are deemed less relevant, less valuable because of the way that we look, that we can’t have kids anymore, all of that kind of thing, the whole premise is it’s not about what’s happening outside of us. It’s about what we know because that’s where our power is. 

That knowing—and this is the thing, every one of my clients come to me with the question, “What’s next? Where do I go from here?” I direct them back in because they, everybody knows the answer. Everything we need is already inside of us. Our job is to tune in and learn to listen to it. 

(18:27) Doreen Downing: Oh, I love it. I love it. I love it. I can’t tell you how much I’m so happy that you’re saying what I want people to hear about turning in, as opposed to looking outward for the answers. 

So, you’re talking about a client coming to you. How would you suggest that they go in? How do you guide them then? Listening to what’s in. 

(18:48) Jennifer Arthurton: We all live extremely busy lives. Most of us are scheduled from the minute we wake up till the minute we go to bed. We’re constantly consuming a million pieces of information and a million thoughts. 

I encourage people to carve out some time, the first thing in the day or wherever is a quiet time, and literally begin by spending five minutes with yourself. That could be like, no TV, no phone, no book, no nothing. Just sit. It could be having coffee before your kids or the rest of your house gets up. It could be going out and sitting in your yard or going for a walk in nature, but just carving out a small chunk of time where there is no outside interruption.

So that you can—just for a second. Here. You could even ask yourself questions like how are you today? What is it that you need? It really is about building a relationship with yourself just like you would build a relationship with somebody outside of you. It begins by asking small questions, listening for the answers. 

And then building on that and deepening the relationship. But it really is about cultivating a relationship. You have to be intentional about it. You have to make time for it. Just like you would any relationship in your life. 

(19:57) Doreen Downing: Yes. Oh, that’s so wise. Taking yourself to a silent, still moment, or taking yourself to a moment where you can drop down into stillness and to listen deeply into, and ask the question, be curious. 

The whole wisdom that you just gave us about, it’s a relationship, folks. It’s with yourself. No matter what is inside, there’s got to be something. I talk about the essence, and it’s like we have a jewel. All of us have that in our core.

And if we can remember that inside, we’ve got this brilliance—and there’s so many people nowadays who, not nowadays, but just through time that just don’t really have that belief that inside is this beautiful, bold, brilliant person, so thank you so much for pointing to that. 

So, you’ve explained a little bit about how you work. How do people find you? Say a little bit more about what’s going on for you currently. 

(21:00) Jennifer Arthurton: You can find me on my website, which is oldchicksknowshit.com. That’s K-N-O-W-S-H-I-T dot com. I also have a podcast of the same name. And then I’m on Instagram, Facebook as well, and basically that’s where I live.

I love the community that I have built on social media platforms. It’s been so good. And this was the beautiful part for me. When I was in the middle of my reinvention, I felt very alone in it, in that it was a “me” problem like there was something wrong with me. 

When I started using my voice and writing and publishing the blog for Old Chicks Know Shit, what I started to realize—it wasn’t just a “me” problem. It was a “we” problem that none of us were really talking about, so as women, we were taught to make it all look pretty on the outside. Don’t ask for help. 

When I opened the door to that conversation, all of a sudden, the floodgates opened and I realized that there’s this time of life where we are pulling back our energy from everything that happens outside of us. Maybe our career is on autopilot, our kids don’t need us anymore, our relationships are on autopilot or maybe have ended, some relationships have changed, and all of a sudden, we start pulling this energy that we’ve scattered all over the place back to ourselves and we feel the calling. We feel the pull of it, but we don’t know what to do with it.

It’s about really going inwards and saying, “What’s important to me? What feels true to me? What do I want?” And then redirecting the energy in that way. What is so powerful to watch is when midlife women become focused on something that matters to them, like deeply matters to them, they do incredible things in the world.

They’re not starting businesses and new careers and stuff, because they want fame and fortune and all of that stuff, which again, there’s nothing wrong with and everybody deserves to be paid very well for what they do, but what their primary motivation is about solving a problem. Helping somebody else making the world a better place. 

Unleashing that power, on top of all of the knowledge and wisdom and experience that we have acquired by this point of our lives, midlife women are a powerful force to be reckoned with as soon as we can turn from the outside to the inside.

Because if we’re focused on the outside, and it tends to be a time of loss, like we don’t look like we used to, hormones are changing, menopause, all of these things, bodies are changing, if we’re focused on everything, we perceive that we’re losing, we’re missing the huge power that resides inside of us. By turning that energy into us, basically anything is possible. 

(23:32) Doreen Downing: You are such a motivator, and I just understood myself a little bit more too about my own journey, which was later in life, facing my fear of speaking up in public, and really hiding behind the PhD, the degrees. What a whole different world it is now for me to be on the other side of that fear that I had.

I had to actually step toward it. That’s something I want to leave people with today. What Jennifer’s talking about is the going within. Yes, there’s fear, but inside is also this beautiful, brilliant, powerful—and what you said, Jennifer, that’s the most powerful energy that we’ve got. All of our life experience lives inside of us and we can stand up and make a difference.

Well, we’re almost done. I want to give you the opportunity just to take a breath and notice what you might want to share at this moment as we come to a close today, having our conversation. What comes up for you to share? 

(24:39) Jennifer Arthurton: My mission in life is for all midlife women to feel empowered. Rather than looking at this time of life as being at the beginning of the end, I want people to look at it as a new beginning. So, that’s pretty much the work that I do. It’s what I cover on the podcast. 

One of the things that I am most lit up about these days is a group that I have called the Maven Collective, which is a group of smart, powerful, ambitious women who are reinventing themselves and their lives in this next chapter. 

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of the collective, of us being better together than we are on our own. And having faced the first part of my journey, feeling very alone, and feeling like I was the only one struggling with it, when I realized that I had sisters who were doing this along with me, gave me the energy to keep going on the days that I was really struggling with fear or doubt. 

That’s what I’m creating now for other midlife women, so that they can feel seen and supported and not feel alone on this journey to becoming like their highest and best, and really living their best next chapter because from 50 to 80, we have what, 30 years, maybe we have 40 years. That’s a long, long chapter, like the longest of our lives yet, and we get to choose what it is that we want. We get to have what it is that we want in this chapter of life. 

(25:59) Doreen Downing: Thank you for being such a clear bell here that rings out to possibilities for us. Thank you so much. 

(26:08) Jennifer Arthurton: You’re most welcome. Thank you for having me.

Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.