“I feel invisible!”
Have you ever been ignored at a restaurant? Or fail to be attended to at your favorite store? Do you feel like the world suddenly changed and you start to feel like you’re fading away? Like many women facing their midlife, this has been a sad reality.
No one likes to feel invisible. As humans, it is important for us to be recognized. And for most of our early stages in life, we work at being relevant and respected. But sadly, this creeping feeling of slowly becoming invisible grows as we get older.
To grow older is the natural course of life and there is no reversing it. Instead of dreading it, it's actually a time to celebrate the fullness of finally being able to grow into your true self. So how come many women still fear growing old?
The “Invisible Woman” Syndrome
What you’re feeling is perfectly valid and very real. It’s so real that they’ve coined this social phenomenon as the “Invisible Woman” Syndrome.
Just as the name suggests, this syndrome describes women in their 40s and beyond experiencing the lack of attention and feeling irrelevant. It especially affects older women who, because of societal norms, begin to disappear from public view – in restaurants, shops, TV, media or just in everyday life – simply because of their age.
In a 2018 study, sixty-seven percent of women said that they no longer received the attention they once did when they reached their 40s with the age 45 being the peak of this decline. The poll also found that there was increased pressure for both men and women to look good in their 40s because of social media.
The results came from a survey by Dr. Julian De Silva of the Centre of Advanced Facial Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery.
Why does this happen?
We’re painfully aware through history that it has mostly been a man’s world. Thankfully, that is beginning to change. In earlier times, women were traditionally expected to be attractive and/or fill the role of becoming a mother. Once these “roles” are done or lapsed, women often lose influence and start to be ignored thus feeling “invisible.”
However, this doesn’t have to be the fate of any woman approaching her midlife.
According to Alison Carper, a psychologist who practices in New York, if a woman is complicit to the society’s idea that women are to be objectified – that is viewing herself as an object – she cannot help but be painfully aware when society says that “object” is no longer desirable or relevant.
She says, “As humans, we all need to be recognized, but as we grow older, the manner of recognition we search for can change. A subject is someone who experiences her own agency, who is aware of how she can and does have an impact on others and how she is, ultimately, the author of her own life. She is aware of the responsibility this carries.”
Essentially, it means that without her self-esteem intact, a woman is susceptible to objectifying herself according to what current society dictates.
The Absence of Representation in Media
It doesn’t help that culturally, there is a glaring absence of representation of mature women in media. According to a study most films tend to portray older women as senile, frumpy or feeble.
While this is certainly not the case, this reinforces the perception of mature women in society as irrelevant or not worthy of attention.
Even Hollywood actresses have begun to speak out on the ageism that pervades the showbiz industry. Maggie Gyllenhaal once revealed that she wasn’t cast because she was too “old” to play the lover of a 55-year old man. Similarly, Olivia Wilde was turned down for a role in Wolf of Wall Street despite being a decade younger than leading man Leonardo DiCaprio.
It’s no wonder that many women today fear getting older. There is a huge lack of visible life for women beyond their late 30s. But as it turns out, it can actually be quite liberating and enjoyable. Thanks to the internet and women speaking out, society is beginning to be aware that midlife and beyond isn’t as irrelevant as was perceived to be.
Refuse to be Invisible
As many accounts have proven, mature women no longer have to fade in the background. What matters is how you perceive yourself.
Natalia Borecka, EIC of Lone Wolf Magazine, writes “To age, to mature, to grow into your skin is part of the process of becoming the person you were always meant to be. By diverting precious energy from that natural growth process to focus instead on maintaining any semblance of youth, you sacrifice a critical sense of self. This is the natural trajectory of identity formation.”
She continues, “A fully formed mature woman is at the peak of her sense of self. She is literally the best self she will ever be – she is less likely to be pushed around, she knows what she needs to be happy and how to negotiate for those things.”
Here are some ways to start on the path to feeling more visible.
1. Stay Open To New Opportunities
You never know what experiences can come from trying out something new. Explore what you’ve always wanted to do compared to what you needed to do. Learn a new skill, start a new hobby, take a class. You may be surprised where these paths can take you!
2. Practice Gratitude
To live another day is always a gift. Take time to appreciate the things around you, the relationships you have and the opportunities that can unfold.
Learning to be grateful for what you have is a great start to get in touch with your spirituality as well. Solidifying your relationship with your soul and beliefs can help you feel invincible and less likely to get pushed around.
3. Practice Self-care
Now more than ever is a good time to focus on your health. Exercise and watching what you eat is a great way to inject the right hormones into your body so you can feel more confident and radiant than ever before.
Also, take advantage of all the natural products that can make a positive impact on your life. As the first barrier against the elements, it’s a good idea to take care of your skin. Choose wisely and find the most effective items that can help bring out your inner glow.
4. Practice Self-love
Embrace how you look and experiment with other styles. You may have been pegged down to templates and trends in your younger years, but you don’t have to follow those anymore.
Find your own style, express your own ideas, experiment with new makeup. Once you don’t have to follow traditional standards, the possibilities are endless!
5. Nurture connections especially with family
The people you surround yourself with have a powerful impact on how you perceive life. People’s abilities and attitudes are infectious, so be mindful of who you keep in your circle.
Start with family. Nurture the connections you have with them because there are more chances that they will be there for you no matter what.
6. Recognize your wisdom and share it
You haven’t reached midlife without learning a thing or two. There’s a bounty of experiences, stories and learnings that you’ve accumulated over the years and it's worth sharing.
Historically, people usually sought the wisdom of the older members of society. While the age of information has changed how we learn things, nothing beats your personal experiences and stories that can prove to be invaluable to the youth today. Why not start a blog or a youtube channel to share all of your knowledge and experiences?
It’s All in the Mind
At the end of the day, the feeling of being invisible primarily depends on you. There’s no way to shift society’s values overnight. The best route would be to shift your attitude about yourself from being invisible to living loud and proud.
Once we realize this, our perception of aging can dramatically change. Aging is the natural way of life and how we approach it depends entirely on us. We can even go so far as to be pro-aging and explore the vast possibilities that lay before us.
50s influencer and YouTube content creator Schella Fowler says, “…we think that it’s other people’s thoughts and it's other people’s actions that create who we are, and it's not.”
She continues, “You’re only invisible because you say so. Everything about your life is what you say to yourself.”
Growing older has ideally endowed you with your own voice. Use it because you are relevant and you deserve to be heard.
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