Being ignored or feeling invisible is hard to handle at any age but it seems more difficult to deal with especially in midlife when sexism and ageism tend to run on parallel roads.
You might be the 50-year-old woman often overlooked in the queue at the bar, the single over 40 who finds her dinner invitations declining with the absence of a mate, the senior professional who can’t land a job, or the mature lady who simply feels less attractive and important as she no longer ‘turns heads’ or gets ‘unsolicited attention’ from men.
Whatever your reasons for feeling irrelevant, fading into the background is not an option. Yes, in our society good looks and youth continue to be associated with respect, legitimacy, and power, however, our voices don’t age and feeling invisible is a condition we can change with time, effort and creativity.
Making your voice be heard again
We all deserve to be noticed and valued, but most of the time if we feel invisible to others it’s because we are invisible to ourselves: we ignore our own feelings, prioritising other people’s needs. This is something we might have experienced when very young but that’s not a good reason to keep feeling unimportant and being passive as we get older.
According to the late writer and feminist Francine du Plessix Gray, author of a controversial essay – ‘The Third Age‘ – written for The New Yorker Magazine in 1996 (and still very relevant):
If the gaze of others wanes, one might choose to acquire instead a deepened inward gaze, or intensify our observation of others, or evolve alternative means of attention-getting which transcend sexuality and depend, as the mentors of my youth taught me, upon presence, authority, and voice.
How to claim your power back
When we think about feeling invisible, it’s tempting to blame others but sometimes we might be those ones giving off unintentional cues that make others hesitant to engage with us or – even worse- take advantage of us.
Here are some simple ways to help you find your spark again.
- Take responsibility
Recognise that your actions are within your power. Feeling invisible can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe that you are unworthy of being noticed, you will be; time to embrace the possibility of improvement.
- Speak Up
You’re invisible because you’ve developed a habit of being passive. People often fade into social invisibility in order to avoid conflict. Learn to say “no”, develop the courage to be bold and ask for what you want. Stop pleasing people.
- Improve your awareness
Most of us get wrapped up in our own emotions: try looking at your situation from a different perspective and create a list of real-life examples. Are you having trouble getting people to pay attention to you at work or at home? Did others start to ignore you after a particular moment in time? In order to fix your problem, you first have to understand it.
- Create a wall of accomplishment
It’s a defence against doubt and negative thoughts. It will help you to find your inner courage and strength that you sometimes lose in the midst of life’s circumstances. You can either add snapshots of good moments, inspirational quotes, awards or diplomas.
- Step outside your comfort zone
Immerse yourself in conversation with strangers or test your boundaries by trying something new. Do something unusual to get some attention from people you will probably never see again. Keep these spontaneous actions positive. As Sarah Long, author of the book ‘Invisible Women‘ writes: “Whatever you think of Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon and Angela Merkel, they’re not sitting at home bemoaning their invisibility“.
Claim your power (and the right of ageing playfully) back now.