"Often now this body she wore (she stopped to look at a Dutch picture), this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing – nothing at all. She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown." - Virginia Woolf "Mrs. Dalloway."
Aging and invisibility seem to go hand in hand – at least according to many of the women I’ve talked to who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond.
Woolf seems to imply that one's identity is transient and, perhaps, even more so with age.
A survey by Gransnet shows the extent to which women feel unseen, overlooked, and patronized as they get older. According to the findings, 70% of women believe they become "invisible" as they get older, starting at around age 52.
Furthermore, around 64% feel that women tend to be less visible than men, putting the phenomenon squarely in society's obsession with youth and its penchant for being ageist and sexist.
But I don't want to lament society's ridiculous standards for relevance and visibility. Nor do I want to go along with the idea that women should just quietly and gracefully get into agreement with being invisible because they are aging. You know … by embracing her wisdom and self-awareness, etcetera, etcetera.
Those things are wonderful – and applicable, sure – but what I want to talk about today is aging and staying visible.
Living out loud.
Embracing life audaciously and allowing it to embrace you.
I have an elegant, beautiful friend in her late 60s who always says, "Screw aging gracefully! I'm fighting it every step of the way." Of course, she is joking, but at the same time, she is doing just that - and she is anything but invisible.
Here's the thing, Ladies. Visibility has everything to do with your mindset, style, and surroundings and absolutely nothing to do with your age.
Positive, vibrant women are never invisible, no matter what the birth date on their driver's license says.
So what's a girl to do?
Visibility is a Mindset
I once heard someone say that the word AGE is just an acronym for "Annually Gaining Enlightenment."
I love that!
As women age, they engage in a broader set of choices about when and how they are seen.
Like so many of my beautiful friends and colleagues – and the amazing women that I coach in the School of Self-Image – I wear many different, unique, and pleasurable hats:
On any given day I could don the hat of a mom, daughter, girlfriend, world traveler, master life coach, perpetual student, or a successful businesswoman – just to name a few.
I put energy and mindfulness into being a visible woman.
As a visible woman, I have maintained an empowering lifestyle, which means so many things:
- Participating in my personal development
- Staying centered, mindful, and ever conscious of my inner dialogue
- Cherishing myself
- Keeping promises to myself and to others
- Showing up for myself and others vibrantly and powerfully
If you ever find yourself feeling invisible at any age, or for any reason, it's up to you to find your gateway to visibility.
If you want to be "visible," start with the "invisible." Feeling relevant, meaningful, and valued is an inside job.
Visibility and Style
"The key to style is learning who YOU are!" - Iris Apfel.
There is a bounce in your step, and your laughter is contagious. You are visible because you are vibrant, charming, magnetic, and confident.
You have an opinion, a thought, or feeling, and you make yourself be heard.
You are confident because you know who you are and, more importantly, you love who you are.
Fashion is decoration for your outsides – You wear what you want because it makes you feel powerful, present, and sensational.
You wear what you want because it pleases you, not others.
Vibrant, visible women dismiss those antiquated ideas of what is "age-appropriate" and you should too. When you pull something you love off the rack, or out of your closet, and it makes you feel fabulous: embrace it, own it, and be visible in it.
There are dozens of fashionistas out there who are (sometimes decades) over their 40s or 50s, and they are wearing whatever makes their heart scream.
One such woman is Lyn Slater. Dubbed an "accidental icon" by her friend, the 68- year-old Fordham University professor was mistaken for a model outside of Lincoln Center during Fashion Week.
Photographers surrounded her and she was catapulted into fame. Today she is a fearless online fashion influencer – interestingly, most of her 750,000 + Instagram followers are among the younger generations.
And, style has so much more to do with than just what's in your wardrobe.
It's more about the attitude than the clothes – it’s about having no apologies for being a woman of a "certain age."
Surrounding Yourself With People and Situations That Make You Feel Visible and Relevant
A friend of mine once attended Burning Man when she was in her late 40s. She said she almost didn't go because her son said she was "too old for that."
At the end of the day, though, she refused to be shamed or patronized. She packed her tent, her beach cruiser, and her camping gear, and she headed for Black Rock City.
She called it the most freeing, beautiful, harsh, visually stunning, sensorial experience of her life. And, she said, there were PLENTY of people there who were well over 50 and beyond.
I have another friend in her late 30s who runs the Boston Marathon every year. She told me, "It's crazy how many women are out there running with me who must be in their 60s or 70s – maybe even their 80s!"
I got curious and Googled it. I found that the biggest group of participating women (about 60%) are in the 30 to 50 age bracket. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a statistic on runners over 50, but I did find this:
In 2004, Gladys Burrill ran her first marathon at the age of 86.
Now there's a gal who understood the importance of surrounding yourself with high vibe energy.
Surround yourself with people who see you, hear you, respect you, and inspire you. Get out your red-velvet rope policy and be mindful of who and what you allow in your world.
In doing so, you will center yourself and be visible.
Never be Complicit: Keeping Living Outloud
One of my all-time favorite quotes is by Émile Zola, who said — 'If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud.'
While it is true that there is a phenomenon called "the invisible woman syndrome," such a syndrome does not have to be your fate.
You get to decide your place in this world - not them.
Alison Carper is a psychologist who practices in New York. She opines that if a woman is complicit in a society where women are routinely objectified, she can't help but start to feel invisible when society says that the "object" is no longer desirable, relevant, or worthy of attention.
Carper says, "As humans, we all need to be recognized, but as we grow older, the manner of recognition we search for can change. A (woman 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."
A woman whose self-image is down will likely continue to objectify herself.
When you elevate your self-image, you elevate your life. You become – and stay – visible.
The Self-Image Manifesto
You’re Invited To Live An Extraordinary Life!
IF YOU LIKE IT, SHARE IT