In her Huff Post 50+ article, Women Over 50 Are Invisible? I Must Have Missed The Memo, Erica Jagger asks “Here’s an if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest question: if society didn’t tell older women they were invisible, would older women still feel invisible?” She shares her surprise at another over-50 writer’s depressing acceptance/submission to the idea that women of a certain age have little value or appeal.
When something is invisible, it is unable to be seen, unobservable, the opposite of detectable, obvious, visible. Sometimes, as in films, comics and other media, invisibility happens through magical means (or like the Wizard of Oz, simply with the aid of a curtain) and can be a desired state.
I address this timely issue and perspective in my forthcoming newest book, The Ageless Way, as evidenced in the italicized excerpts below:
One of the biggest fears we have about aging is of becoming invisible, irrelevant to the world. Women, who are valued for their appearance first and foremost in our society, tend to feel this diminishment more acutely than men as they age.
The negative side of being invisible is clear to most of us. The world no longer seems to notice or care about us or what we have to say. We seem to lose our voice because no one is listening. Sometimes, we don’t even use our voice because we don’t believe we’ll be heard, so why bother? Being invisible contributes to the vexing problem of low self-esteem, robbing women of the confidence they need to stand up and make a difference.
But there is a positive side to being invisible, as Doris Lessing captures so eloquently, “And then not expecting it, you become middle-aged and anonymous. No one notices you. You achieve a wonderful freedom. It is a positive thing. You can move about, unnoticed and invisible.”
Lessing had it right that there is a power to being able to work behind the scenes and make change without worrying about our own egos. We have the ability to go with the flow of nature, of life, and the profound opportunity to influence others to make earth-shattering changes without anyone even realizing we are doing so.
Thus, we women must step forward today and act on our power to make a difference—through our votes, purchases, leadership, vision, and yes, entrepreneurial success. Striving for meaningful, sustainable, and profitable success is necessary if we are to have the resources and power to lead significant change—at any age and for all ages.
The challenge is to balance the invisible and the visible, to know when we need to work behind the scenes and when we need to speak up and be heard—be present. We need to learn how to marry our invisible power with our visible, visionary leadership.
We need to lead the way toward women being a powerful presence for change without losing the invisibility required to effect that change. I suggest we start by recognizing the power of invisibility in the first place and understanding that to be invisible doesn’t mean to be inadequate or without value or voice—just the opposite.
Invisibility is inherently powerful. By understanding and learning how to use this power, we will begin to see more clearly the times when stepping out of the shadows will make remaining in the shadows the only way to shine a light on a future that matters, to all of us.
In what circumstances have you felt invisible? Most visible? When have you best balanced being visible and invisible?
(NOTE: If you want to learn more about The Ageless Way, or to order an advance copy, please contact me at Karen@KarenSands.com)
(Image Credit: Photo by Clarita on morgueFile).