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Has Your Neon Faded to Neutral? Why So Many Women Are Feeling Invisible in Their Own Lives

By Kurt Smith September 12, 2023 Mindset

Let’s be honest – you’ve been the one keeping things running smoothly in the lives of your family for years. You’ve been partner, parent, taxi, cook, housekeeper, the only one who can keep the calendar, and likely in charge of food procurement. And that just scratches the surface.

Many of you have done this while managing a career or alone.

So, why, given the many roles a woman plays in life and the lives of others, do so many women end up feeling invisible as they age?

There was probably a time in life when you felt noticed. And appreciated. And desired. And interesting. You were like a neon sign, grabbing the attention of those around you.

But now it feels like you’ve faded into one of the many shades of neutral that walls are painted so they go unnoticed and don’t clash with the exciting interior design choices.


How Your Neon Became Neutral

Feeling invisible is a well-documented circumstance for women, and it becomes more and more common with age.

Although it can happen at any point, women in their 50s and 60s seem to be most affected, often reporting they feel:

  • Overlooked
  • Unseen
  • Undervalued
  • Unheard

The invisible woman phenomenon has even been referred to in the media, one of the most recognizable instances being Saturday Night Live’s Christmas skit, “Mom Got a Robe.”

A more recent example is demonstrated by Kathy Bate’s character in the upcoming Matlock reboot, saying, “There’s this funny thing that happens when women age – we become damn near invisible.”

But why? There are several reasons this can happen.

Societal Factors and Stereotypes

At the heart of the invisible woman phenomenon lie deeply entrenched societal norms and gender stereotypes that just won’t let go.

Throughout history, women have found themselves in roles primarily focused on caregiving, homemaking, and supporting others. As these traditional roles often happen behind the scenes, women can find themselves feeling sidelined and unappreciated for their contributions to both personal and professional realms.

Even though efforts to bury these stereotypes have made progress, they seem to have found a comfortable home in the world of seasoned women of a certain age. Too often, the women considered neon, i.e., vibrant, assertive, fun, and attractive, hit 50-60 and fade to neutral.

Media Representation

The media plays a pivotal role in shaping societal perceptions and standards. Although progress has been made, many media portrayals of aging women emphasize narrow definitions of beauty, success, and behavior.

Are you a ball-busting corporate exec or an overly sexualized cougar addicted to cosmetic surgery? If not, then who are you in your 50s-60s?

These limited portrayals are detrimental and exclude the truth of feminine experiences. The lack of relatable representation undermines women’s value and contribution and leaves many feeling irrelevant.

Microaggressions and Gaslighting

  • “You’re overreacting.”
  • “Is this a menopause thing?”
  • “Really? Is life that hard for you? You’re fine.”
  • “Stop being so dramatic.”
  • “Nothing’s changed – what are you complaining about?”

Subtle sexism and gaslighting can also erode a woman’s sense of visibility over time. Whether it’s being taken for granted and lack of appreciation, their opinions being dismissed, achievements downplayed, or ideas attributed to others, these microaggressions chip away at a woman’s self-esteem and make her feel unseen.

Compounding things turns into gaslighting, and results in a woman not being taken seriously when she expresses her feelings or stands up for herself.

These instances tend to intensify with age and accumulate, creating the sensation of invisibility.


Ageism is, unfortunately, real. And it can lead to a distressing experience for women as they age. Societal norms prioritize younger women, leaving those rising in wisdom feeling marginalized and neutral.

Let’s be clear – although common, the feeling of invisibility doesn’t happen to all women. When it does, however, it can cause significant unhappiness, distress and potentially lead to depression.

All the Feels of Feeling Invisible

I worked with a woman recently who’s been dealing with feelings of invisibility. She described it this way:

“I’m like the motor in the car. I make everything work, but no one notices me unless I’m on the fritz. No one says, ‘Whoa – I love your motor,’ or ‘What can we do to improve the motor’s life?’ And if the motor needs maintenance, no one says, ‘Aw, poor motor. Let’s give you some attention.’ Instead, they complain, saying, ‘GD motor!! You’re ruining my day; why can’t you work the way you’re supposed to?’ And God forbid anyone make the motor feel pretty!”

Can you relate? I found it to be an apt description. 

Other feelings that arise from feeling invisible include 

  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Feelings of uselessness and futility
  • Midlife crisis

All these feelings can be detrimental to not only mental health but physical health as well. 

Real Ways to Bring Back Your Neon

Although the invisible woman phenomenon is recognized as an issue, suggested solutions are high-level and superficial, creating more of an “industry” of self-care and girls-night-out ideas rather than real solutions. It’s the modern version of the make-her-life-easier-by-giving-her-a-new-vacuum.

Bath salts, lotions, and chardonnay don’t make women feel seen. And no woman has ever felt valued because someone gave her a new vacuum. 

But there are some ways that both a woman and the people who love her can help bring back the neon and make her feel more visible.

Things You Can Do to Feel Visible


To twist an old phrase, visible is as visible does. If you’re feeling like that motor no one sees, find ways to make them notice you. Express yourself through your appearance, style, and communication. Stay true to who you are while being open to updating your style to reflect your personality.

Learning Knows No Age

Continuing to learn new things will open up many doors. New interests mean meeting new people, having new conversations, and maintaining brain health and plasticity. So, take courses, attend workshops, or pursue certifications in areas that interest you.

Stay Tech-Savvy

Technology is a big part of modern life and not only makes life easier in many cases but can also be a creative and social outlet. Familiarize yourself with digital tools, social media platforms, and communication apps.


Some of you are saying, “Do you mean making friends?” Yes, but it’s more than that. Even if you’re retired, building and maintaining a solid network of contacts of all kinds is essential.

Attend professional and social events, join clubs or organizations, and connect with people in your field or areas of interest. Networking can lead to new opportunities and keep you connected with relevant trends.

Maintain or Improve Health and Wellness

Taking care of your physical and mental health is crucial. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep improve overall well-being. And these efforts can become a source of social engagement as well.


Getting involved in your community through volunteering or charitable work can help you feel more connected and relevant. It also allows you to make a positive impact on the lives of others and maintain a social network.

Embrace Change

Change is the only constant in life, so don’t be afraid of it. Adaptability is a skill that keeps you feeling visible and relevant. Rather than working against change, embrace it and move with it.

Maintain A Growth Mindset

“Growth mindset” may be the buzzword de jour, but it’s also important. Believe in your ability to learn and improve. A growth mindset encourages you to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles.

Share Your Wisdom and Experience

With age comes experience. Consider mentoring or coaching younger individuals. There’s an incredible shortage of those who can mentor, coach, and teach in various areas.

Cultivate Interests

Pursue hobbies and interests that you’re passionate about. Engaging in activities you love energizes you and connects you with like-minded individuals.

What Those Who Love You Can Do

Take Her Seriously

Being dismissed or taken too lightly can lead to someone feeling invisible.

Actively Listen

Show genuine interest in her thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Quality Time

Engage in activities you both enjoy, whether it’s going for a walk, cooking a meal, or watching a movie. This dedicated time helps build a stronger connection.

Express Gratitude

Let her know you appreciate her contributions and their individual strengths.

Show Affection

Physical touch can convey love and affection.

Acknowledge Effort

Recognize her effort, whether it’s work, parenting, household responsibilities, or personal hobbies.

Show Interest

Engage in conversations about her interests, hobbies, and passions. Show genuine curiosity and ask questions. People change over time – you may be surprised by what you learn.

Random Acts of Kindness

Surprise her with random acts of kindness that show you care.

The Shadows Are No Place for You

If you’ve felt like the invisible woman, the unrecognized motor, or like your neon has gone neutral, remember that your feelings are valid. You deserve to be seen, heard, and valued.

Although it may take time, you can and should make changes that bring you out of the shadows. But for changes to occur, you’ll need to take proactive steps toward addressing your feelings.

And no matter what anyone says, who you are and what you think has intrinsic worth. Just ask Kathy Bates. After remarking on the invisibility of women of a certain age, she goes on to point out that “It’s useful because nobody sees us coming.”

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you sometimes feel invisible? Does it feel like your neon has dimmed over the years? What have you done to make yourself feel more relevant and seen?

Please take the Sixty and Me 2023 Community Survey

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yes. I feel invisible..apparently I raised very self sufficient children..now they are grandparents and I feel really unneeded..case in point. granddaughter moving really far and I am NOT to feel upset…well I do…and yet I am not part of any discussion alttho’t his is a very painful parting for me..

Dr. Kurt Smith

Jeanne, I’m sorry to hear that your feelings aren’t heard or respected. Controlling or limiting the expression of feelings is a common strategy used by those who don’t know how to deal with them. I don’t know if this is part of the reason in your case, but it frequently is a primary reason for this kind of response.

Judith Louise

For the past 50 yrs my husband and I have lived a sustainable, self -sufficient lifestyle. Four years ago I was diagnosed with a rare spinal disease that means I don’t drive and can’t go shopping. I can’t travel on planes, a bus or in a car. Twenty years ago my husband became seriously ill. The way we live and the food we grow (fruit, veg, spice, herbs, cheese, bread, meat and fish) has given him the strength to battle health issues. For years we have taught hundreds and hundreds of people worldwide how to embrace a self-reliant lifestyle. Now, as age and health restricts us we have the wonders of You Tube and blogs. We are in the process of putting together a platform. We figured that we had a lot of experience to share and provide people with quick, inexpensive and simple steps to a sustainable lifestyle. As I write this, my husband is in the Intensive Care Unit of our regional hospital fighting for his life.

Dr. Kurt Smith

Judith, Wow – you both are inspiring. Looking to give to others even during a time when you’re needing.This kind of attitude is what brings a blessed life regardless of our circumstances. As soon as I finish typing this I’m going to pause to pray for you and your husband. Thank you for sharing.


Thank you. This validates some changes I’ve recently decided to make in my life in order to feel better all round about my life and myself. Excellent article.

Dr. Kurt Smith

Hi Lori, Glad to hear you’re already on the path to making changes. Always learning and growing is a key to happiness. Best wishes on building a better you.

The Author

Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director at Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching and works with men and the women who love them. He is an expert in understanding the unique relationship challenges facing couples today. Check out his weekly tips on Facebook or Twitter.

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