No matter how many times I hear or read about this so-called phenomenon of older women feeling invisible, I refuse to accept it as a “thing.” I may be living in complete denial, but I am having none of it, just flat-out rejecting the whole notion as a possibility.
And I thought I could count on my best friend of 50+ years to stand with me on this. But just the other night, she called me and registered this very complaint, “I feel completely invisible when I go anywhere these days,” she said. “No one pays any attention to me anymore.”
Now, I’m not single as she is, so I can’t really speak to whether or not anyone would ever send longing gazes my way again, but she meant in her everyday encounters with store clerks, restaurant servers and people on elevators.
“Isn’t that your experience nowadays?” she asked.
My answer was a resounding “No!” I can honestly say I have never allowed myself to be treated as if I didn’t count, matter or exist (except by my own children of course!). I have never been accused of going away quietly in my life and I’m not about to start now. If they can’t see me, they are sure to hear me!
Seriously, though, maybe we do have to work a bit harder at it than we did when we were younger – and attention came easily by virtue of all our parts still being in their original positions – but we are still here and we are still powerful!
To get some back-up on my position, I turned to Jeanie Brosius King, a personal change specialist. She is also a life strategist, stand-up comedian and Unity minister among other things.
LG: Jeanie, what are the biggest myths about women and aging?
JK: Even though there has been a definite trend over the past couple decades towards our increased acceptance of ourselves as women who have logged a number of experiences and years, there is still an engrained myth that many of us have bought into that says we have less value as we pass our childbearing years.
For me, not worrying about becoming pregnant is a blessing! Seriously, though, if we devalue ourselves by trying to compete with young women, we are not only robbing them of our wisdom and understanding, we completely write ourselves off.
LG: if we have bought into the “invisibility” myth, how do we change that? And, it is a myth, not a truth, right?
JK: it’s only a truth if you say so! Truthfully, what do you believe? That’s what you’ll see reflected. I tell my coaching clients that our reality is a result of a 5-step process.
Jeanie continued by explaining this process:
Everything begins with a thought. Even the chairs we sit on began as a thought in someone’s mind. How big will it be? Does it swivel? Metal or wood?
That is followed by words. This includes our self-talk – critically important – and how we speak to others. Words are very powerful.
The next step is action. We look up the chair on the internet, or make a drawing of it or go get wood and a hammer and nails and begin to make the chair. In essence, we act as if something is so.
These all coalesce into belief. We are not born with our beliefs tattooed on the bottom of our feet. We choose them. I like to say that our beliefs are like printing out a big color picture and tacking it up onto the Creativity Wall. The creative mind notices it and says, “Hmm, there’s what Jeanie believes and is picturing. Let’s duplicate that.” It’s not punishment. It’s not reward. It’s duplication.
Then the 5th step is all this becomes our reality.
LG: You’ve had some powerful experiences using your thoughts to change your reality. Can you share one with us?
JK: When I was in college and a couple years after, I broke my back twice. A horse riding accident and a fall from a 50-foot cliff. I broke all sorts of other bones and was in a body cast and later a back brace. As a young mother, I could barely get out of bed. The doctor’s predictions were dire, telling me I’d need surgery and have severe arthritis by age 40.
One day I woke and said, as a good Texan, “This diagnosis and circumstance is B.S.!” I put my body and mind on notice that we’re not having this anymore. And guess what? I have zero back pain and no arthritis. None.
LG: Do we all have the power to change our reality?
JK: Absolutely! The biggest thing I had to change was my story. We are addicted to what I call our “Old Delicious Stories” and without even thinking, we just blurt them out and continue to live that reality.
I had loved to trot out that story because it had drama, intrigue, pain! But, by changing my story – my thoughts, words and actions – I changed my beliefs and ultimately my reality.
LG: How can we direct our thoughts to change the way society perceives us as women “of a certain age”?
Examine what you think about all day long. Is it worry, fear, anger, isolation? Or is it excitement, enthusiasm, joy, self-love? Remember, it all begins with thought. Then we support those thoughts, whether they are wanted or unwanted, with our self-talk and our words to others.
Put on the image you wish to portray and just see how things change. Everything in life is a reflection of how we believe it to be. Period.
LG: How can we set ourselves up for the best aging experience?
JK: You nailed it. We set ourselves up for any experience, from the best to the worst. We say things like, “I should act my age. I shouldn’t wear that perky dress or high heels at my age.” My retort is to stop “shoulding” on yourself. The word should has a resonance of fear, guilt, shame and judgment.
Change should to “could,” which opens all kinds of new ideas and ways of being. “I could wear that perky dress and high heels. I could act the age I believe myself to be. Yes, I could!” And while you’re at it, just forget “aging.” I prefer to focus on living life as my most authentic self and engaging with whoever crosses my path with grace, joy and love.
LG: Any final tips if we’re not satisfied with where we find ourselves in life?
JK: If you’re not satisfied with where you are or how you are being treated, it’s time to change that old delicious story of yours. And you do that by asking yourself, “Who do I think I am?” Adjust accordingly. And then choose to have a great life experience, starting here and now. Because you absolutely can!
Do you ever feel that you are invisible? Do you think that older women sometimes set themselves up to be ignored? What do you do in your life to stay engaged and involved? Please join the conversation.