Invisible No More

A friend sent me the following message over the weekend:

I read an article today describing the feeling that professional women often have as they age whereby they feel as if they become invisible.  The author’s description helped me to verbalize my own feelings of invisibility – with TSA agents, bartenders, other service personnel – they honestly do not see me.  How can I and other women change this through our professional interactions so that we are less transparent to others?

This is a big deal!  Nobody wants to feel invisible.  There is a general feeling that, as we age, we increasingly want to remain relevant, respected and connected to the world around us.  We don’t want to be relegated to the sidelines as “has-beens” or being perceived as “too old” or “too out of touch.”  We want to feel fit and attractive and seen.  And, by the way, I don’t think this feeling is limited to women only, though I do think that men, in many ways have it a touch easier based on social norms, access to capital and professional power dynamics.  Assuming, though, that gender dynamics are secondary to this issue, and with appreciation to my friends Karen H., Peggy R. and Allan K. for helping me to think through this, allow me to address it generically with a few ideas for consideration.

  1. Refuse to be invisible. Engage people.  Look them in the eye.  Ask questions.  Get people talking.  If age is a factor when the conversation starts, it will quickly fall away as the discussion shifts energy and attention to other topics of interest.
  2. Value the energy of youth… offer the wisdom of maturity. As you age, get to know and interact with younger people.  Their energy, their knowledge of technology, their feet-on-the-street understanding of popular trends and themes will help to keep you young.  By the same token demand of them an opportunity to share your considerable insights based on years of experience and knowledge.  Your mutual respect will yield less invisibility and a deeper understanding for a host of topics and issues.
  3. Surround yourself with many types of people. Younger… older.  Women… men.  People of various professions and interests.  Locals and transplants to your area.  You get the point.  By gathering a collection of diverse individuals in your relationship base, you will become a hub of knowledge and know-how, you will be their go-to person, it will be impossible for you to be invisible as you are the key curator of a beautiful, varied community.
  4. Recognize that appearance does matter. OK, I know this is going to make some readers angry or uncomfortable, but I think it would be inauthentic not to address it.  As the conventional beauty of youth fades, we must take measures to keep ourselves visibly healthy and put together.  That means, start with exercise and eating right.  Also, as ever, we must ensure that we are appropriately groomed – hair, nails, makeup, clothing, shoes, et al.  By the way, professionals can help – hair stylists, nail operators, personal shoppers – don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
  5. Don’t allow others to feel invisible. If you dislike that feeling of invisibility, ensure that others don’t have to suffer through it either.  Bring people in.  Make them feel welcomed and important and relevant.  Your kindness shan’t be forgotten.

Have you ever felt invisible?  How did you deal with it?  What was the approach you took to become more opaque in the eyes of those around you?  Your insights would be greatly valued at

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