Invisible Woman Syndrome is currently being discussed in the media, with women of a certain age complaining that they no longer get attention anywhere. A recent article in The Daily Telegraph included an interview with Nikki Parkinson of Styling You where she affirmed the syndrome is alive and (un)well amongst her followers.
A read of the comments following the Telegraph article is saddening to say the least, but Nikki hits the nail on the head: “As women, we are always going to have negative thoughts — they’re always there in the back of our minds,” she says. “But we need to learn to flick them away and focus on the positive.”
I could not agree more; being visible is a choice we each make every day and in every interaction, and it really has nothing to do with age. We all have a negative voice inside our heads which talks us down; “you’re fat”, “you’re old” “you look like mutton dressed as lamb”. We need to tell that internal critic to “SHUT UP” or similar words and learn to tell ourselves more loving messages. Corny as it sounds, standing in front of the mirror and saying “I am beautiful” really can work – but at first you will need to push aside that negative voice that will no doubt tell you that you are a) ugly and b) narcissistic.
Some of us also have negative people around who puff themselves up by putting others down. If you find yourself in that position, it’s time to either find new friends or have a firm talk to those who put you down. True friends will always point out the positive – even if they don’t like your choice of outfit they will comment on something they do like – the colour, your legs, your hair. They will gently encourage you to look and feel your best.
And please, don’t read all those articles telling you that at a certain age you can no longer wear …. Wear what you like, what makes you feel good and feel confident. In my 60s I find myself making braver choices than when I was younger – purple glasses, distressed jeans, bright red lipstick. I have no desire to look like a granny or be treated like one. In fact, I would say I am more visible now than when I was younger; I am certainly more confident. I’m not suggesting that you should dress like Iris Apfel (that’s all a bit much for me) but you have to give her credit that in her 90s she certainly isn’t invisible. Oh and if you like her style, then go for it, it isn’t for me to decide or judge.
When it comes down to it, it will be up to you to stand up straight, look the world in the eye and demand attention. You need to project confidence even if you don’t feel it, for surely if you don’t do so you will be ignored. You may indeed need to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’.
I do hear tales of women being ignored in stores and in general, and we are certainly not well represented in the media or on catwalks and advertisements for clothing (although that too is changing for the better). I can affirm that in the corporate world women are still often ignored in meetings. That is an issue for another time but let’s be clear, it is not an age-related behaviour.
I can honestly say I have never been ignored when I have been shopping – no wait, just like everyone else I am often ignored in a certain department store but that’s because there are so few staff on the floor; I certainly don’t take it personally. I don’t tend to shop in any of the stores focussed on teenagers and much younger women; I know the brands that work for me and that is where I shop.
I know my own economic value too, for heaven’s sake middle-aged women are a powerful economic force. Own that, and if you are not being looked after in a store, make your feelings known in any way you see fit, walk out, and take your money to a business that will treat you with the respect you deserve. Step into your power!
Because we do have economic power, and brands are increasingly reaching out to the market of mature women. No, it isn’t happening everywhere but it is happening so why not support those brands that support us. If you need inspiration I recommend you get online on Instagram and Pinterest and follow some of the beautiful older women on those pages.
This submission was first published here.