Why feeling invisible is a common experience for midlife women and mums
Feeling invisible, overlooked, ignored, or unnoticed by others is something we can all experience at some point during our lives. It can manifest in any area of our life, whether in our relationships, work, or social interactions.
Being aware of feeling invisible is the first step toward addressing it effectively.
This can often be felt more acutely by women, especially those in midlife or beyond. Society often places less value on women as they age, which can contribute to feelings of invisibility, This can be felt particularly in our careers, but can be present in all aspects of our lives.
Society often values youth and beauty over wisdom and experience, contributing to feelings of invisibility for older women. There is certainly growing awareness around this and many speaking out, but there is still some way to go!
It is also true that women who take on caregiving roles, such as being a stay-at-home mom, can feel particularly invisible and undervalued. From my own experience, having been a SAHM whilst also having various iterations of a flexible career from volunteering to my own business, I have very rarely been asked about what I do, particularly by men. This may be a polite form of not intruding, but I sense that I would have been asked more eagerly if I were a man.
Invisibility is perhaps more acute in the workplace, particularly for mothers. Mothers are 79% less likely to be hired and 50% less likely to be promoted compared to childless women. Having childcare responsibilities (which still fall 50% more to women than to men) or the possibility of having children still significantly affects women´s careers and our visibility in the workplace. Having fewer women, particularly in midlife or in senior positions in turn can mean fewer role models and support mechanisms in place.
This is compounded by women are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome, feeling like they don’t belong or aren’t qualified for their job or position (even more so for women of colour). Even if we are qualified or even over qualified!
Recognising the signs of feeling invisible
Several factors can contribute to us feeling invisible, including:
- Lack of recognition and attention from others: When our achievements, opinions, or presence go unnoticed or unacknowledged, it can lead to feelings of insignificance.
- Low self-esteem: A negative self-perception can make it challenging to believe in our own worth and presence, leading to a sense of being invisible.
- Social isolation: Limited social interactions or a lack of meaningful connections can contribute to feeling unseen or overlooked.
- Ageism or discrimination: Stereotypes, biases, or discriminatory attitudes based on age, gender, race, or other factors can make individuals feel marginalised and invisible.
- Mental health issues: Conditions such as depression, anxiety, or social anxiety can intensify feelings of isolation and invisibility.
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.
– Alice Walker
The impact of feeling invisible on mental health and wellbeing
Feeling invisible can have various detrimental effects on our well-being, including:
- Negative impact on mental health: Prolonged feelings of invisibility can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Decreased self-worth and confidence: Feeling unseen can erode our sense of self-worth, confidence, and belief in our abilities.
- Relationship problems: Feeling invisible within relationships can strain connections and hinder effective communication.
- Difficulty expressing oneself: The fear of not being heard or acknowledged may lead to self-censorship and difficulty expressing thoughts, opinions, or needs.
- Reduced motivation and productivity: Feeling invisible can dampen motivation, leading to decreased productivity and engagement in various areas of life.
Sadly, I could go on.
How to shift your mindset from feeling invisible to feeling empowered
I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.
– Charlotte Bronte
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling. Feeling visible and being bold is not going to happen overnight. But, we can commit to starting today and making some changes. Starting with remembering that each and every one of us are worthy.
Recognise your strengths, accomplishments, and the value you bring to the table. Make a list of these as it helps to really focus the mind. Think of over 30 things that make you who you are. You have a unique perspective, experiences, and talents that no one else possesses. Embrace your individuality, and understand that your presence matters.
Sometimes we can feel invisible because we have lost sight of who we are. Remembering our own individuality and uniqueness and seeing ourselves, or getting to know ourselves is a great place to start! This can be especially true for us mums as we often put others´ needs above our own and can lose sight of our own needs and desires (see also people pleasing).
I have often heard women say that they feel like something is missing in their lives. This, I believe, is often that we are missing. Seeing ourselves, embracing who we are, being fully present and visible to who we are! If we start with seeing our selves first, we can start to feel more visible.
We need to take a different approach, switch our mindset, decide to see ourselves and be curious about who we are and what we want. Starting today!
I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear.
– Rosa Parks
8 Small changes that we can make to increase visibility – personal life
The greatest gift you can give yourself is a little bit of your own attention.
– Anthony J. D’Angelo
So, how can we build on feeling visible again to ourselves and those around us:
- Take the time to get to know yourself again: As explained above, remember who you are, what you like, what you liked as a child, a teen, before kids. Think about your values and what is most important to you. Prioritise your self care and needs, remembering that you matter too.
- How do you feel after going on social media? Does it feel good to you and help your self esteem and confidence? Social media can exacerbate feelings of invisibility and comparison to others. Why not consider whether you want to put some boundaries in place around your social media usage, even if it is just an experiment.
- Positive self-talk and affirmations: Challenge negative self-perceptions by practicing positive self-talk and affirmations they reinforce your value and presence. How we talk to ourselves matters.
- Seeking professional help: Consider working with a psychologist/therapist, counsellor or coach who can provide guidance and support in addressing underlying issues contributing to feelings of invisibility and create a plan moving forward.
- Building a support system: If possible surround yourself with people who appreciate and validate you, fostering a sense of belonging and visibility. Even one or two people in your life that you feel supported to and valued by can be a strong foundation to start.
- Joining a community or group: Engage in activities or join communities (on or offline) where you can connect with like-minded individuals who appreciate your presence and contributions.
- Engaging in activities that boost self-esteem: Pursue activities that align with your passions and strengths, enhancing self-confidence and fostering a sense of visibility and fulfillment. It doesn´t have to be anything huge even cooking a new meal, making a choice to listen to our bodies or writing a poem can help us feel more connected to ourselves.
- It is important to recognise and address feelings of invisibility. Unfortunately this can be a common feeling. It is important to remember that you are not alone and don´t have to deal with it alone. Firstly have awareness around it so you can start to tackle it. It is okay to ask for help when you need it.
Tips for feeling more seen and heard in professional settings
As we have seen, feeling invisible can take a toll on our well-being, but it is not a permanent state. By understanding the causes and effects of feeling invisible, we can take proactive steps to overcome it. This can also be very important at work. Remembering first, that if we feel stronger in our personal lives it can help us be more visible at work.
Sadly, according to studies, only 29% of women feel valued and heard in meetings at work. Whilst not an encouraging statistic in itself, it shows that women feeling invisible at work is all too common. Therefore it is even more important that we not only bring awareness to our feelings around this, but that we support other women in the workplace too. By creating a supportive environment and standing up for each other at work it creates more space and opportunity for us to be more visible, together.
Why not experiment with being more visible with something smaller at work and build up to bigger things? Small acts of self-expression, such as wearing a bolder outfit, talking one on one to a colleague about an issue or concern can help us feel more visible. Take small steps in a way that feel comfortable for you. Seek advice from others and/or a mentor at work or in you friendship group or previous colleagues that may be able to help too. Build up your visibilty muscle to start speaking up, whether in conversations or meetings to be more visible and feel seen and heard.
In summary, combating feelings of invisibility involves recognising how you are feeling, reconnecting with yourself and your worth, connecting with others, prioritising self-care and starting to speak up for yourself. This is not an overnight transformation, but baby steps can make us stronger each day to feel more visible to ourselves and to those around us whether in our personal or work lives. By taking one or two of the steps above (or finding what works for you), you can improve your overall wellbeing and live life more authentically.
Remember, you are not alone, and you matter.
As always I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, ideas, feedback, questions on feeling invisible and how to make us feel more seen and heard and particularly what has worked for you. Please share in the comments below and also feel free to share this post if you feel it could resonate for someone else you know. If you would like to work more on being more visible to yourself or the world around you, please also feel free to reach out to have a chat by emailing me at: email@example.com.
Thank you so much for reading!