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The Invisible Midlife Woman

Why you don’t need to fade to grey in midlife

Image: Shutterstock

The invisible midlife woman. That’s how I felt when I woke up on my birthday a few years ago. I was edging nearer to 50 than 40 and had just completed a tough 2-year rehab programme after a spinal injury and had effectively lost my job.

Quite frankly, I was exhausted and at the time couldn’t even think about ‘what next?’.  There’s no doubt that all these events were influencing my mindset, but I couldn’t otherwise clearly define why I felt the way that I did.

That feeling led me down a long path to explore why I was feeling invisible and for me, it distilled down to 3 key elements of the emotional, mental, and physical impacts on my wellbeing.

My journey isn’t complete, it doesn’t necessarily need to be. But, I’m more aware of how those feelings impact my wellbeing and my mood and what I can do about it.

So, whilst I can easily identify with Sarah Vine’s take on things in her article on the invisible middle-aged woman, I don’t think that our superpower needs to be invisibility.

What’s your experience of midlife and feeling like ‘invisible midlife woman’?

Each woman’s experience is unique. You may be at the top of your career, you may be struggling or feeling like you’re fighting to be heard and valued, or you may be considering a return to work after a break, considering entrepreneurship or taking an early retirement.

Whatever your situation, the sense of invisibility that you’re feeling centres around your sense of self and the reality of your life in relation to the expectations that you have or had.

Emotional and Mental Health in midlife:

Midlife emotional and mental health can feel like a painful, tiring journey. And, whilst we can’t stop getting older, it is within our power as midlife women to influence how we age and not feel invisible!

So, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you feeling like you’re ignored and that what you have to say isn’t relevant or isn’t heard?
  • Are you noticing physical changes in you that make you feel less confident?
  • Do you feel more dried up and washed up than energised, wise and ready to rock this next phase of your life?
  • How many of your habits and behaviours are tied to pleasing others and seeking validation for who you are, rather than focusing on what feels right for you?
  • Do you find yourself experiencing more anxiety?

Self-doubt, anxiety, and feeling less confident in who we are can be emotionally crippling for anyone, and when you’re a midlife woman there are valid reasons for this happening.

The physical and emotional changes in midlife are real, and so are the social, and financial challenges that can happen.

From the impacts of perimenopause and menopause, you also have other factors at play including:

  • The ’empty nest’ and supporting children through university
  • Juggling that with potentially caring for elderly parents and
  • Managing your own health needs.

It can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Is it really any wonder that you can end up feeling like a shadow of yourself and very much the invisible midlife woman!

But before we go any further, I want you to remember one thing. Don’t devalue yourself!

You are an incredible woman who is wise, valued and relevant to those people that you choose to have in your life.

Invisible to Valued and Visible:

You might not want to take it to the extreme of embracing purple hair or ‘wearing the rainbow’ everyday, but sartorial preferences aside, you can utilise tools and resources that will help you feel valued and visible.

Part of me being a women’s health and wellbeing coach is to ask questions.

Sometimes those questions create more questions, and they’re designed to create a sense of self-exploration and discovery within you. And that’s what I’d recommend you start with.

Ask yourself questions and keep asking them.

Be curious, be persistent and be honest with yourself. Start with these questions:

  1. What in your life makes you feel strong?
  2. What makes you happy?
  3. What makes you feel miserable?
  4. What do you want your purpose and subsequently personal legacy to be? The answer to this one might take a while to figure out!

From those questions you can start to see where that feeling of invisibility may be coming from for you, and what you might want to explore when it comes to creating your ‘happy’.

Here are 8 things that you can do today to start your journey from invisible to visible and valued:

  1. Prioritise you. So, when the dishwasher needs unloading but it’s gorgeously sunny and you’d prefer to go for a walk, do it! The dishes and dishwasher can wait.
  2. Involve others and engage with them. Your partner, family and loved ones can’t help if they aren’t aware of what’s going on internally for you. Rather than head rapidly toward a proverbial meltdown, start with small conversations.
  3. I recommend reading ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman which can help you and your loved ones explore how to best help and support each other.  
  4. Do something new to help you rediscover your curiosity. It can be something as simple as finding time to read a good book or potentially something more radical like planning a return to work, course of study or changing career.
  5. Seek out uplifting moments. No matter how dire things feel, and when ‘light moments’ don’t feel possible, seek them out . If your default feels like sinking down to the ground and sobbing, choose differently. Dance, watch your ‘go to’ feelgood movie, or even sing to your dog (yes, I have done that – he thought it was a new game!)
  6. Support your girlfriends. Remind them how incredible they are and what they mean to you. Don’t underestimate how powerful a simple text to ask how they are can be. Remember as well that friends come in different forms. Friends
  7. Show up and speak up, positively. I know from personal experience how easy it is to hide away and keep quiet when your confidence is low, and you feel invisible. It’s that sense of feeling safe, but also feeling lonely. This might take many small steps, but now is not the time to hide.
  8. Dress to impress (yourself). In other words, wearing clothes that give you confidence and that feel comfortable can be incredibly liberating and confidence boosting.

Invisible midlife woman: a personal experience

When I recently moved house, I realised I was feeling invisible again! In our previous location I had shifted down so many gears I didn’t recognise myself. I was:

  • Wearing clothing that didn’t feel right for me, my skin had reacted to the stress of moving, and I felt like I had aged 10 years.
  • Losing some of my normal confidence being out there in the world as a wellbeing coach and felt like I was losing myself, prioritising everything and everyone but me.
  • Feeling like I didn’t have anything useful to say or couldn’t articulate what I wanted to say.
Invisible midlife woman to visible, valued and awesome.
Image: Shutterstock

The Invisible Midlife Woman: A Personal Plan for Visibility

If I was feeling invisible, how could I help my clients? These are some of things that I’ve put in place using my own wellbeing resources and knowledge which includes:

  • Re-introducing my ‘alone time’. A daily half hour just for me and no-one else. No phone, no e-mail. Totally off grid!
  • Putting colour back into my wardrobe, making a regular effort to dress to impress myself. The boost it has given me is immense.
  • Creating a wellness vision board with a healthy skin plan, and an action plan for improving my physical stamina and resilience.
  • Refining services to offer coaching exclusively for busy midlife women who want to feel fantastic, and to reflect the things that are important to me such as health equality.

Further Help and Resources

My personal action plan couldn’t have been put in place without the help of a supportive partner, a few great friends, a brilliant GP and patience.

Changing the route of your life journey and breaking away from those things and people who make it harder is never easy. So having a helping hand to make change is vital.

I’m here to help and would love to be part of your journey to being valued and visible. Book in for virtual coffee to see how we could work together.

And in the meantime, if you are struggling and need immediate help please speak to your GP and/or contact one of the organisations listed below:

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/

Woman’s Trust (support for domestic abuse) https://womanstrust.org.uk/

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