The Common Experience of Being Invisible
A Pew Research survey found that women in our culture are primarily appreciated because of their appearance. Men, however, are more commonly valued for other attributes such as character. Once women reach their fifties, our appearance can start changing fairly quickly. Once we lose our youthful looks, we may start feeling invisible. Men may also start feeling invisible after fifty, though it is generally women who tend to talk about this experience.
About two years ago, I wrote To Be or Not to Be Invisible After Sixty for an online site called Sixty and Me. Last week, I discovered that the site republished my piece.
As a communication professional, I wrote about what I knew. I focused on specific nonverbal behaviors, including dress, posture, tone, eye contact, etc. that we could use to command attention when we wished to do so. I also referenced Amy Cuddy’s 2012 TED Talk, Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.
Reactions to a Shared Experience
A number of women shared their experiences with me about feeling invisible and also told me that they were going to use some of the communication strategies I had suggested. I was both delighted and honored that these women had taken the time to share their thoughts with me. I also had an “ah-ha” moment when I read some of the comments.
Our Unique Perspectives
I realized that even though I had immersed myself in the field of communication for several years, I had gotten to a point where whatever I was writing or teaching about my discipline felt commonplace to me. I felt like much of what I had spent a good part of my life learning was commonplace to others as well.
For the past few months, I’ve been struggling with writing a book for women over fifty about the challenges and opportunities in the second half of life. I was having difficulty focusing.
Thanks to the feedback I received, I have a much clearer focus. My working title is Beyond Magical Thinking: Communication Issues and Strategies for Women 50+ in the Workplace & Beyond. I realize my title will likely change as I refine my work. But I do know this–I will be writing about something that I know.
I suspect a lot of us forget that we each have unique contributions we can make for the greater good. We have knowledge from our experiences and areas of expertise, we have talents and skills that we can share, and we each have unique perspectives. Further, when we are willing to share our unique contributions, it can give us a sense of purpose or mission.
The Importance of Feedback
Feedback is also an important part of sharing what we have to offer. Feedback can help us refine our thoughts and grow. My own rule of thumb on feedback is to look for consistency. If a dozen people tell me that something I shared was helpful but one person says that what I shared “sucks swamp gas,” then I don’t focus on that outlier comment.
When it comes to aging, we’re all pioneers in a sense—it’s new to all of us. We need each other. We need to share what we know and offer feedback and support when we can. If you do want to share some of your insights on this site, let me know. In the meantime, I’m going to keep working on my book. Once it starts taking form, I’ll share some of my progress with those who might be interested.