Do you sometimes feel like no-one see you? Gilly Woo does. And she’s got a lot to say to you. Yes, you. The knowing, kind, caring, wise you. The one with so much to give, love and celebrate...
As we get older it can feel as if we are becoming invisible. It may seem as though you’ve entered a nomansland, you are no longer a young woman, but you’re certainly not over the hill yet! You may feel like you’ve outgrown shops aimed at 20 somethings but you’re not quite ready for practical cardigans in beige and mint green.
You might feel redundant as your kids become more independent after being fully reliant on you for so long. You may be perimenopausal and dealing with all the difficult symptoms that this transitional phase brings with it. You are, in effect, in a period of transformation. In flux, neither one thing or the other, looking for a place to fit.
A change is as good as a rest they say, and perhaps being less visible can be a relief after a lifetime of scrutiny?
Fewer companies targeting ads at you might give you more space to decide what you really want to buy without coercion. You may feel more comfortable in your own skin now and rely on your skill set and relationships more than the way you look for your self esteem.
I’m often asked for tips on how to dress in order to achieve a slimmer or younger look. There are some tricks you can use to create optical illusions and balance proportions, but my top tip for any women of any age is please understand that you are what you are and that is absolutely good enough. You don’t have to keep striving for better. You have to accept yourself as you are and treat yourself well.
It is actually quite an effort to be anything else in fact! And we all know how much energy menopause can sap from you, so why give yourself the extra work? If you are having a hot flush or feeling exhausted it is ok to express that and if people are uncomfortable then that’s their problem. You’re a middle aged woman. And that’s a good thing to be.
I spent a portion of my early career working with conventionally beautiful models of all ages, some of whom were lovely people who I developed friendships with, some of whom were simply awful. Some models were reasonably happy, some were depressed and suicidal. Some models were at peak physical fitness, some were extremely unhealthy and sick. So many women, so many variants and two things that every conventional model I ever worked with had in common:
Very soon I discovered that the prettiest girl in the room can also be the saddest. That the slimmest model can have her heart broken just as easily as the next girl. That the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen can be friendless, bitter and miserable. I learned that insecurities are rife among women whether your image has been deemed suitable for the cover of a fashion magazine or not. I found out that people who value image above all are shallow, rarely joyful and are constantly disappointed.
As my career progressed and I began to work more with individual clients and less with professional models, I watched interestedly as some ladies I designed for (and many of my friends) had fillers and Botox and lipo and boob jobs. For some people these procedures can be a little boost and improve their self esteem for others they can be life changing but it is fairly rare in my experience that changing one’s appearance makes a person dramatically happier or more spiritually balanced.
Real connection, deep relationships built on authenticity, friendships within which we can be our true selves, these are the things that make most of us happy. These things give us fulfilment and bring us joy. I see evidence of this all around me every day.
For all these reasons becoming an ‘invisible woman’ – as is the fate of so many of us entering the second half of our lives – can actually be a wonderfully liberating experience.
Be thankful that the people who notice you now really see you, no longer just a youthful, collagen-rich face, but a fully formed, well rounded and intelligent human with interesting ideas who is irreplaceable and unique and important and loved.
If your self esteem is low, challenge yourself and do something you’ve always wanted to do: run a marathon, learn a language, read ‘War and Peace’, do something to make yourself proud. Do not fear failure. You’re stronger than you think.
It was never an even playing field to begin with. Someone will always be better off than you and you will always be better off than someone else. Be grateful for your gifts and share what you can, be it talent or knowledge or time... The more we share the more we have.
I know that a lot of women love the body positive movement and take comfort from seeing different shapes and sizes on social media but it’s still so image centric. What if instead of saying everyone is beautiful we said some people are and some people are not and that is just fabulous. Being young and beautiful is not the be all and end all.
Do what feels good, move and dance and sing and swim and climb trees if the fancy takes you but don’t ever worry about what you look like doing it. Worry about what you feel like. Notice the sky and the cherry blossom and the gentle smile of the passer by who just received a funny text from a loved one.
Notice the silver hairs and the fine lines and the loosening of the skin around your abdomen and cherish it all! What an adventure it is to age! What a privilege.
And if you ever find yourself angry with your aches and pains and failing eyesight put your glasses on and watch the sunset. Remember those precious souls who never got the chance. Be grateful for your wonderful body and your unique face and all of the knowledge that your years on this Earth have garnered, and for all the things you have yet to experience and learn.
I see you.
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