Midlife Spotlight

Are you an "invisible" woman?

August 07, 2023 Kate Campion and Sara Garska Season 1 Episode 8
Midlife Spotlight
Are you an "invisible" woman?
Show Notes Transcript

“I feel invisible,” is a common complaint for midlife women. But it’s never too late to become visible in your own life.
In this podcast episode, we discuss the concept of "invisible woman syndrome" that many women experience in midlife. We explore the idea that feeling invisible is not solely caused by society valuing younger individuals, but also by the suppression of certain parts of yourself for all the best of reasons. 
However it’s important to recognize and embrace all parts of yourself, even the ones that may be considered rebellious, wild, or lazy. 
By allowing these parts to be seen and heard, you can regain your sense of visibility and authenticity. We believe those parts hold the key to a more fulfilling and authentic life. 

Disclaimer: This podcast, along with associated websites and social media materials, are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The views expressed are that of Sara Garska and Kate Campion, and that of our guests, respectively. It is for informational purposes only. Please consult your healthcare professional for medical questions.

Kate: Welcome to the Midlife Spotlight podcast. I’m Kate Campion -
Sara: and I’m Sara Garska -
Kate: and we’re certified life coaches obsessed with helping you find joy in this next act of your life. Whether it’s reviving your midlife marriage, losing weight, or scratching that “what next” itch, we’re here to share our experience and expertise with you.
This podcast is a weekly dose of YOU time, where you get the tools and tricks to improve your health and happiness. Talking to you is so much fun, so thanks for tuning in. Let’s get started.
Kate: Hello and welcome to Midlife Spotlight, the show that helps you enjoy your next act. I'm Kate Campion. 

Sara: and I'm Sara Garska .

Kate: And in today's episode, we're going to be talking about invisible woman syndrome.

Sara: Yeah, I’m really excited about this.I didn't even know there was a syndrome. But, and I remember hearing this even from my mother and her friends, that when they got to a certain age, and a lot of people throw around the age of 50 as kind of, that's when they start feeling invisible. And so, what most people think is, you know, they know they feel invisible, but they think it's because society values younger people, different people, and that it's other people making them invisible. But what I'm going to present here is my working. This is, you know, my beliefs about it, that it's really something internal about us. And I think it's going to be a really fun discussion as we kind of unpack it and take it from, hey, this is something society does to me, to something, this is I've done to me. And no shame or judgment around it. But it's a thing. You know, we've just talked about it a little bit beforehand, like it's something we've both experienced and, you know, the reasons why. And so let's dig in. 
Kate: Yeah, awesome. 

Sara: Anyway, so while we think the world is ignoring us, what it really turns out to be is we're ignoring ourselves, our needs and our desires. And so what I'm hoping, my hope for this episode is that when we're done when you're finished listening, that you'll start to believe that you're worth being visible, not because other people give you permission, but because you can create it yourself. And we're also going to talk about why that's so important for you to do that. Okay?

Kate: Awesome.

Sara: All right. All right. So something I hear, I read, is this thought that comes from women. I feel invisible. I mean, I see it on Facebook. I'm in some groups with women that are midlife or women that are 50 and over. And it’s something that I hear a lot, like, just feel like I'm invisible. No one cares whether I exist or not. Do you have any, I mean, you're younger, but you're getting close to 50. So do you have any experience with that or with your friends saying it?

Kate:  I think it's a little bit about that idea of feeling relevant as well. Like, when you don't feel relevant, like you don't have anything to offer, because maybe your role as a parent has gone or something like that, that you actually start to become feeling like you're seen. And actually, and I know this isn't exactly what we're going to be talking about today, too, but even like you were saying, society's very focused on younger looking appearances and all of a sudden you are not looked at the same way by people because you're of a certain age, and that can be a really interesting experience as well.

Sara: It can be and it can also be freeing, but that's not the topic today. 

Kate: No, it's not. 

Sara: So when I'm talking about becoming visible, so the first thing I want to make note of is that this isn't about getting other people to notice you.

Kate: Yeah.

Sara: Because a lot of times we think that's what being visible is, oh, people are going to see me, notice me. And I'm not saying that won't happen, but this isn't about getting attention from other people. This is really about kind of really getting to know yourself better. And the part of you that's invisible, you have control over. Okay, and the second thing is being visible is not the same thing as being approved of by other people, okay? Because that's a big thing with women. We want to be approved of. And when we feel like there's a part of ourself that won't be approved of, that kind of goes into hiding. And so a big part of this is giving up the idea that this is so people will approve of you or notice you. So we're really going to dig into how we become, how we get that feeling of being invisible. I think this is really interesting. And I think we both have stories about it. And I just think like when women become in their minds invisible like in midlife or 50, it's like they hold back so much of themselves at a time when really they have so much to give. You now, when you're 50, you might have another 50 years to live.

Kate: Yep.Yeah, exactly. 

Sara: And that's a lot of relevance and a lot of stuff that you have to give back or to share with the world. And so it's really important to make the, I think, to make the effort of being visible. And so, okay, so what I want to do is tell you what I think it is. Like how do we become invisible, okay? So like we talked, we think, what we think is it's something society or other people do to us. People quit noticing, people quit paying attention to us. I've heard women say like they can be standing in line and people don't see them and just get in front of them. So I acknowledge that there are some real things happening, but it all, like everything else we talk about, it really always starts with you. And so here's what I think happens. And I think you have some experience coaching with the different parts of ourselves. I think of being invisible. What I've noticed in working with women is there's always parts of themselves that they're not comfortable with. And it often starts really early. It might start in childhood. It might start with this like, it can be something like I got in trouble for something. I was the loud kid. was always getting in trouble for being too loud. And so as an adult, we've really toned down the loud part of ourselves. Or we might have kind of been wild as a teenager. You know, maybe had a lot of boyfriends or ran around a lot. so we kind of lock away the wild child part of ourselves. So I tend to see these. We want to, as we grow older, we're trying to conform. We want to fit in. We don't want to offend people. We're trying to please our family, our original family, our partners, our churches, our work. We spend all this time trying to push away the parts that we don't approve of and only show the parts that we think other people are going to approve of. And so what happens is that we become invisible. Like we have literally pushed away so much of ourselves that it's like there's this shell walking around. Like, here's our face, here's our body, and here's the things I think you'll approve of, and that's what we let people see. But there's not a whole lot to see at that point. Because we've pushed away the fun, messy, interesting part. And so we're going to kind of go into each of these different parts, but I'm going to take it over to you because you had kind of an interesting story about how you became invisible.

Kate: Well, I probably got quite a few actually, but the two that come to mind most readily, I guess, is one thing about me is so my mum had a lot of mental illness when I was a child, and that had a really significant impact on me because of the way that she would behave in public. And so what would often happen is like we would go somewhere and she would perceive the way that people spoke to her as being, as meaning things that it wouldn't necessarily mean, and then she would actually start arguing with people and being really confrontational. And one of my earliest memories was walking into a post office or a bank or something like that, and I was holding onto her skirt and I was saying, mum, please don't make a scene, please don't make a scene, because I don't know, go and be so uncontrolled and then people would look at me and judge me and things like that. 

And it was actually only quite recently that I started to think about how I then changed myself because of that because there were actually some parts of my mum were really quite cool. Like, for example, she was a very interesting person when it came to spirituality, well, I used to joke, you know, she converted to Catholicism at one point. I remember her doing a rebirthing ceremony on the floor. She was into tarot cards. It was just like, you know, Buddhism for a while, like everything was explored. And I took that as being representative of her instability. So I basically, I shut off all of that. Like, I was not interested in any spiritual part of myself, any sort of any belief system that actually meant that there might be something that existed beyond me. And I kept that for a long time. And in fact, it's probably only been in about the last three or four years that I have actually brought that, brought that back into my life or allowed myself to explore, you know, my various things I believe about why we here and what we do. To kind of like link back a little bit to what you said about how when all we are as a shell of ourselves. Well I believe that we come into this world perfectly formed like exactly as we're meant to be. And then yes, society and then ourselves chips away at those parts. So we just present these little cardboard cutouts, right? 
Sara: But actually feel safe. 
Kate: The parts feel safe. So I didn't want to be judged. So I didn't want to do anything that I thought might make me look like my mother or might make me, you know, people think that I was flaky.

Sara: So I bet you made a decision too to never make a scene.Like, yeah, that was part of it. Like, I will never make a scene.

Kate:  I have never made a scene. Probably should have. 

Sara: I know. that story, I was like, Oh, I know there was a decision made as a child.I will not make a scene. And that's what I mean. And I'm not saying go out and make a scene, but we make these decisions so young. And like, that was a great example because that one comes up where a  person has seen their parents do things and it's like, I will never. It's always called their Scarlett O'Hara moment. And I don't know if you've ever read Gone with the Wind. At one point, she's like, as God is my witness.I believe most women have these moments.

Kate: I vow, I will never end up like my mother.

Sara  Because, and not just your mother. We have other ones that'll be like, maybe their mother was not, did not have the independence to have the love that she wanted. And, you know, it. just, it's the woman might say, as a child, I will never be dependent on a man. And so that's one way we start, you know, changing who we are based on, not wanting to be like another person. But as you discovered in pushing away the, the mother, the part of your mother that would make scenes, you also lost all the richness of exploring, which you're making up for, you know, now by exploring a lot of things, which makes you know, yeah. And so I look at that, like, you know, that's pushing away parts of ourselves that we think are not going to be acceptable to others. Like you looked at your mother in your mind, like people were looking at you, judging you. And so there's this decision, like, I am not going to show these parts of myself that are like my mom. Because we I think of it as like we push away the parts of ourself that we think are a little taboo.

Kate: Yeah.

Sara: And that don't even mean horrible things. I mean, sometimes we'll look like our wild side. Maybe, you know, maybe your sexual side or the part that likes to - trying to think of something that's not too terrible.

Kate: I can tell you a funny story about that as well. Thank you. The next thing, you know, some interesting things happen in my life. But one of the most changing things that happened was when I became pregnant as a teenager and had my first child. Now, I was not the person that I got pregnant with. We hadn't been together very long. He certainly was not my first person that I'd ever been with. But then I got pregnant and all of a sudden, yeah, it was that like social judgment as well. I still remember going back to my high school and my French teacher looking at me going, “so young. So young.” You know, and just like, and even because I also looked quite young for my age as well, I’d take my son walking in the park and, you know, people would make comments and things like that. So how that showed up was that I actually ended up getting together with my kids dad, I call him. when I was five months pregnant. So the relationship that I that I had didn't last. And, and we ended up getting married. And, you know, he was very nice. He was a really nice guy. And he was a really good father, but he was not the one for me. But that was a decision I made because I felt like I had to kind of like make good, you know, from this from this decision that I'd made. And that I had to be a certain way and that my kids had to behave because I then went on to have another, another child by choice. But that they had to always look good. Like I spent a lot of money on their clothes. They always had neat and tidy hair. . I never took them out of school for anything, you know, it was all about being seen to be to do the right thing because I didn't want to be judged for being a young parent. And the funny thing, the reason why I brought up the fact that, you know, it wasn't the first time I'd had sex that I got pregnant was so many people thought that it was. I'd presented myself in such a way that I looked like some girl, young girl with a love of her life who accidentally got knocked up.

Sara: But, and so what's always interesting is it's this idea like, but, and so in a way, okay, so that I'm going to use your example to kind of break this down. So what kind of happens at that point? So let's say that if we were to describe Kate before she got pregnant and married. What are some of the words you would have used to describe yourself?

Kate: It's probably wild and a bit rebellious. I was definitely responsible. But yeah, I was definitely a little bit rebellious and I liked to have fun. And I liked to enjoy life.

Sara: Yes. And so. There was a decision made when you got pregnant with your son. And I'm betting part of that decision was even if it wasn't conscious, like the rebellious wild side is going to be locked away. Like she's just trouble. And those are probably the two that I see locked away the most. And then another part of you becomes the manager of everything. The Kate we all know and love. Like the one that people get to see where the wild rebellious part of your side itself is the part that's been kind of like, yeah, we're just going to put her aside. And women work really hard to push the rebellious, wild, and lazy side, and spoiler alert, the lazy side isn't really lazy. It's just our presenting side thinks we could become lazy. And so those are, irresponsible is another one we want to push away. But what happens is, like with your mother, you lose the good parts too. Like when we're... I did that because you're kind of locking up. Is it... Oh, like... Yeah, you're with Okay, so I'll start back. Okay, so what often happens is, you know, we get in trouble, whether, you know, our parents get mad at us or we have a consequence like having a child, I hate to say that getting in trouble.But when we're teenager, there's a lot of... A lot of judgment against it.

Kate: There is. 

Sara: Yeah. And so when we get in trouble in a certain way, or maybe we've seen other people get in trouble, we vow like we're never going to do that anymore. And so then that's where you probably became extra responsible. Not wild, very calm and all that. And, and that's all great. That part has done so much for you. Like to get you to where you're are. But what happens is, and back to our topic of becoming invisible, that it's a little dryer when you don't have your wild, wild, self. And here's the thing. That part of yourself is just as essential. We give that we give that part of ourself these labels. But she is so much more than irresponsible or wild. And so that's why it's really, really important to start acknowledging. Oh, I've got this other side. I have vanished. The world didn't do it. We did it so that we could fit in. I do believe that our task to become visible is starting to get to know these parts of ourselves. Like, yeah.

Sara: Does wild Kate have to say about the state of things in 2023? 

Kate: Well, you know, the interesting thing about that is, of course, as well, trying to be like that didn't work out very well for me in the long run, because I basically ended up being a really terrible drinker in my early 30s and stopped drinking as a result. But when I look back on it now,especially with the conversation we are having here, it's kind of like by pushing those parts of yourself away, they kind of do want to come out, right? And if you're not actually allowing them to come out in a gentle way, they will come out probably like came out for me trying to be super responsible all the time and then having a bender on the weekend and that wasn't good for me and it wasn't good for my family and thank God it was a long time ago now. But it's definitely something to acknowledge is that those parts of you, like I said, you are born with them, you are born perfect and they deserve to be expressed. And if you try and suppress them or cut them off, yeah, either they'll erupt in their own way or they'll just like contribute to that feeling like you were saying of just becoming smaller and smaller and smaller and more invisible.

Sara: Yeah, and the other thing I want to point out is sometimes we like look at something in the past and see it as having kind of all bad. And I'm thinking of someone not you, but with a similar story that they were wild and rebellious and that's all she could see was like how like she was just like I wish like that had never happened that had never been like that. But when we really started digging into the story. Yeah, she had some boyfriends and was doing some partying, but she also worked all the time. She had jobs. She put herself through school. She did a lot of amazing things as a teenager, and that part had all gotten forgotten when she was pushing that wild rebellious girl away. She really forgot how much she had actually done and how she had really done amazing things even as a teenager. So just connecting with that allowed her to start letting that part back into her. It's like, oh, this wild rebellious part isn't going to take over. not going to take over, but it has a richness to bring to our lives when we let the, I always call it a girl because we're usually younger, but when we let that part back in, it's not there. They're not going to take over. We're not going to suddenly become lazy, irresponsible, but we're going to have the good qualities of that. Those, you know, I'm going to get those good qualities back. So in my, you know, so I would look back at mine and I, you know, so mine, like, I've always felt awkward and not able to fit in. Like, if I could say there's one quality like, even here on this, I'm always like, I feel so awkward. so I spent a lot of my adult life trying to not be awkward, which is awkward in itself. And now it's like, okay, I feel awkward. I probably sound awkward sometimes. And I'm still going to show up, you know, I've been running a blog for seven or eight years and working with people. And, you know, it's like, this is just who I am. And one of the interesting things is one of the reasons I get the clients I get is they're always like, you're real. Like, the thing that I dislike about myself the most and that I tried to push away from for so long is what actually attracts people to me. it's still like, I'm just like, yeah, that's hard to take in. But. Those parts of ourselves are what make us visible. Like, because I made a decision in my 50s, like, no, I'm not going out invisible. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm not going to be invisible. And so it's been kind of fun to like play with this, like, okay, this part that I tried to push away. What if it's actually a really cool part of myself? It's something I see with every woman I work with. When she starts really tapping into that part, I'm like, I think that part might actually have your superpower. Like, that part that you think is not good for you, I think it's actually like really, really one of your superpowers. so that's the other reason it's worth really like, okay, what am I pushing away? And why? And then also like, what does it have to teach me? What does she have to teach me? Yeah. Like, if we were to do, I know, I feel like I am putting you on the spot. We go back to looking at. You know, that part of you, the one that was rebellious and wild, what did she have? What does she still have to teach you? What are the qualities, the good qualities that pushed away at that time?

Kate:  Definitely a sense of needing to -  lose my words -  to control everything. So that is how it showed up in a negative way. So the wild, the more wild part,. it's kind of a bit like the most spontaneous part. It's actually about accepting that we can't control everything. I spent a lot of time in my life trying to control myself, trying to control my partners, trying to control everything so that I could present in this particular way. And you know what, we actually can't really control much apart from how we think about things. And so that ironically, that acceptance of we can't control things. We can only control our thoughts. It's actually very tied back into, like I was saying, about the more spiritual side, like a lot more work I've done on just kind of controlling what I can control. 

And just even on such a superficial level, I was thinking we bought an RV a few years ago and it was like such a good decision to make and it was so spontaneous and so not practical because we had a couple of hundred thousand dollars and we bought an RV, the sensible person would have paid off their very large mortgage. But actually buying that RV has been so good for us. fact, if not that long ago I said to my husband, what do you think has been the best decision we've made in the past few years? And he was like buying that RV because we just like get the sense of freedom and spontaneity. We can pack up with our dogs, we can go anywhere. yeah, doing that was not what other people thought was a wise thing to do with the money that we found ourselves with. And in fact, we always get people who always think the RV belongs to our parents because we’re not the demographic.

Sara: I mean, that's a perfect example of what I'm talking about. When you allow that part back in, it gives you just more access to a richer life. Yeah. You know, like you said, yeah, you could have paid the house off. When you and Ben were looking at this decision and like you said, we could have paid off the house. And yeah, but you know what? Your life wouldn't have changed. you'd still be in your house with no change, just some numbers on a computer screen. So the decision you  made, which might not be the right for everyone was so great for the two of you. So you’re getting ready to go on a trip, you’re excited, you’re looking forward to it, I’m sitting here like, jealous of you, but it sounds like so much fun. So like the way, by allowing the spontaneous, wild, free part of yourself in, you made a decision that was right for you and Ben that was right for your life right now. Like you’re getting to enjoy what, I would say, a lot of people have these dreams of like, when we retire. We’re going to do this,  and the two of you were like, no, we’re going to start living right now and that’s the opposite of being invisible, we’re getting out there, this is what we’re doing. So that was a great example.  I love that. The thing is, those parts of yourself that you hide, they actually hold the key to everything you want. Like they know what you want. And we have pushed them away because we're so afraid like, like what will happen if I let this part in charge. And these parts don't want to be in charge. They just want to have a say in things. And like, and I so with you letting that part out. You have an RV now.

Kate: Yep.

Sara: You're traveling. You're doing something that really like lights you up. It's good for your spirit and your heart. So that's the power that comes from accessing these parts and letting them be there. You're not even going to care if people are noticing you. Like that won't be the thing. It's like you're going to be so embodied. Like you're going to notice you. You're going to be whole. And that's what makes you visible to other people. In my opinion.

Kate: And visible to yourself. Yes.

Sara: Yeah, because, you know, I think we get so used to hiding for so long. So I had totally become invisible by my 50s. I just wasn't showing up. I was still a mother. I was married. I was a mother. was going through the motions. I've had a job. I just felt like a shell of myself. I didn't feel like I didn't know what there was. And so unfortunately, well, unfortunately, fortunately, but my husband and I decided to get a divorce. So I found myself alone in my early 50s. And so my children were grown. They had their own lives. They were - some were in college, some were on their own. But it was the first time I really started to find out who I was. And at first, I didn't like these other parts. Like, this isn't who I am. But as I have gone through my 50s, I've really embraced this idea. of like all of me is worth me acknowledging. All the messy parts that just sometimes I'm like, oh, why can't I hide them good like other people? 

But on the other hand, it's like, that's what's created this life that I love. I mean, you know, I genuinely really every single morning, I wake up happy to be here and looking forward to my day. Now, sometimes the day can get on my nerves. But at least I'm starting out that way. And so I think it's really a powerful practice. just to begin this idea of like thinking about being invisible different, Not as something society's done to you, but as something you have for all the best reasons in the world done to yourself. Because, you know, we crave fitting in. And we're so afraid to do things that will maybe get us kicked out of the tribe. Yeah. not even suggesting that I'm just like, let these parts be a little bit of your life.

Kate: Mmm, and like you said before, they’re the pieces of you that are actually unique to you because when you’re cutting off bits of yourself and just presenting that shell, it’sj ust like everyone else’s shell, right?

Sara: Yeah, yeah, that's right,  I used to look at people, I think this is one of the things that encouraged me to be different is when I would look around at people, I just wasn't seeing like life in their face. Just like people just going through the motions of life. Just like an example would be if someone's outside walking, running, awesome. But there's a, I think sometimes we just go through the motions of it. like, okay, I read I'm supposed to go for a walk or run, and that's what I'm doing. It's like, well you're missing out on part of the benefit, because you're just going through the motions. Or, we're you know I've heard people do all these things because they've heard it's good for themselves and what I want to offer is I think what's really good for us is being all of who we are like yeah, letting ourselves be messy letting ourselves be who we want letting ourselves do the things that we want to do and or not do.

Like I don't know how many people like go visit people that they don't really even want to be around we do things that we don't want to do because it's the right thing. It's like, you know, because we also push away our selfish self. Like God forbid we ever act selfish. And so that's what I see. And like, I just want to encourage everyone to kind of you might not be aware of these parts right away. But usually if I ask women, okay, tell me about your lazy self. Tell me about your wild self. Tell me about your selfish self. And then they start, know, they're like, oh yeah, that part, let me tell you. And at first it's like, well, you know, then the next question is, how is she trying to help you? Because the basic assumption and what I see all the time is that part is not trying to bring you down. That part actually has a lot of to offer and is there trying to help just as much as your very calm, organized presentation to the world.

Kate: Yeah, so true.

Sara: Yeah, does that make sense to you?

Kate:  Definitely, it does. And it can be hard though too, right? Because there is that fact that you've got to accept that not everyone is going to like it when you show up.

Sara:  I laugh because, as I said, I have grown children. So they got to see me incorporating all the parts of me. And it was messy for a long time because I didn't know what I was doing. But what I think now is like we have a great relationship and it's not based on me being a perfect mom or a perfect grandmother. It's me showing up as Sara as myself. And sometimes, and it's also sometimes me being selfish and sometimes me saying I can't do that or I don't want to do it. But that also gives them permission to be themselves. And I see it just in life, like when I'm out and about, I never feel invisible unless I want to be.I can be invisible. I'm an introvert. So sometimes I call it going like I'm anonymous today. I'm incognito. But when I want to show up, but it's a vibe. It's really 100% just something that I can do in myself now because I like that I don't want to feel ignored. I don't want to feel like no one sees me in a coffee shop.So there's a lot of fun with just kind of pushing your own envelope around invisibility.

But, back to what you said. was like not anywhere everyone's going to approve. No, they're not. There's going to be people that look at you and say, what is she doing making a scene? What does she do when like, she's 61? is she dressing like that? And it's like, who cares? It's like we do it for ourselves. And no, everyone's not going to like it. And that's okay too. Like, because when we try to make everyone happy and know when to not like us, that's where we really lose ourselves because we can't make everyone happy. We just can't. And if we are, like, we are just so split off from everything. We just, you know, we show up one way at work. We show up one way at home. We show up one way with our friends. And what I'm suggesting is like, you show up as you everywhere you go. I think that's where you make your best contribution to the world, to the people close to you, to your job to everything. So even though you might be used to hiding, I just going to encourage you to let those parts of yourself out of hiding and see what they have to offer.

Kate: Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. If you loved what you heard, you can leave a review so we know to keep more of it coming. You can also visit our website at midlifespotlight.com and learn a little bit more about us. We love connecting with you and can't wait to see you next week.