Article by Catherine Stothart
A recent poll of my over-50 friends revealed that most of us had experienced feeling invisible. Growing up female, we get used to having attention (not always wanted) from others – wolf whistles, comments, glances in the street. As we get older, we notice that it is our daughters getting the attention, not us. And although this is natural, it can undermine how we feel about ourselves at a time when we may already feel vulnerable.
However, we can also all think of older women who have confidence and charisma – public figures like Judi Dench, Sandi Toksvig, Julie Walters, Sue Barker, Tessa Jowell, Judy Murray, Kirsty Wark, and many more, plus the people we know personally. So being invisible over 50 is not inevitable. You can’t change what other people say and do, but you can change yourself and how you react. Here are some tips for what you can do to be charismatic and not invisible.
Recognise that feeling invisible is your feeling and you can be in control of how you feel. If something happens, find a way of dealing with it so you come out feeling positive, rather than angry or foolish. Take some deep breaths, stay calm and speak deliberately. Afterwards, give yourself a pat on the back for acting constructively and tell other people what you did or said – this will reinforce your self-belief.
“Act” visible – stand tall, make eye contact, be animated, speak to be heard, lower the pitch of your voice. Other people will find it hard to ignore you!
Cultivate a positive image of yourself in your own mind. See yourself being confident, hear your own positive self-talk, remind yourself of what you are good at, and recall times when you had a positive impact on others – this will “prime” you for being charismatic again.
Do things that make you feel confident
Do things that make you feel confident. If you feel good when you are wearing particular clothes, or have had your hair styled, or your nails done, then go for it. Similarly, if you know that you feel good when you have been out for a walk, or read a book, or had a coffee with friends, make time for that – your positive mood will boost your confidence and you will have a bigger impact on others.
It’s more important to be an interested listener than a competitive talker. Most people like talking about themselves, so ask open questions, listen to the answers and show you are listening. Find out some snippets of information about people that you can ask them about when you meet. Remember the names of their partner and children – this will indicate that they are important to you.
Get out and connect with people. Being part of something is a basic human need – when we don’t feel part of a group, we instinctively feel threatened and this activates the primitive fight or flight response. Find ways to be involved with other people – take up new hobbies, find new interests, participate in events at work or in the community. All of this will boost your confidence and your enjoyment of life and this will be visible to others.
Practise starting conversations in low-stress situations – with the postman, your neighbour, colleagues, a shop assistant – and note how they respond and how you felt afterwards. Success breeds success. When you push yourself a little out of your comfort zone and you get a positive response from others, you feel more confident and this encourages you to do it again or to aim higher, with even better results.
Don’t conform to stereotypes of older women
Don’t conform to outdated stereotypes of older women – ignore your age and don’t let others make assumptions about what is right for you. Enjoy being with younger people and be prepared to learn from them.
Don’t put yourself down (“I can’t help it, it’s my age…”) and ignore put-downs from other people (“typical woman!”). Going along with things, even those said apparently in jest, can undermine your self-image – you will start to believe what you hear.
Finally, remember that the key to charisma is to make other people feel good. Through your words and actions, show other people that they matter to you and that you respect and like them. Don’t make other people feel they are wrong or mock them or talk over them – instead, ask their opinion, give genuine compliments, show concern for their concerns and make them feel special. They will want to make you feel special too.
Article written by Catherine Stothart, author of How to Get On with AnyoneGain the confidence and charisma to communicate with ANY personality type, out now, published by Pearson, priced £12.99. For a free downloadable chapter see https://essenwood.co.uk/