You remember how you used to be the life of the party in your 20s, and perhaps well into your 30s? You were jovial, fun-loving, perhaps a bit of a risk taker. You had your whole life ahead of you. There’s even a chance that you silently poked fun at that older woman standing in front of you in the elevator – you know, the woman with the slightly stooped shoulders, age-appropriate haircut, gnarled hands and reading glasses dangling from a faux pearl and bead-encrusted chain hung around her neck. Foolishly, you thought, “I’m never gonna be like that when I get old.” Old is a relative term. That woman in the elevator? She could very well be young at heart. fading midlife woman
And now here you are: in your late 40s, 50s or even your 60s. You’re now that ‘old’ lady.
Except . . .
You don’t feel ‘old.’ If anything, you feel alive, you feel vibrant, you’ve got your act together. You’re all of those things that those in the younger generation expect you not to be. When it comes to midlife, you’re representing!
Sounds good, right? So why in the hell do so many midlife women feel as if they’re no longer in the forefront but have faded into the background of life? We (as in midlife women) spend an exorbitant amount of time focusing on physical attributes – our looks, our bodies. This is not to say that there shouldn’t be a fundamental shift in how we view ourselves. I think it’s human nature to want to look good. However, when we allow our thinking to be laser focused on that cluster of wrinkles around our eyes, the dimples in our bottoms or the bat wings that continue to jiggle long after we stop waving, we lose sight of all that is right with us.
Yes, there will be bumps and bulges (remember the “Special K pinch an inch” madness? I can get a kung fu grip on at least an inch and a half…), a slug could outrun our metabolisms (if I dare to glance at a brownie for more than a few seconds, I gain two pounds), and there may even be a bit of hair loss (seriously, where the hell are my eyelashes?!?). None of this, however, means we morph into disappearing women, rendered virtually invisible to everyone except family, a smattering of friends who ‘get it,’ and the dog, cat or goldfish who rely on us for care and sustenance.
Who do we have to blame for this poisoned mindset?
For starters, we can lay a sizable pile of the blame at our own feet. Now before your eyeballs start rolling around in the sockets and you curse me like I stole something, there’s a caveat. Yeah, we have free will to think and do as we please, but we’ve been gobbling up what’s been spoon fed to us for so long that we’ve begun to believe that beauty, success and thighs that could crack a coconut are inexplicably tied up in youth. Personally, I would turn a cartwheel or two and do a majestic fist pump if I could manage to squish a grape with my thighs, but that’s another story.
This brings me to another culpable party: advertisers … they are so not off the hook on this one. Turn on the TV and you’ll see commercial after commercial that stokes the flames of insecurity. We’re not pretty enough. We’re not young enough. We’re not nubile enough. We’re not good enough.
“Use our stuff on a daily basis and — voila! — you’ll be magically transformed into a youthful, energetic more gorgeous you!”
~In the mind of advertisers
While no one is actually saying this, they may as well be. The intent is certainly there. Worse, if advertisers aren't pandering to what they believe is our shallow, narcissistic need to be wanted, needed and adored, they're insulting boomers in general by ignoring us and our tremendous buying power. For shame, advertisers ... for shame.
But back to the midlife woman. We're bombarded with promises of beautiful skin, slim thighs, uplifted butts, silky shiny hair and a number of other Fountain of Youth components, all designed to lull us into the false belief that we can turn back the hands of time. Is this really what they think we think about all day every day? That our self-worth is tied up in how tiny our waist is, how much we weigh or how bouncin’ and behavin’ our hair is? fading midlife woman
Our self-worth is no more determined by the numbers that jump across our scales when we step on them than it is by the size of our pinky finger. Women of substance are not defined by their face, shape or elasticity of their skin. And look, I get it: young or old, we all want to look good, perhaps even desirable on some level (including me). However, in this youth-obsessed society, let’s refocus some of that attention on ourselves. fading midlife woman
There’s an obsession with youth; TV, movies, the media – they all perpetuate this myth, which has become entrenched in our psyche, that we’re only vital when we’re young and nubile. We tend to buy into this and actually expect to feel bad when we reach midlife. We also tend to tie the emotional turmoil to the realization that we’re aging. fading midlife woman
This time of midlife transition is fraught with uncertainty and self-reflection. After many years of putting everyone else’s needs before ours, we’re left with the crumbs of life to put back together. This, however, doesn’t make us victims of life so pity parties shouldn’t be an option.
We aren’t invisible and we aren’t insignificant. Don’t be afraid of this time in your life. If you’re not happy with where you are, reposition yourself. You’re in midlife — and it’s just another phase of life. It’s also your right of passage.
So take that wisdom you have, the knowledge, the maturity and your level head, mix it with a healthy dose of confidence and power, stir in a smidgen of sassiness and step out of the shadows. For you, fading into the background is not an option.
What do you do to keep yourself from fading into the background in midlife?