Listen Up Ladies of a Certain Age. You know, you 40 to 60-year-old women. Midlife Ladies. What I see and hear you doing when you are public speaking and in social situations has got to stop. It probably starts earlier, but we are women who have seen a little bit more and done a little bit more so we should know better.
What Am I Talking About?
Three things that we do when we, middle-aged women, are speaking in public that diminishes our message, stops people from trusting us, degrades our power as women, and ruins our ability to mentor younger women:
1. Stop apologizing for your lack of technological skills or social media skills -- especially if you are asked to speak at a tech conference. Your entire message is diminished, as we, in the audience, now aren't sure you know anything about anything. Google what you don't understand. Take a class. Take free online webinars. Go to more conferences. Do what you need to do to be relevant today. What you don't understand is that every single time you do that you are stopping people from listening to the message that you might have that is valid to the audience and you add to the label that middle-aged women are unable to understand technology. You hurt yourself and you hurt all women your age. Stop it.
2. Stop apologizing for the way you look. Don't ask to be photoshopped. Don't excuse your weight. Don't say you hate your hair. Don't criticize your wrinkles. Don't. Men don't. Why? Because they know society is fine with how they look. Even when they look terrible. We are very forgiving to men that are aging. Women we judge until they can't leave the house without shoveling on $200 worth of miracle products on their faces. You got dressed, did your hair, and tried your very best to be as beautiful as you can possibly be. Why would you diminish that before or during your talk? What does it have to do with the relevant message that you are sharing to the crowd that paid or made plans to see you?
Sure, you might not be a Slavic Goddess, but you also didn't roll out of bed in your jammies and get on stage. You took time and effort to look beautiful and when you start acting like it we are all going to see it too.The moment that you start saying that you need a haircut, wrinkle cream, Spanx - the crowd starts picking how you look a part. They stop listening to your message and start to focus on your image. Is that what you intended? I don't think so.
Do you need to lose a few pounds? Maybe. Do you need a new hairstyle? Maybe. Is your wardrobe perfect? Maybe not. That isn't what they came to see and if you feel that way you can work on that before the next opportunity you get to talk in front of a group.
3. Stop comparing your place in your path to someone else's place on their path -- comparing anything sucks the joy out of your life, but what is worse is comparing where you on your journey to the women around you and wondering what you are doing wrong. That self talk that you do to diminish how hard you are working hurts you. The self talk that you do to diminish the women around you -- you know, when you ask what makes them so great and why do they have so much and you have so little also hurts you.
Everyone started in a different place and is working as hard as they can to see/be successful and their success doesn't diminish yours. You have just as much opportunity in this life as they do. Starting to enjoy and celebrate with other women instead of knocking them or yourself down is a beautiful place to be. It is hard. I know it and I have to work on it every single day, but when I can do it I feel better and I know that the work we are all doing is valuable. There is enough for everyone; you just have to believe it.
These three things might sound harsh, but we are role models for women who are coming up behind us and we need to start showing them that we deserve to be where we are, we value ourselves and we value one another. No apologies, no comparison, just continued work to be the best that we can all be.