As women we can get so focused on the care of others and ‘just getting the work done’, that we often lose ourselves. Most of us have experienced this feeling at some time or another in our lives. It can manifest as a sense of loss of direction or being out of touch with yourself and the rest of the world. For some, the feeling passes on its own but for an increasing number of women, this sense of loss of identity seems to grow more and more over time.
Having worked with many women from all walks of life, I’ve learned that it can happen to anyone. It’s especially sad to see because the women I encounter are some of the most intelligent and talented people I’ve met. While the reasons behind this feeling can vary, there are some telltale signs that appear when a woman is feeling like she’s fading away.
Weak sense of self.
When women lose their sense of identity, they tend to have trouble answering the simplest of questions such as, ‘Who are you?’, ‘What are your likes/dislikes?’, ‘What are your dreams or goals?’. The irony is that should those very same women be asked those questions about their children, significant other, parents, boss, co-workers etc. they can usually answer in vivid detail. Women tend to absorb the wants and needs of others, ignoring their own personalities until they disappear into nothingness.
They become invisible to others.
When others stop seeing you, they begin to treat you with indifference. You’re the last to be considered, if at all. People will often assume that what they see is all there is and little effort is made to dig beneath the surface. The woman unwittingly assumes the role of the ‘dependable steady-Eddie’ that will take on any task, never rocks the boat, and certainly never makes any self-directed requests.
Besides the emotional impact, a lack of visibility can be most detrimental to women in the workplace. It has real life effects such as being passed over for promotions, little professional regard from colleagues and bosses, and women staying in predominantly lower-end, delivery-type roles. The invisible woman works just as hard as her co-workers but fails to enter the radar of the people who matter. If anything, she’s seen as not being strategic and lacking the ability to handle dynamic situations.
And then there’s the economic impact. When a woman doesn’t get promoted her salary doesn’t rise beyond the ritual cost of living increases and her career stagnates. Her ability to improve her current socio-economic conditions are stunted, which can in turn affect her emotional well-being. An ironic and cruel cycle.
Loss of passion.
The invisible woman has lost her zest for life. Her mojo is at an all-time low. The result is someone who is sleepwalking through life, going through the motions but never really plugged in. She may know she needs to make a change but is unsure how to climb out of what feels like a very deep rut.
The good news is that this state of being doesn’t have to last. The internet is filled with stories of people who’ve re-invented themselves in their 30’s, 40’s, straight through to their 70’s. Sometimes a huge life shift is needed while at other times a few significant changes can make the difference in getting one’s life moving in the right direction. It also doesn’t have to be done alone. Deciding to make a change and asking for help are the surest ways to make the transition from living under a cloak of invisibility to a life where you are happily basking in the spotlight.