The Positive Side of Being an Invisible Woman
'The Ageless Way' author on the power of flying under the radar
(This article is excerpted from The Ageless Way by Karen Sands.)
One of the biggest fears we have about aging is of becoming invisible, irrelevant to the world. Women, who are valued for their appearance first and foremost in our society, tend to feel this diminishment more acutely than men as they age.
The negative side of being invisible is clear to most of us. The world no longer seems to notice or care about us or what we have to say — if it ever did in the first place. We seem to lose our voice because no one is listening. Sometimes we don’t even use our voice because we don’t believe we’ll be heard, so why bother? Being invisible contributes to the vexing problem of low self-esteem, robbing women of the confidence they need to stand up and make a difference.
The Positive Side to Being an Invisible Woman
But there is a positive side to being invisible, as Doris Lessing captures so eloquently: “And then not expecting it, you become middle-aged and anonymous. No one notices you. You achieve a wonderful freedom. It is a positive thing. You can move about, unnoticed and invisible.”
Lessing had it right that there is a power to being able to work behind the scenes and make change without worrying about our own egos. We have the ability to go with the flow of nature, of life, and the profound opportunity to influence others to make earth-shattering changes without anyone even realizing we are doing so.
Jim Collins studied 1,435 top companies and found that only 11 managed sustained growth. At the helm of each company was a leader with a clear vision for the future of the company and how it conducted its business, paired with humility, working quietly behind the scenes to shape the organization, and to realize its shared vision. This is but one example of the power of invisibility — if we learn to understand, embrace, and leverage it.
This concept is not new. In fact, it’s ancient, found, among other places, in Taoist wisdom. As Lao-Tzu wrote of the invisible power of a leader: “When actions are performed without unnecessary speech, people say, ‘We did it!’ ”
A Leader Is Sage and Invisible
David Straker describes this principle further: “In Tao, a leader is sage and invisible. With touch so light, sensitivity so sharply honed, the leader seems to do nothing special, yet somehow they achieve their goals.” The wisdom is ancient but not prevalent in our patriarchal military-industrial society in which only visible leaders are valued. Therefore, the ego constantly disrupts the natural flow and inhibits transformation and the collaboration required to make changes that benefit all of us, not just a few.
The Inner Masculine aspect is dominant in some women, as well as in most men, making invisibility undesirable and all but impossible. War, environmental destruction, social and economic injustice — all lie at the feet of a society in which the desires of the ego supersede what is right and what is necessary for the world to survive and thrive.
But women have the opportunity to harness their dominant Inner Feminine aspect, to go with the flow, making changes and collaborating with others in ways that go unnoticed by a society so focused on the visible, on the ego.
Flying Under the Radar
When we fly under the radar of the good old boys’ network, we can make significant, sustainable changes without anyone standing in our way.
Thus, women must step forward today and act on our power to make a difference — through our votes, our purchases, our leadership, our vision, and, yes, our success. Striving for meaningful, sustainable and profitable success is necessary if we are to have the resources and power to lead significant change — at any age and for all ages.
The challenge is to balance the invisible and the visible, to know when we need to work behind the scenes and when we need to speak up and be heard — be present. We need to learn how to marry our invisible power with our visible, visionary leadership. We need to lead the way toward women being a powerful presence for change without losing the invisibility required to effect that change.
Recognize the Power of Invisibility
I suggest we start by recognizing the power of invisibility in the first place and understanding that to be invisible doesn’t mean to be inadequate or without value or voice — just the opposite.
Invisibility is inherently powerful.
By understanding and learning how to use this power, we will begin to see more clearly the times when stepping out of the shadows will make the biggest difference in our lives, our work, and our world — and when remaining in the shadows is the only way to shine a light on a future that matters, to all of us.
The invisible power to fly under the radar and quietly lead change is a part of the ineffable presence Ageless Visionaries carry in their everyday lives.
As you focus on how to use invisibility to empower you to make change, I recommend that you also take the time to reflect and make conscious choices about what really matters to you. If you start clearing away the clutter from your life today, the boulders in the stream interrupting your flow, you will be that much more empowered to change your world tomorrow.