In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m going to share some of the many facets to being a woman in what I’m dubbing “The Grown Woman” series. This week’s topic is focusing on moving beyond your invisibility.
Society has a terrible habit of treating women as if they are invisible. In many instances we’re seen as part of the furnishings or an extension of our children or significant other. We become flat, one dimensional caricatures in our own slice of life. Invisibility takes away your voice. It takes away your agency and stunts your gifts.
In the workplace, this forced invisibility causes women to miss out – on opportunities, insight, the spotlight, and power. A woman’s ideas are often dismissed when she is invisible. Her more vocal male counterparts are heard and seen, their ideas given more weight. Sometimes those ideas belong to a woman, who couldn’t be heard over the noise. Invisibility looks like not speaking up during meetings, even when a woman has solid points. It looks like withdrawal from social interactions. To some it may appear that a woman is conceited because she doesn’t participate too often. Invisibility causes a woman to become a side character in her story, and it’s being told by someone with only half the pages. It can be a very frustrating experience.
I still occasionally struggle with being more visible at work. It’s more difficult because I work as a temp, but I’ve been there a couple of years, so I am more forthcoming when I have an opinion. What do we do to be more visible then? Practice. When you are at home and know you have a meeting or event where you have ideas to share, practice sharing them in a mirror. This will let you see your posture while you speak. Practice allows you to hear how your ideas sound and make tweaks. Practice settles you and makes you less nervous. It builds confidence, and it’s confidence that makes you more visible. When you project confidence, people are more willing to listen to you. Your ideas and opinions have weight. You feel acknowledged, and this lends you more confidence. It’s all a cycle.
Another way to build confidence is to find like minded individuals. If you have a hobby or interest, it’s a good idea to join a group. I like online groups because I can share my ideas and opinions and receive perspective from others that I may not thought of. The groups I join have enforced rules about interaction, as it’s important to not belittle someone’s experience. Since I was acknowledged in the group, I was confident enough to share my thoughts elsewhere.
Finally, find a mentor or advocate. This person can hear your experiences and offer perspective on the situation. They can offer tips and present opportunities to grow. The right mentor or advocate can push you to be more open and gain visibility.
I hope to see you all become more visible during this month. Practice using your voice with yourself, then with friends and then the world. You have so much knowledge and so many gifts to share. Use them. If you’d like to find out if I can help, drop me a line. Until next week, empower yourself to be all, because you do all.