How do you feel your confidence has changed over the past 10 years?

In certain areas of my life my confidence levels have increased substantially over the past decade. I’m more confident in challenging things that don’t sit comfortably with me, and I’ve most definitely improved at pushing myself out of my comfort zone & speaking out when I feel passionate about something.

Having said that, a lot of my perceived ‘confidence’ is a façade. A façade masking a perpetual internal battle of self-consciousness & self-doubt. A feeling of ‘not being good enough’. This is mostly in my professional life, where I can at times experience ‘imposter syndrome’.

In my personal life I’m much more confident than when in my early 20s. I know what I want, what I don’t want, what I will tolerate & in contrast, what I will not tolerate. But the self-doubt creeps in there too.

Am I a good enough wife, daughter, sister, friend?

Am I performing highly enough at work?

Why do you think that is?

A mixture of both very positive experiences, alongside very difficult & traumatic experiences (sometimes running concurrently). I’ve had multiple promotions at work, moving up to management level in my previous role, whilst battling with a loss of yet another much wanted pregnancy. This created a contrast of professional development & self-confidence growth, with a personal hatred of myself & what my body failed to do.

I’ve been continuously encouraged by my husband, family, colleagues who have helped me personally & professionally. I’ve learnt that if I can get through a 7 year fertility battle & come out the other side, I can get through anything, and that has helped my confidence to flourish. It has, however, as an antidote to that also been hugely detrimental to my confidence & how I view myself.

Am I enough for my husband without children?

Am I a failure as a woman because I am struggling to carry a child?

It’s not always prominent, but I feel it’s low-level lingering presence at times.

Do you feel invisible in some aspects of your life? How does that show up?

Yes – as a woman with fertility challenges I have often felt invisible in society. Under-represented. Stigmatized. A lack of empathy, acknowledgement of loss & the taboo of the ‘m’ word reinforces this.

I have also felt this with regards to my age. Over the years I have had remarks about ‘being too young’ for a role, or had my thoughts overlooked because of my age. I’ve been told ‘I must be fresh out of university’ and had comments such as ‘what are you, like 12?’ so don’t really know what the ‘real world is like. This made me feel invisible – like my opinions & skills were irrelevant.

Tell me about a woman who is older than you, inspires you, and why? Describe how she makes you feel.

A previous manager, and now good friend. She is someone with great integrity and emotional intelligence which I admire. She is respectful, honest & encouraging. She made me feel like I could achieve anything I put my mind to. She encouraged, supported & guided me in my previous role, and I owe a lot of my professional wins to her.

What excites you about ageing?

New experiences and adventures, new opportunities to learn, grow & develop.

What worries you about ageing?

Bereavement – losing the ones I love, and growing older without having children of my own (and grandchildren) to watch grow through life.

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

To not take life for granted. To grab every opportunity that presents itself & to not worry so much about what others think. Life may not always work out how you’d planned or hoped, but you’re more resilient than you think you are.

How do you think AI will impact older women as it becomes more prevalent in the workplace and in society?

I think a lot will depend on representation & depiction of older women through AI. Older women are not a homogenous group – they have their own values, beliefs, experiences that make them unique. Will AI accurately reflect these differences, or depict older women in a stereotypical way? In wider society, will AI be used nefariously towards older women as a means of abuse? It could be used as a tool to target older, more vulnerable, women and take advantage of a bereavement, loneliness, isolation & sophisticated AI can make the online profile more humanized. My concern is that it could lead to an increase in online abuse.

Thank you Ashton Fitzell for answering my questions.