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Jan. 19, 2023

Faith Agugu: Transforming the Narrative Around Women and Ageing

"When women come together, magic happens."

In this episode of the Dear Menopause podcast, Faith Agugu, a psychotherapist and empowered aging expert, chats with Sonya Lovell about the global positive ageing movement.

Faith is a psychotherapist and empowered aging expert. She founded Silver Sirens, a community of women over 50 seeking to change the narrative around women and aging. Through her psychotherapy practice, Faith witnessed women's distress around ageing and the loss of their value. This inspired her to create Silver Sirens, a platform for real conversations around ageing and empowerment.

The annual Silver Sirens event brings together women of all ages and backgrounds to discuss difficult topics, find strength in collective transformation, and create lifelong friendships.

In this episode, you will learn the following:

1. What it is like to go through menopause and how it can affect different aspects of a woman's life

2. The importance of community for women going through menopause

3. How we can redefine ageing for women.

Silver Sirens website
Silver Sirens Instagram
Don't Give A Fifty podcast
Love is Blind - Netflix
Sacred Promise - book

Other episodes you'll enjoy:
Sandy Davies
Ali Daddo
Shelley Horton 

Where to find Sonya:
Take the Midlife Quiz
Stellar Women Website

You're invited to join the We Are Stellar Women community on Facebook, a free supportive space for all women navigating the menopausal transition. Click here to join.


Sonya: My name is Sonya Lovell and I am obsessed with helping women navigate the magical, messy, and, let's be honest, more hysterical moments of this thing called menopause. I'm a personal trainer and breast cancer survivor turned menopause coach. I help women understand what's going on, why and what they can do to navigate the menopausal transition. Gloss over the real talk?

Sonya: No way.

Sonya: Exhaustion, brain fog, loss of libido, loss of confidence and anxiety are just some of the topics that we'll chat about. Consider this a juicy happy hour with your new bestie and her friends. Settle in and get ready to learn and laugh. This is the Dare Menopause podcast.

Sonya: Faith Agugu is a psychotherapist and empowered aging expert. I'm chatting to Faith today because she is an Australian leader in the global positive aging movement. Faith is the founder of Silver Sirens, who hold an annual event and have an incredible online resource. I hope you enjoy my chat with Faith. Faith, thank you so much for joining us today. Why don't we start introduce yourself to my audience and tell us a little bit about who you are.

Faith: Thank you for having me here, Sonya, and it's always a pleasure. I love doing this work. My name is Faith Agugu and I am by profession, I'm a psychotherapist. I also work around mindfulness and I used to do quite a lot of energy work, but I'm definitely a visionary and an entrepreneur. I've always been that person from a very young age. If I see a gap, I can't help myself, I've got to jump in there and fill it. My very first example of that was being nine at school and the tuck shop. I would set up a stand next to the tuck shop and I would have all the lollies that they didn't have and I would so from a very young age, I was always an eye for looking at what's missing and filling that. And that really will lead into why I started Silver Sirens. I know. We're going to talk about it later.

Sonya: Yeah. Amazing. That's very entrepreneurial of you.

Faith: Yes, I was only nine years old.

Sonya: I bet. And how did the Tuck Shop ladies feel about that?

Faith: Well, my headmistress, was really encouraging because I used to actually do I did quite a lot of enterprising things at school and she was just like, go for it, do whatever you like. So I felt really lucky that I was encouraged.

Sonya: You were really lucky. That's incredible. I wish all schools had stories like that, encouraging our young women to be entrepreneurial and enterprising and to follow the ideas that they had. And it's one of the things that I love that is a thread in my life, is when I get an idea about something, I'm really brave and this is feedback that other people tell me. I just give it a go and see what happens. And if it doesn't work, then you've got the learnings from it, and you take that on into your next enterprise. And I think the earlier we can learn those lessons, the better.

Faith: Yeah, I think it's so important. I think especially as women, we're very hesitant, or we can be very hesitant in the world because we're told that we're not we're given a really narrow prescription that we're supposed to fit into. So any of that, it's really hard for us to give ourselves permission. So it's really great when we have that support.

Sonya: Yeah. All right, so tell me about the evolution through your life that brought you to create Silver Sirens.

Faith: Evolution. I think every single thing kind of matters, isn't it? One of the things I say is that our mission I don't think we choose our mission. I think our mission chooses us, you know? And I've felt for a long time I've been doing Silver Sirens still since 2018 was a launch, but in that it started germinating and growing, obviously years and probably decades before that. I went through my own midlife crisis at around the age of 47, after I had a hysterectomy, which catapulted me into medically induced menopause. And that's when I came face to face with midlife menopause and what some people call a crisis. And, you know, it doesn't have to be a crisis. It's a crisis because we don't have a language around it. But for me, it was a crisis because I lost the thing that that I felt gave me meaning. You know, I didn't have children. I've given up the idea of having children at the age of 45. That relationship that I was in just ended. I closed my business because my business was literally falling apart, a business I've had for 14 years. It was a fashion agency. I put everything into it because I wasn't married, didn't have children, but I just couldn't sustain it anymore. So that fell apart. And then I had, a few months later, had a hysterectomy, and I lost everything. So just being in that position, which is wonderful, and now looking back, it was wonderful.

Sonya: At the time, it probably didn't feel so wonderful.

Faith: Our breakdowns are usually our breakthroughs, and I didn't know that then. All I knew it was painful, and everything that I was familiar with and identified me was stripped away. So what a wonderful opportunity. And in that space came new awareness. And that's when I changed my profession and decided that as an aging woman, fashion was probably not where I wanted to be anymore. Because fashion was about youth, and I wanted to send me to a new role that I would grow into, that I had three criteria for my new profession, and that was one that I could sit down, because in fashion, you're always running around. You were on your feet. I could sit down, that the hourly rate was going to be good and that I would get better as I aged. So that's why I chose psychotherapy. I knew my lived wisdom would make it something that I would get better and better. And because I was sitting down, it wouldn't matter if my legs were getting creaky or my body was getting creaky, I could still be really good at it, and I could be a bit better at it. So that's why I chose that particular profession. And choosing that profession, I started getting women being referred to me that were struggling with aging. And up until that point, I hadn't really thought about aging. Even though I'd experienced menopause, I hadn't thought about it in terms of, oh, that means I'm getting old now. Wonderful role model in my mother, who absolutely blossomed in her 50s. So as a woman approaching my fifty's, I knew it was something that I was to look forward to. I knew it was exciting. So when I started getting these women being referred to me in my practice, so initially I was quite surprised. I knew that there were people that were dreaded aging or didn't want to age. But because I worked as a model for a long time, I thought it was just people in the modelling industry and people on TV. I didn't realize just like a real societal it was a really Western societal construct. So it was a little bit of a shock to me and that one woman referred another woman to me, who referred another woman to me. In one state, I had between eight and ten women, and they were all related in some way, connected in some way. And we were doing this work. And to me, the women were really distraught around losing their value. They talked about invisibility some of them left and the grief of that, what is my role now? And some of them, it was around physical things like the hair was going great. There was no way they were going to let their hair go great. So we worked at all of those things. And one of the women especially, I always saw her as the avatar for Silver sSrens because I saw her start to slowly grow into acceptance of what was happening to her body and herself emotionally. And she started to be like a little bit of a leader in her group. She was in a book club, and she stopped dyeing her hair. And these women were so impressed with her. They thought she was so brave to stop dying her hair. They started to kind of follow her. And she was one of the initial women that started doing the Silver Sisters go great. Naturally, she was so inspiring. So, yeah, those women showed me that there was something missing. Like I said, for that little girl to see something missing, they have to do something about it. Showed me there was something missing. And I just thought and what made me actually do something more was when I read the difference between the narrative around men. And that's what really, really inspired me to start Silver Sirens.

Sonya: That is such a beautiful story. I love that so much and I love that. I'm quite inspired by the fact that you chose psychotherapy as your next career move because that is not an easy career move that involves like a lot of study and obviously a lot of self belief and backing yourself that you would actually be able to build a career off the back of that. Getting the qualification is one thing, being able to build a career is another. And so I think that's incredible that you took that huge leap into a career that probably, I would imagine, a lot of people imagine is something that people get into when they're really young, straight out of school sort of thing. The other thing that I love about your story is that evolution of the women that worked with you and them stepping into those powerful leadership roles, not necessarily through intention, I would imagine, but the ability that their courage and their actions had to empower the other women around them. And I love that ripple effect with women.

Faith: Yes, absolutely. And it was beautiful to watch. It.

Sonya: Wonderful. So then let's move into Silvers Sirens. So for anyone that's listening that isn't familiar with Silver Sirens, how about we give a little introduction around what Silver Sirens is? I was lucky enough to come up to one of your events this year, which was when I was introduced to Silver Sirens. So let's tell everybody about Silver Sirens.

Faith: Well, Silver Sirens is a community of women. And it could be I think it's a women over 50, but I see there's lots of women in their 40s that come along and at our events, women of all ages are there, but it's a community of women who are seeking as a community to change the narrative around women and aging. We're an extremely inclusive space, which means not just from a racial or cultural, but more of ageing. And that's what I really loved about social science. And that's the feedback I get is that it's not just women from one particular group, it's not just corporate women or not just women from the spiritual community or it's not just mothers. It's a real blend of women. And I think that's what makes it such a delicious stew, because it is such a beautiful blend of different type of women. And I love it. I'm so proud to say that we have women that live in mansions and women that live in community housing that considers Silver Sirens their home. And I think that's the power of Silver Sirens and I want us to continuously attack and confront and bring forth conversations, real conversations, that are important to women, not just these superficial like you see over and over again, the same type of conversations. Women have already seen the media sit on TV and I just wanted to create a platform where women can have real conversations. And that's what I got from the very first one. I get goosebumps when I think about it, because the women were just crying and saying, thank you so much. It's the first time that I've been in a group of women where no one's trying to sell to me and we're just having conversations that actually matter to us, that actually matter to us. And that's just for me, that's what I think Silver Sirens is. And one of the women said to me, it's like a woman's salon. Like in the old days when women would sit around, they'll talk about it. Yeah, we don't have that anymore. And I think we're constant every year. I hope that every year we're pushing the envelope and challenging ourselves in what we look at and what we talk about, because we can only heal from things we acknowledge. I know as a psychotherapist, the first step to healing or making any changes is to first to acknowledge what is. And I think that by us looking at the things that are difficult will then bring by collective transformation. Absolutely.

Sonya: And I think it also allows us to normalize the conversation around those things.

Faith: As well, which should be when we think about them, when they're things that women will go through. If we're lucky to live, we will go through those things. Why not talk about it? Why shrouded all in frequency? And we've done that in the past, we don't have to do that now. And what I love about our generation is and the baby boomers, because I'm kind of on the cusp of that, is that we've always been trailblazers, we've always disrupted things, we've always kind of gone, no, we're not going to do it that way, we're going to do it this way. And I'm so proud of us as a generation for being that.

Sonya: I love a bit of disruption. It's so needed and it's so empowering and love. Everything about disruption. Yeah. So going through what you talked about, the things that you're proud that you've created with Silver Sirens. My experience of coming to Silvers Sirens was your annual event, which was held a couple of months ago here in Sydney, and your theme for the event was Redefining Aging, which was incredible. And I'll be honest, I went with no expectations. I literally had no expectations for the day and I floated out of the room on an absolute high. But it was such an emotional rollercoaster throughout the day because I know that I learnt so much. So, for example, Jackie talked about the women who go through depression when their children leave home. You know, I did not know that that was a thing and but it also made total sense to me once I knew that it was, and I found that fascinating. I cried so many times. I cried through the stories that were shared. I cried in a moment when you did something really brave, which was where you brought a woman into the room to celebrate the human, the woman's body, and it was so beautifully done and it was so moving, and I had this really personal moment, epiphany, I guess, in many respects, and that made me cry. But we danced and we talked about sex and oh, my gosh, it was the most amazing day. But I was also reminded of how wonderful it is to be in a room full of women.

Faith: It's so powerful, isn't it? The very first year, Katherine Tui, who was on my steering committee, she opened the session by saying, when women come together, magic happens. And I get goose pupils every time I think about that, because that's exactly it, you know, and we're not coming together with any agendas. You know, I've had women over the years say to me, oh, you should capitalize on Silver Sirens, and you should be selling more, and everyone should be selling and everyone I've just gone, back off, back off. Because it's not about that exactly. What you experience is exactly what my vision what is and continues to be. Something happens. And you know what? Those women live there with lifelong friends and I see them on Facebook connecting and doing things together and collaborating, and I just go, that's what it's about. That's what it's about, community and helping. Just keep lifting each other up. And for us to be there's so much more to come. It's not over.

Sonya: Yes. Amazing. And one of the questions I've been meaning to ask you is at the very beginning of the day, you quoted, I think it was an African proverb, and in the moment, it so resonated and I loved it so much, but I didn't get a chance to capture what it was. So could you share that with us and talk us through a little bit about what that means to you?

Faith: It's a Native American saying, which is when and I'm going to paraphrase because I don't know the exact, but says when a girl is born, she's introduced to her power. Through menstruation, she exercises that power, and at menopause she becomes that power. So beautiful.

Sonya: Just hits you, doesn't it? And again, then just hearing you say that again, it just landed right in.

Faith: My heart and it's so true. And that's the stuff that society doesn't tell us. That's the stuff. That's why women spend so much energy trying to make sure they look right and they stay accepted and relevant when they don't realize this is the gift. Becoming our power is the gift. On the other side of metaphors, I just want to let as many women know that as possible. So they don't spend years and years dreading something that's actually this beautiful gift, this wonderful initiation that's going to see them see aspects of themselves they've never seen before, they've never been allowed to see before.

Sonya: Yeah, I love that. I love that so much. So, talk to me about your hopes for Silver Sirens in the future. Is it something that you hope to see grow or are you happy with how things are just unfolding for you at their natural pace?

Faith: Look unfolding? Yes. I've had to do a lot of surrender around Silver Sirens and I have to say, most years I go to myself, what am I doing? Oh, my God. What am I doing? This? And last year was the first time that I just completely surrendered and went, it doesn't matter, it's got a life of its own. My role is to just keep showing up and that's it. And that's what I'll continue to do until for every reason it fizzles out or whatever, but my vision for it is that it continues to grow. And I've always had the vision that we have a number of chapters in different states, so, like, instead of doing just one annual event, because I know that we do online and we do have a number of people online, but people still want the face to face. And women, I'm so impressed. Women travel from South Australia, from Queensland, from Perth.

Sonya: I was seated next to an amazing woman who I became friends with on the day and we randomly chose our seats and she was there from Perth and I was blown away.

Faith: So the fact that women are coming all the way and they're planning their year around Silver Sirens just makes me so excited. So it makes me know that we need to get to these areas. So I have a vision that we do have Silver Sirens in all of these other states and that eventually it's global. So, last year, I actually had the most American Silver Sirens who contacted me and I had, like, meetings with them, catch ups with them, because they were so interested in it, too, as well as people in the UK. So my vision is that it does grow because I work full time as a therapist, because I see 30 clients a week, I don't have the capacity to grow at the speed, but I have a lot of trust that things unfold the way they're meant to. Meant to? No, I've completely surrendered to it. And I know that last year there was a real elevation in the people that came to in terms of around sponsorship, you know, so I'm going to keep allowing more and more things and people to the right people to come to the space and help us elevate it to wherever it's meant to be. Because I'm in service to Silver Sirens, which means that I don't control where it goes. I'm definitely the vision holder and I'm really lost that job. But I'm in service to Silver Sirens, so I think that I will be shown where I need to go with it next. And I'm just totally surrendered and totally open to that process. But the other arm that we're starting to grow is because Redefining Aging is the event and that's our event. But the Silver Sirens Virtual Sanctuary is another thing that grew through Lockdown because a lot of women were in isolation with their families and it did. Time out. We started the online events through the Silver Sirens Virtual Sanctuary, which is a paid membership. And the paid membership is an attempt to start to bring in some other revenue so that I can employ other people to do more. So the century is that we have online communities, so we do like an online yoga class together, we do a dance class together. Last week we did the Thriving Through Midlife, which is a panel, a webinar, 1 hour webinar, three women Thriving Through Midlife and different topics. We talked about grief and dying, and the three women all worked as Death Workers and they were all amazing. And I'll be sharing that in a few days time with everyone, the replay, because it was so good, I want to share it with the whole community. So growing that part where for me, when I went through Menopause, I didn't know where to look for information. Virtual Sanctuary is a catalogue of content. So we've partnered with the Menopause Society and a few key prominent practitioners in this area. So you can go in there, you can see lots of articles, blogs, resources, treatments, and we also have it's divided into rooms. So the sanctuary has the menopause room, the lifestyle room, the mindset room, which is all around coaching. And the Lifestyle Room is health, fitness, dating, sex, everything. And then we've got Elderhood room. And the Elderhood room is around, preparing for death. Dying Legacy Wisdom holders. What are all those things? So as you approach Midlife, you can come to this space and there's all sorts. So there's all this contest and there's all these online events too, to bring the community together. And there's also Master classes as well. So people in the community who have the expertise, which there's so many, can run master classes within a two community as well. Two moms kind of growing along each other, side by side.

Sonya: And I love one thing that I like because I became a member and we did an onboarding day with yourself, or not an onboarding day, but an onboarding session with yourself. And one of the things you talked about, which I loved the idea of, and I think this is something that started during Lockdown, obviously, was the is it the Friday night dinners, the virtual.

Faith: Virtual suppers. So initially we were doing them every fortnight and then we started doing them once a month once it gets warm, it's a great one. In summer, in winter, winter. We find that so much. So, yeah, we had a last one last month, that's upper. So somebody puts their hand up to be the host, put forward the recipe, and they'll get shared with everybody and we all cook together and then we sit down and we eat together, you know, it's a really, really beautiful event.

Sonya: Yeah, I love that. So, are you able to share with us at this point what your theme is for the 2023 event?

Faith: Yes, I'm excited to say that I'm signing the contract for the 2023 event today.  On the 12 December I'm going to send out a save the date and an opportunity for people to only release in a few tickets where a couple of opportunities for people to get some early tickets if they so want to. So never too late. It's the overriding theme and because I think that that's something that I used to hear women say all the time, it was too late for me now it was too late for me to find a new register, too late for me to change my career, it's too late, all of that. So, yeah, I want to change that. And so we're looking at areas of work and career and business areas around relationships and family and also change makers and trailblazers. I'm super excited to say that we've got our first speaker already and I don't want to say who!

Faith: Won't say the name. I was going to just describe the situation about Never Too Late, but I'll wait. But yeah, so that's the theme and I think it's a really exciting theme and it's very broad theme. So I'm really interested to see the women that come forward, that come through for that scene.

Sonya: That's so exciting. And I think that's a wonderful theme because it also ties in with what we were just talking about before, where there is so much opportunity and freedom and amazingness that comes after menopause. Once you're through your menopause and you're into your fifty's, I truly believe we are stepping into our power and it is when women can really show up and shine in their absolute true self. And I think that reinforcing that theme of It's Never too Late is wonderful. Amazing. Faith, thank you so much for your time. Was there anything else that you wanted to share with us while you're here?

Faith: Look, I think I'm good. I think that people got your listeners look on a really good idea about who I am and what Silver Sirens is. I think I'm good.

Sonya: Amazing. So one question I ask all of my guests before we wrap everything up is Faith, share with us what you are reading, watching or listening to right now that is bringing you joy.

Faith: Okay, so every Monday, Don't Give a 50 Podcast. It's two local Australian women based in Brisbane. They have a wonderful podcast with women over 50. So it's called Don't Give a 50. So every Monday I can't wait to get my weekly dose. So that's one of the things I'm listening to at the moment. And what I'm reading is Doctor Tererai Trent an anthology of women which is called Sacred Promise. And it's a group of women who share from all over the world lots of different circumstances and cultures and backgrounds, who share their sacred promise that they made to themselves, that inspire them to make massive changes in their life and in the people around them. One of the women from Silver Sirens, Sandy Davies, is in this. I love that.

Sonya: And Sandy has been a podcast guest before on Dear Menopause. So for anyone that's listening and has listened into Sandy's episode or would like to go back and listen to Sandy's episode, I'll link that through into the Show Notes. But yeah, this book is very special and I think I'm so glad that you chose to share that.

Faith: Yeah, we love Sandy very much. And I'm watching my guilty pleasure reality TV. I love reality TV and I don't need to justify it, but sometimes I feel like I was thinking to myself, why do I work in as a psychotherapist where you really listening to really, really sometimes heavy stories. Nobody goes to therapy if their life's good. This heavy stuff. So it's a way for me to let go completely and just watch something quite mindless. So my favorite reality TV show has to be Love is Blind. It's so bad and is on Netflix. Love it.

Sonya: Brilliant. So if anybody is looking for some super trashy pleasure reality TV, find the link in the Show Notes. Amazing Faith, thank you so much for your time today. It's been an absolute pleasure getting to know you a little bit better and sharing your story and the story of Silver Sirens with my audience.

Faith: Thank you. Absolute pleasure.

Sonya: Thank you for listening today. I am so grateful to have these conversations with incredible women and experts. And I'm grateful that you chose to hit play on this episode of Dear Menopause. If you have a minute of time today, please leave a rating or a review. I would love to hear from you because you are my biggest driver for doing this work. If this chat went way too fast for you and you want more, head over to Au podcast for the Show Notes. And while you're there, take my Midlife quiz to see why it feels like Midlife is messing with your head.