Shortly after my divorce, a girlfriend jokingly suggested we cover all the mirrors in my house. She had noticed that every time I passed a mirror or reflective surface, I turned my head to look. As we laughed and chatted about this habit, we realized I wasn’t channeling Narcissus. Rather, I was verifying to myself that I wasn’t just an invisible and unimportant specter in my own life.
I can say this with humor now. Yet, though we laughed hysterically about this at the time, at heart I was emerging from a fathom deep hole of simply surviving. Feeling as if I didn’t exist or matter in my life.
My marriage had been a failing for years and we’d stayed together thus far thanks to opposite scheduled. Work was simply that: work without heart or passion. And while I loved my children, to them I was simply just a mom. At that age, I was simply an extension of their little selves.
Where was the vibrant, passionate woman in the hot mess of all the roles I fulfilled? Because I could find was the employee, the mom, and the wife to an absent husband. Beyond looking in the mirror to remind myself that I was flesh and blood, how could I remember what it felt to be alive and excited about life?
When you’re feeling lost. And taken for granted. It’s so easy to feel invisible and unimportant in the scheme of your own world.
My darling. Life doesn’t have to feel this way.
So, the question becomes: why do you feel invisible and unimportant? And more importantly, what can you do to be reminded that you matter?
One – If you grew up being told to not speak, yet allow yourself to be spoken to, you learned at an early age to be a physically present, but not call attention to yourself.
I grew up in an age where little girls and young women were to stand still and look pretty. To gain a man’s attention, you should be quiet yet alluring in looks. Never should you call attention to yourself in groups of adults. Or even your peers. And, of course, that your opinion should be kept behind your teeth.
Otherwise, life could be a social disaster. And no one would like you. Let alone want to love you.
Even if you are a naturally shy and quiet person, this kind of attitude causes you to act as if you are a delicate flower. Or else be a a person that should fade into the background. Unless needed to tend a guest.
When you need to break a behavior of being a ghost of sorts in your own life, learning how to not feel invisible and unimportant requires you shift long ingrained habits and thoughts.
Begin in a safe space of family or friends. Or with a therapist and coach. And speak up for yourself.
Offer an opinion on something non-controversial at first so that you can build some courage and stamina on a more visible version of yourself. Begin slowly. Be compassionate with yourself. Remind yourself that you have wisdom to offer that is valuable.
Allow yourself to unlearn the habit of fading into the wainscoting. And being visible within your own existence.
Two – If you fail to honor your feelings and ignore your intuition, then of course you’ll feel unimportant and invisible.
One of the keys to making decisions that help you love your life is to listen to your gut. While it may seem that your intuition is woo woo silliness, science has shown it’s our brain working like a super computer to help us make quick (and good) decisions based on our experiences in life. And your feelings are meant to be a GPS system for your life.
However, many people ignore their intuition. And rather than honor their feelings, prefer to numb an negative emotions. Ignoring the built in ways your body, mind, and heart are trying to get your attention. And guide you towards your desires is always going to lead you to feeling invisible and unimportant.
If you’ve become accustomed to ignoring your feelings and our gut, the only way to feel visible again is to allow yourself to begin actually feeling your feelings. And, when your inner voice of wisdom or your intuition gives you a nudge, give it a listen.
Three – If you’re a people-pleaser at heart (and in action), you’re sacrificing your visibility in the hopes of making other people happier. Or hope they love you.
On the surface, pleasing other people sounds like a way to get people to notice you. So, if you want to be more visible, you may think helping others is key. In all honesty, being a people-pleaser is going to make you more invisible. Because people will expect you to just do all the stuff.
As a reformed people-pleaser, I can tell you that I always tried to be The Good Girl. I did my work at the office, helped others when they got stuck, and I was the gal to go to if you needed a favor. When it came to my family, I did what others wanted me to do, not what I wanted (or needed) to do in order to keep the peace. Or hope I wasn’t rejected.
And, when you consider one of my ex-husband’s go-to “punishments” was stone-walling. And an infraction could lead to him not speaking to me for several days, something that made me feel even smaller and alone.
Rather than getting what I wanted – more attention or approval – my people-pleasing ways made it easier for people to take advantage of me. Because who wants to give love and attention to someone that is needy. Or constantly hustling for their love?
If you want to stop feeling invisible and unimportant, then you’re going to have to end your people pleasing ways. This means learning to say no. You cannot do that at the cost of neglecting yourself.
By the way, while I believe you do need to nurture the people you care about? And nurturing in relationships is a way to bond and build trust? People-pleasing isn’t nurturing. It’s being a doormat. Or using the dysfunctional approach of helping, which can sometimes be seen as a form of control.
Four – Speaking of people-pleasing, let’s talk about family. Sometimes, you’re so good at your role in the family that you’ve become invisible to them. There are two different approaches to this one.
The great thing about teamwork in families is that each member can fulfill a role and make the family operate more smoothly. Like cogs in a wheel. Good examples of this is one person cooks, the other cleans. Or the way you divvy up responsibilities for large family gatherings. The bad thing about fulfilling a role in a family is that sometimes, familiarity can breed the expectation that you are always going to fulfil your role.
In other words: you’ve been put in a box by family members.
Loving your family doesn’t mean being a doormat. And loving your family also means you don’t want to spend all the time with them feeling invisible or unimportant. Speak up in a loving and honest way to encourage dialogue. Not in an angry rant. Speaking up about feeling invisible and unimportant to your family members can go two ways.
Sometimes it can go sideways and you being told you’re seeking attention. Or always complaining. And to be honest, if this happens to you when it comes to the older members of your family (cough *your elderly mom* cough) your best approach may be to simply accept that person for who they are. And then carve out the role you desire to fulfill in your extended family in a way that makes you feel worthy on your own merit. Not as a way to please others, but as a way of acceptance that you cannot change others. And to please yourself.
On the other side, it’s to approach the person in the family you trust the most: you husband, a sister, a beloved aunt. Ask how YOUR Cog in the wheel of your family is perceived. And be honest with them about how you’re feeling. This allows you to be seen. It allows you to speak up and advocate for yourself. And it also allows them to give you loving and constructive feedback. If you don’t like how you’re seen How can you act in a way that is loving while changing the perception of how you’re seen by others?
Last but not least, when it comes to feeling invisible to the people you share a house with? A family meeting may be in order. Perhaps it’s time to divvy up chores. Or shift responsibilities.
Five – If you’re really honest with yourself, you may realize you probably feel invisible because you’ve kind of checked out of your own life.
Does this sound like your daily life? You get up at the last possible minute, grab coffee to go,grumble through work, eat a sad desk lunch, pick up dinner at a drive-thru, ignore the laundry, and binge watch TV while scrolling through social media? That’s not living. That’s simply surviving. And living on auto-pilot.
If that sounds familiar, then you’ve checked out of your own life. You are doing nothing to engage with the world around you. Or seek ways to inject a sense of passion about your own life. Of course you feel invisible because without being interested in your own life, you’re going to feel invisible.
And look at your social media habits if you feel invisible and unimportant. Are you scrolling through social media, silently observing others and consuming their adventures? Are you consumed with envy when you observe the lives others portray on social media? Do you spend your time being a passive consumer of social media? Yet never really contribute to the conversation can also lead to feeling invisible and unimportant.
The antidote to checking out of your life is checking IN. Make the decision to be present in your life.
Shift your routine and disrupt a habit. Get up earlier and ease your way into the day with meditation, prayer, or some reading. Take an extra ten minutes getting ready for the day, really tending your own self. Drive a different route to work. When you disrupt a habit it’s like rebooting a computer.
And stop just scrolling through social media! Make a post. BE visible.
Six – If your friends are a bunch of gossips and drama queens, you probably do feel invisible and as if you don’t matter in your social circles.
Have you ever met a girlfriend for coffee and realized the entire conversation revolved around HER life? Does it seem as if your best friend is always experiencing a crisis? Do you find that even if you’re having a tough day and turn to a friend for support, she still turns the conversation back to how challenging her life is?
When you’re friends with drama queens and needy or narcissistic people, you’re going to feel invisible and unimportant. Because all the attention and demand for attention goes to them.
And if all your friends do when they’re together is talk about other people, it’s unlikely you’re going to speak up and call attention to yourself. Because who wants to be the subject of discussion when you’re not in the room. Right?
Unfortunately, the way to deal with feeling invisible in your social circle thanks to drama queens and gossip is to begin to lessen your time with these friends.
Seven – If you want to stop feeling invisible and unimportant, you need to work on your self-confidence.
If you’re dealing with any, all, or some of these reasons you’re feeling invisible in your own life, the other contributing factor to feeling unimportant is that your self- esteem has taken a hit. You probably don’t have a lot of confidence.
That’s why it’s important to nurture your self-confidence. This can be built over time. And I’ve found the best way to begin is to act as if I FEEL confident. To dress myself in clothes that make me feel good and take time with my make-up and accessories. To stand up straight, smile, and remember that I am worthy of feeling loved, valued, and important.
When you’ve spent years feeling -or even trying to BE a smaller, less noticeable version of yourself, it can take some time to remind yourself that you DO exist.
Just like any part of the journey in life, find the path to being visible in your life is an important part of loving yourself. And curating a life you love. Because even when you desire a quiet and simple life, you still deserve to be not just visible, but to be the star of your own life.