For much of my life I felt invisible. It seemed like people didn’t hear me, couldn’t see me, and didn’t remember me. They talked over the top of me, left me out of things, and forgot my name.
When they did see me, they saw something different to the person I knew myself to be.
I began to be frightened of mirrors. I could look at my reflection when I was alone and be satisfied with what I saw, then when I was with people minutes later, the reflection in the mirror would distort. I couldn’t believe I was walking around in public like that.
When I was about 10 or 11, my mother decided to ignore me for an entire week. She would pass me in the corridor and look through me. She wouldn’t respond when I spoke to her, even at the dinner table. My father finally insisted she stop after 7 days of this, and to this day I have no idea why she did it. I felt as though I had literally disappeared.
The Lost Child
William Blevins described a number of roles that are played in dysfunctional family systems in order to protect the family from falling apart. One of them is the lost child:
This family member basically disappears. They feel like strangers or outsiders, not only in social situations, but also within their own families. They often they feel ignored, and that they don’t matter, experiencing loneliness and a feeling of not belonging.
The lost child’s way of handling the dysfunction in the family is to withdraw and avoid drawing attention to themselves, even when they need something. They have a rich inner life but find connecting with others difficult. As adults, they may have difficulty developing an intimate relationship.
Lost children typically wake up later in life to find that they have missed out on many emotional experiences others have had. They continue to isolate themselves and often have a strong attachment to animals and creative pursuits.
[source: ‘Your Family Your Self’ by William Blevins]
If you’ve often felt ignored and overlooked, this is possibly the role you played in your family. You will more than likely need to reach out for support to change these old patterns of behaviour.
As I got older and did some recovery work, I felt hurt and angry towards people who ignored or misunderstood me. My lost inner child was completely in control at these times, I had no idea how to soothe her or take charge as the adult.
Underneath this was deep sadness for the little girl who wasn’t seen or appreciated for who she was, the little girl who started to hide herself away out of shame at her perceived inadequacies. I was told that all my shortcomings were genetic, since I was adopted. All this meant to me was that I was inherently faulty, that at my very core I was not lovable.
With the arrival of Facebook and all the subsequent school reunions, I was triggered all over again.
I grew up in a military family, so I had been to three different schools before I was 8. Later I started high school in a small outback town, then sent away to boarding school, then taken out of there to attend a large city school in another state where my parents had moved during the year I was away.
Classmates have trouble remembering me. They were altogether through most of their school years. I was there for a year or two, and even when I was there, I was invisible.
I finally dropped out of the big city school because I couldn’t understand the curriculum, having come from another state. That was the end of my school days.
Loving The Child You Were
One day I shared my visibility issues in an online healing sanctuary I’m a member of after a minor incident left me overwhelmed with sadness – a comment I made in a forum was not responded to.
Something so small was enough to trigger me for days. When I brought this to my sanctuary sisters, they not only understood my feelings, they were able to make a number of points that changed my whole perspective:
- The Universe is a mirror. If you’re feeling ignored or overlooked, where are you overlooking your own needs?
- The inner child is frozen in time. When these incidents happen, it’s as if she’s right back in the original trauma.
- If we learned to hide for the sake of our survival and self-protection, letting ourselves be seen now will feel ‘wrong’. Instead we will tend to seek out people who don’t see us, and we’ll retreat from people who do see us. This feels ‘normal’.
- Unless we clear this old energy, we could jump up and down and scream yet people would still not see us. We are programmed for invisibility until we change the program.
Self-care is the key to removing the cloak of invisibility, but when the ‘self’ is invisible, where does the self-care go?
Accept yourself fully and value your talents and accomplishments:
This is not something we can just magically do, but slowly learning to value ourselves means we will allow others to value us. Seeing and accepting ourselves means we can feel more comfortable with other people seeing us, and we’ll be more likely to believe them when they love us as we are.
Although it still feels somewhat incredible to me, I now stand in front of groups of people and teach. I let them see me, and I let myself recognise what an achievement this is.
What are your major accomplishments so far? What fears have you faced down? Can you celebrate them?
Love and nurture your inner child:
Let her know you see her, she needs soothing and nurturing. If she’s filled with strong emotion, find an outlet for them – throw some old cups against the side of your house, fingerpaint the anger on to large sheets of paper, watch a sad movie and cry, write letters and burn them. This way the old stored up emotions will be released and there will be less triggering in the present moment.
Learn to trust yourself:
This is the key to trusting others, and needs to be done in very small steps. I couldn’t trust myself to let go of the rail when I tried ice skating. The shame of falling over in front of others was too great.
But I learned to do some small things with support, and I learned to do some other small things on my own. As you conquer small things, the bigger things won’t feel so big anymore, even if you mess them up.
Once you can trust yourself even a little, you’ll feel safer to connect with others and start revealing more of yourself. This is because you know YOU can be trusted – you’ll recognise when something isn’t safe and you’ll set clear boundaries when this happens.
You won’t need everyone you meet to be trustworthy, because you can now trust your own judgment to keep you safe.
Recognise your uniqueness:
There’s a good chance that part of the reason you feel you don’t fit in is because you’re more sensitive than other people, and this has made you feel as though something is wrong with you.
We now know that up to 20% of the population is particularly sensitive to external stimulus. Once you recognise this, you can take steps to work with this and see it as a gift rather than a curse.
You are not invisible, and you don’t need to be in order to feel safe. As Marianne Williamson once said:
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
The world is waiting for you.