Leanne Chapman

Creative healing for the wounded soul

You Are Not Invisible

 

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 looking 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 became very 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. I felt devastated 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 short-comings 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, only to be 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. I got a job in a bank, where I was sacked within the year because I couldn’t talk to anyone.

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 for a course I was doing 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:

  1. The Universe is a mirror. If you’re feeling ignored or overlooked, where are you overlooking your own needs?
  2. The inner child is frozen in time. When these incidents happen, it’s as if she’s right back in the original trauma.
  3. 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’.
  4. 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-esteem is the key to removing the cloak of invisibility, and this comes from esteeming the child you once were.

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 as we really are 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 unbelievable 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? 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 teacups against the side of your house, fingerpaint the anger on to large sheets of paper, watch a sad movie and have a good cry, write letters and burn them. This way the old stored up emotions will decrease 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 even trust myself to let go of the rail when I tried ice skating, or relax enough to drink alcohol. The shame of what might happen 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.

Once you can trust yourself even a little, you’ll feel safer to connect with others and start revealing more of your true self. 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. 

Make this your year to shine, the world is waiting for you!

 

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22 Comments

  1. What a heartfelt and vulnerable post, Leanne. I applaud your courage to bring this out into the light where others can read and relate so much as well. Bravo for all of the steps you’ve taken to reaffirm that you are important, that you have a right to claim your visibility and that your contribution is incredibly important in this world. I truly value your friendship and look forward to shielding my eyes from you shining even brighter in 2014.
    Shan recently posted…The Tale of the Aspiring BusinesswomanMy Profile

  2. Hi Leanne

    Sounds like you have been doing a lot of soul searching and I recognize a lot of your heartfelt feelings so thank you for sharing them with us.

    It is always good to know we are not alone and I do feel your insights will mean a lot to people that are going through these times themselves.
    steffie recently posted…Of kids and balance…My Profile

  3. What a beautiful and important post. Will be sharing it for sure as there are so many of us who feel this and have experienced invisibility as a deep wound. Thank you for being so open about it. It is an honor to have you in the sanctuary and has been a huge blessing to me and the other women there. Your honesty and loving support of others is genuine and heartwarming. You make people feel important and visible.
    Stephanie recently posted…The Journey Back to My BodyMy Profile

    • Steph, this brought a lump to my throat – your personal support as well as the support of the sanctuary has been such a blessing to me. Thanks so much for your encouragement and for always walking your talk xx

  4. Lovely Leanne. We don’t always realize how much we are still affected by things that happen to us during our childhood.
    I found you on Leonie Dawson’s Academy and I’m sharing your post.
    Fadwa

  5. Leanne, I loved your post. It’s funny how synchronicity works. I have a weird thing going on with invisibility and yesterday, as I was doing my solstice ritual I wrote: “I’m finally ready to let go of any conscious or subconscious need to be seen by someone who simply can’t see me.

    You see, I’m not normally invisible, people think I’m extroverted (which I’m absolutely not), and I seem to grab the attention even if I’m longing not to. But then, I invest myself so deeply in relationships with people that simply can’t see me. I get so involved, I do whatever it takes (most of the time unconsciously) to make them see me. I’ll sacrifice anything. I know I carry this pattern from my childhood and my relationship with my mother. I know I miss on opportunities and other real, loving connections because I’m too busy trying to be seen by those who are simply unable to do so.

    I’m so ready to finally let this go now. So ready.
    Andrea Belarruti recently posted…Holiday sentimentalism and a free giftMy Profile

    • Andrea, I love your comment about letting go the need to be seen by people who just can’t see you – I think that’s the core of invisibility, choosing people who just can’t see or hear us and then trying to make them! A leftover from childhood battles but such an exercise in futility. I agree that even extroverts experience this. I totally support you in letting this pattern go and being true to yourself from here on xx

  6. Leanne,

    I commend you for your honesty – for writing from your heart. Yes like Nic I felt a real heart pull when you wrote about your mother not speaking to you for seven days. I totally understand your confusion and pain. I celebrate your stepping into your power and sharing with others, your journey.

    What do you teach now – that you stand before others?

    Well done – great article and I know it will be of great comfort to others who travelled a similar path.

    Cheers
    Jan-Marie

    • Thanks for your lovely words Jan-Marie. I teach in a private counselling college as my ‘day job’ right now. I also run workshops on creativity from time to time. It’s hard to believe sometimes 🙂

  7. Oh, Leanne, reading this just about broke me.

    I’m not sure if it counts as feeling invisible, but I remember a period of a couple of years while I was at secondary school where I seriously wondered if there was a “ME” that existed… or whether I was just a collection of impressions and opinions and ideas I’d absorbed from other people.

    It sounds weird to say, but I really did have a sense of not existing as an individual.

    I love your tips for managing that sense of invisibility.

    Blessings

    TANJA
    Tanja recently posted…Marketing thoughts: want to stand out from the crowd?My Profile

    • Tanja, I know what you mean – especially as a teenager it’s hard to settle on an identity and know who you are at your core. It can feel like you’re invisible. I’m actually surprised at the amount of people who relate to this feeling of being invisible. Thanks for stopping by xx

  8. Omgosh & holycrapballs hunni! Tears welled in my eyes when I read about your Mother’s silent treatment. I can’t even. *squishy hugs*
    After a very crappola marriage with severe emotional & psychological abuse I am only now (officially single as of yesterday) coming to terms with how much I shut myself off from the world, from family, from friends. Piece by piece and step by step I will get back ‘out there’ and leave behind the ‘little voices of doomy suckness’ once and for all.
    Thank you for sharing your voice babe. Heard it loud and clear.
    Nicole recently posted…By: If There Was A Poster Child For P.M.S written by Nicole Suzanne Brown |My Profile

    • Thanks for hearing me Nicole, I know you will get back out there but I know it’s hard to pick up the pieces when you’ve had to shut down for so long. Congratulations on your return to singledom and self-love 🙂

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this, Leanne! I, too, have a lost girl. One that hides and opens up to very few in order to maintain her safety. So, I can *definitely* relate. Explains why a good deal of the work I’ve been doing lately has been inspired by my Inner Child.
    Dawna recently posted…Re-Charging “Mommy’s” Light: More on Self CompassionMy Profile

  10. Thank you for sharing your journey, thank you for your authenticity and insight, i have also been surprised by how much i have needed to love up and listen to my inner child…..

  11. Loved this Leanne, I too am invisible

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