michael sam's dadWhat does it mean to be invisible?

No one sees you.

As a therapist, I hear lots of men and woman over 40 tell me that they feel “invisible”.  They walk down the street in Hillcrest and no one sees them.  No one makes eye contact.  They go to an event at The Center and no one talks to them.  They go to an LGBT-friendly church and no one approaches them.

Has this ever happened to you?  Maybe you don’t fit the current LGBT standards of beauty, so you feel invisible.

If you’ve ever felt “invisible”, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do I want to be seen?  If so, by whom?

How do I want other people to see me?

How do I see myself?

What do I think other people are looking for?

Am I setting myself up for invisibility?

Feeling invisible isn’t all about how others perceive us, it’s largely about how we perceive ourselves.

For some of us, it’s a form of self-sabotage.  We feel crappy about ourselves, like we don’t deserve to be loved or admired or appreciated and – guess what? – that’s exactly what we get back from others.  Self-love and self-regard play a big part in being invisible.  Haven’t you seen people who aren’t particularly good-looking or striking, but they seem magnetic?  These people draw others to them so easily…how do they do it?  I’ll bet it’s because they have terrific self-esteem.

From what I’ve read, 95% of how we communicate with other people is non-verbal.  We (subconsciously) read their body language, facial expressions, clothing and get a “hit” from it.  We then have an emotional reaction to them, based on that “hit”.

If you feel invisible, what do you think you’re putting out there in the world on a non-verbal level?

Want to find out?  Study yourself in videos and photos.  Look at yourself in the mirror (with compassion, please) and see what you get.  Is this a person you’d like to get to know?  Is this someone you would find interesting?  Or is this person someone you’d probably ignore or even avoid?  Let’s get real here. If you want to shake that cloak of invisibility – you’re not Harry Potter, after all – figure out what you’re putting out in the world for others to see and experience.

In my experience, invisibility is more about how you feel about yourself than how you look.  I have clients who are gorgeous who tell me that no one really sees them, and clients who are less than “perfect” who are very popular and desirable.  Sure, it helps to be attractive, but it’s not enough.

Part of being invisible is not really being 100% “there”. For someone to connect with you, you need to be present. Many of us are so distracted by people and things (iphones, ipads, etc.) that we aren’t really available to anyone. Fear is often a factor in this:  if we don’t trust other people or ourselves, it’s hard to be in the present moment.  We may be obsessing about the past or worrying about the future, and we miss what’s happening right in front of us.

If you feel half-dead much of the time, like your life is one big boring disappointment, I doubt that you’re really living in the present moment.  To be in the present moment is both exciting and scary: you never really know what will happen.  This is a risk we need to take if we want to be seen, heard and appreciated by other people.

If you are tired of feeling invisible, notice how alive you feel.  People that really feel alive have an energy that other people can perceive. Another way to stay invisible is to not really listen or pay attention to other people.  When you’re talking to someone, are you really 100% there, or are you only half-available for connection? Many of us go through life missing out on the cues and signals of people around us.  We are preoccupied with ourselves so much that we FEEL invisible to others.  But, the bottom line is that we’re afraid to really be there with another person.

Maybe we needed this defense in our past, if people were hurtful or aggressive to us.  But this kind of once-helpful defense may be keeping people away from you now…letting you feel isolated and invisible.

Invisibility is a choice. If it’s no longer what you want, I invite you to choose differently.