How to Stop Feeling Invisible and Reclaim Your Self-Esteem
Feeling “invisible” is a common complaint among women over fifty. Feeling undervalued, underappreciated and invisible are the just the opposite of how we should feel! We have earned our wisdom through years of trial and error. Like fine wine, our value increases with age. And yet, many of us find ourselves sometimes feeling invisible, undervalued and unappreciated.
If you’ve experienced times when you have felt invisible and would like to prevent such feelings in the future, try asking yourself this series of questions:
- In what situations do I feel invisible?
- To whom do I feel invisible?
- What is my expectation of others’ behavior toward me in this situation?
- What might be going on the lives of those I feel slighted by that prevents them from treating me in the way that I desire?
- How can I, through my own behavior, achieve the response I desire from others?
If you can inform your thinking, you can change your perspective on the situation and therefore your own response to it. Start by asking yourself these questions every time.
In What Situations Do You Feel Invisible?
What circumstances and places do you find yourself in when feelings of invisibility creep in?
- Family gatherings
- Shops, restaurants and other public places
- Doctors’ offices
- At work
- At parties and other social gatherings
- Other situations
Try to analyze the situation and what is happening to get to the root cause of your feelings.
Who are the People to Whom You Feel Invisible?
Who are the people with whom you are interacting when you feel invisible? The relationships we have with others determines to a large extent how we can expect them to interact with us. Different situations and different people require different sets of expectations. What you can expect from people differs depending on the people with whom you interact:
- We can expect that our family members love and respect us based upon a shared history of mostly positive interactions.
- In public places like shops and restaurants, we can expect that we will be valued for our patronage and treated with kindness and respect.
- At doctors’ offices, we know that our physical bodies are the focus of care and attention by busy professionals who value us as patients.
- At work, we can expect that we will be valued for our contribution to the goals of the company and through the camaraderie that naturally results among co-workers.
- At parties and social gatherings, we can expect to be welcomed by our friends.
- We know we’ll need to extend ourselves, sometimes out of our comfort zone, to meet and be valued by new acquaintances at parties and on our travels.
What Are Your Expectations of How You’d Like People to Treat You?
What kinds of responses do you expect and desire in each of the social settings and situations we’ve mentioned? Are you looking for:
- Simple acknowledgment of your presence?
- Attention based on your attractiveness, sexual or otherwise?
- Respect based on your past achievements, experience and wisdom?
- Interaction and conversation that makes you feel interesting and relevant?
- Evidence that you are valued and important?
Your own expectations of others’ behavior toward you play a huge role in how you feel you are being treated. Examine your own expectations of others. Determine if what you expect is realistic given the people involved and the circumstances. Observe how others interact in these settings to receive the treatment you desire. Compare your own behaviors with behaviors of others who seem to enjoy the kinds of interactions you admire.
What Might Be Going On in Others’ Lives That Might Affect How They Treat You?
Often, how others treat us has nothing to do with us at all! Sometimes, what is going on in their own lives is so engrossing and consuming that they are unable to behave as they otherwise would without such pressures.
When I engage people in conversation, I am often amazed at the kinds of pressures and conflicts I discover they are dealing with in their personal lives. It’s no wonder so many people are unable to be gracious to others when they are in such pain themselves.
I’ve known people, as you no doubt have as well, who are dealing with emotional or physical abuse from a spouse or other loved one. Financial pressures affect most people all the time. Not being able to pay for a medical procedure your child desperately needs, can consume your good humor. A loved one may be terribly sick or dying. A break-up or divorce may be going on. A simple unhappy exchange at the breakfast table can color a person’s demeanor for the whole day.
We never know what ills, conflicts, pressures and tragedies others are dealing with at any given moment. We are so often so focused on our own well-being and needs that we fail to take into account what others are dealing with that may affect how they interact with us.
What Can You Do to Achieve the Response You Desire?
The response we receive from others is dependent in large part on our own mindset and behavior.
When I am out running errands, picking up things from stores, going to doctor visits, the hair salon and other places, I find the way to have the most fun doing these chores, is to initiate positive interactions with those with whom I come in contact. I’ve done if for so long it has become second nature to me.
To break it down into a process, I would say that it starts with intention. I set my intention to accomplish two very important missions: 1) Have a fun and memorable day; and 2) Brighten the day of every person with whom I come in contact. The two work in tandem to produce an even greater effect. The more I enjoy myself, the more joy and humor I have to share with others. The more joy and humor I share with others, the more joyful I become. I notice this in others too.
Embrace True Joy (and Avoid Smug Joy!)
A truly joyful person is a charismatic presence. People notice when a joyful presence enters. There is a twinkle in the eye and a bouncy step that catches our attention. Most importantly there is an aura of happy confidence that empowers the charismatic person to be expansive and inclusive with others. We have an immediate, positive response to a joyful, charismatic person.
True joy cannot be contained. It emanates from within and spreads outwardly to others. By contrast, a smug person who finds joy in feeling “special” or superior to others keeps their “joy” for themselves alone. Such a frame of mind seeks to exclude others and even put others down for the sake of raising herself up.
When joy is expansive and inclusive, it is contagious. A joyful person lets her joy flow outward. Infectious laughter and joy lifts others up and includes them in a joyful moment of bonding.
How to Be Joyful, Spread Joy and Be Valued and Appreciated
You have the ability to be joyful and spread joy every day. You are capable of changing the course of other people’s day as well as your own, and maybe even their life. You are so powerful, you can be a presence and a force who is seen, felt and remembered as you touch others’ lives – even if just briefly.
It’s easy to accomplish when you make the first move and have a simple plan. Here’s how to do it:
- Make eye contact
- Remark on something interesting or new
- Make an observation or joke that will elicit a positive response from someone
- Be open and ready to capitalize on the other person’s response to your opening gesture
- Respond with a remark that keeps the conversation going in a positive and interesting direction
- Find a way to deepen the connection with further conversation or move on to the next lucky recipient of your uplifting attention
Repeat these steps with every person with whom you come in contact throughout your day. Take note of the apparent demeanor and mood of each person when you first encountered them and then how they were when you left them. Did you raise their spirits? Make them chuckle? Brighten their day with a new piece of information or perspective? Did you make them feel recognized, valued and appreciated?
Then take note of how you felt during and after each exchange. Were your spirits uplifted? Did you notice a bounce in your step? Did you feel seen, valued and appreciated?
Using these simple techniques, you need never feel invisible again.
I guarantee you’ll have stories to tell from your interactions over the course of just one day! I’d love to know your results with this little experiment. Did it work for you? Please share in the comments!