I used to feel invisible. It often seemed like people only noticed me when they wanted something from me, and they ignored me or disappeared when I had a need or want of my own?
This is a really painful, lonely, difficult place to be.
I was raised in a loving family, but for some reason always felt that my role was to meet the needs of the rest of the group. As a child, I often felt ignored or “less than”, so the only way to get noticed and receive positive attention was to suppress my needs and focus on those of others.
Once I became an adult, I was still looking for love and approval by giving to and taking care of, others, as I learned to do when I was small.
Since I was raised to be a caretaker of others, I wasn’t taught to also take care of myself. The unspoken bargain, what I hoped would happen, was that if I were there for people, they’d be there for me.
Unfortunately, it seldom worked that way!
Taking care of others is a good thing. It’s wonderful to be giving, supportive and compassionate to people. The thing I didn’t learn is that I also need to give these wonderful things to myself.
As a result, I felt invisible.
Once I realized what was going on, I looked at why people didn’t give me the same consideration and support that I gave them. I was surprised to see that I was unconsciously treating myself disrespectfully, and modeled this behavior for others. Without realizing it I was teaching people how to treat me.
The good news is that I am now I’m an adult, I have the power to make things different. Even though I was taught to disregard my wants and needs so I could focus on others, I can now change that early patterning, and begin treating myself with the respect I deserve.
I was excited to think about what it would be like if I stopped ignoring myself and started occasionally putting my needs first. Setting boundaries around behaviors I will and will not accept from others.
Some things I did to turn things around are:
• Look inside myself and begin acknowledging my feelings, wants and needs. Tell myself that what I feel is as important as what others feel, and act accordingly.
• Start speaking up for myself. Once I was aware of my feelings, wants and needs, I Spoke Up and made sure others were aware of them too. If they continued to ignore me or got angry when I did this, I realized it might be a toxic relationship that I needed to re-evaluate.
• Start taking care of myself as well others, and modeling for them how to give to me as well as take from me.
• Stop accepting one-way relationships, where the other person talks about him/herself for hours but doesn’t listen when you begin to speak.
• Give people the opportunity to be there for me. Take a risk, share my thoughts, and encourage others to respond.
When I changed my behavior, most people were happy to see that I was stepping up and being assertive. However, others were angry and confused. With these folks, I patiently demonstrated my boundaries and held them firm, and modeled for others how I expect to be treated. Eventually, people modified the way they treated me, and their respect for me grew as I demonstrated my own self-respect.
Unfortunately, there were some people who just wanted to be in a relationship with me because of the way I took care of them, and as I grew stronger, they faded away, which was just fine with me.
What I learned is to always remember that I am a loveable, valuable, capable, competent person, and it’s time I, and everyone else, acknowledges this.
I also learned that the bottom line is the key to being visible is to respect myself, take control of my life, and make sure others are aware that I am as important as they are.
Sandy is a best-selling author, life and business coach, speaker, and Licensed Counselor. She specializes in working with professionals, entrepreneurs, and people dealing with life transitions, and is the author of the Amazon bestseller Feeling Good About You and Moving Up To Management for New Supervisors (both available on Amazon.com). Please visit Sandy on her website at www.insidejobscoach.com to check out her books and free resources, and sign up for her Free Newsletter.