I remember the first time I heard the word that perfectly described how I was feeling.
I was sitting in my therapist’s office, talking about how weird it was to walk down a busy sidewalk and feel like no one noticed me. Or watch a playful interaction between a male sales clerk and a young woman customer only to have his face become serious and bored when he turned to help me.
“Would you say that you feel invisible?” he asked.
“Yes!” I responded. “That’s it!”
Finding the words to describe my feelings.
Mid-50s, and I was beginning my new relationship with myself as an “older” woman. While I had always felt insecure and inferior next to beautiful women, I still craved and enjoyed hearing compliments about my looks whenever they came my way.
Being acknowledged for my looks was the way I had felt “seen” for most of my life. And without being seen for my youth, I was starting to question my worth and value.
Using the Journey to Legacy™ method of writing my life stories, digging deep, and analyzing how my priorities have both changed and remained stagnant throughout my life, has helped me better understand my hunger to be affirmed for my looks. Like most women I know, I grew up with family members and friends who were all deeply influenced by the way our culture values beauty. Magazines, movies, and now social media. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating beauty, but we sometimes lose track of its importance to our core happiness.
Identifying the root of my feelings.
As I wrote my “feeling invisible” story, I started to remember more. My mother and father affirmed me for my looks. I was the “cute” one and my sister was the “smart” one.
Interestingly, from that experience, what I held onto for most of my life was the notion that I wasn’t smart, rather than the belief I was cute.
Looking back, I now see my need for this type of affirmation as an addiction. Also, as a trick to keep myself from being visible in the ways that really matter, especially later in life.
And even though writing about my past helped me understand the root of this longing to be seen for youth and beauty, it has been the experience of sharing my stories with other women that has shown me what it’s like to be seen in a much more fulfilling way – to be seen for who I am, for what my stories reveal about my less superficial accomplishments, and for the ways I’m consciously choosing to shift my priorities at this stage of my life.
Of course, I had to see myself first before I could let others see me. That’s what writing my stories down helped me to do. The writing was the work, and the sharing has been the reward.
Finding new value.
Now being “seen” comes in the most amazing ways…
- From the comments I get from readers. Like you, who let me know they were touched and related to my stories.
- From the exchange of genuine, heartwarming smiles with strangers.
- And, from the community of women who share their stories in our private Journey to Legacy™ sessions. With intention and ceremony, we create a sacred space of privacy and respect at the start of each session, which allows us all to feel safe revealing our true selves – to be seen.
I think our ability to let ourselves finally be seen for who we are and not our appearance has a lot to do with the safe space we create in our Journey to Legacy™ sessions. But, I also think it’s something that comes with the wisdom of the Third Act when we’re open to it. My relationships with women are all richer now than they were 20 years ago, whether we meet in person, on the phone, or over Zoom. The older I get, the more I value how my friendships with women have evolved over the years; now more than ever, they are founded in substance, allowing me to show up just as I am.
What a relief!
Have I completely “recovered” from my “addiction” to being noticed for my appearance? Nope. I still spend way more time worrying about how I look than I’d like to. But now I’m also able to embrace this time of “being invisible” as freeing and exciting because, in the right context, surrounded by like-minded women, I know I’m not invisible at all. In fact, for the first time, I feel truly seen.