Do you feel Invisible?

Mar 21, 2024

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like no one saw or acknowledged you?

Maybe it was a college class– everyone around you was talking and making friends, but not a single one of them asked your name. 

Maybe it was at work– you saw your colleagues getting promotions and recognition for all of the effort they were putting in. You were working just as hard, with no promotions to show for it.

Maybe it was with your friends– when you met up for lunch, they excitedly asked each other, “How is your new job treating you?” and “Is Katie still playing soccer?, but they didn’t ask about the new book you just published. 

It is very common to feel overlooked, it happens to the best of us. And of course, like most parts of life, we can’t completely avoid it. But we can significantly decrease the frequency of this feeling. There is a solution to being overlooked: communication. 

You’ll often find that the people who feel overlooked the most are generally more reserved. Quiet people get overlooked because they don’t communicate well.

We can feel invisible and overlooked when:

  • Others don’t notice us.
  • Our needs aren’t being met.
  • Our thoughts aren’t being considered.
  • Our boundaries aren’t being respected.

When someone is being overlooked, it is usually not the case that the people overlooking them are being intentionally unfair or malicious. Instead, they may be unaware of the needs of the overlooked person, or they may be unaware of that person’s abilities, qualifications, and thoughts. When someone who works just as hard as anyone else is overlooked for a promotion, it may be due to their boss not being aware of their skills and effort because the overlooked employee isn’t communicating it. Or it may be that other employees are communicating louder, and the overlooked person has quieted down to stay under the radar. 

The important thing to remind yourself of when you find yourself dimming your own light to let others’ lights shine is that your needs are just as important as theirs. There is a huge difference between “Belonging” and “Fitting In.” Belonging is an authentic emotion. In fact, in a survival situation, belonging is critical to your existence.  Fitting in is the counterfeit of survival. It looks, acts, and can even feel like belonging but is completely based on fear. Connection is one of the basic needs of being human. The trouble is that we sometimes think that we won’t be liked or possibly even shunned (severe disconnection). Scientist Matthew Lieberman, in his new book Social, describes a case study that shows social pains can be as real as physical pain. He states that “...our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water”

Feeling invisible or overlooked can cause real pain. The good news is that there are things you can do about it. The first is to recognize when you are trying (or just wanting) to fit in versus belonging. This is so important.

To understand the difference between Belonging and Fitting In, take a look at this definition from Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

Here are a couple of things you can do to feel that acceptance:

  1. Belong instead of trying to fit in
  2. Communicate

When you understand your belonging, you emanate a light that people are drawn to. There are five natural places we belong

  1. Self
  2. Family
  3. Humanity
  4. God
  5. Purpose

We can find deep connections in each of these areas. When we find our belonging, we will not need to “Fit In” because we already feel accepted as we are. Above all else, know that you belong to yourself.

The second point is to communicate. How do you begin to communicate better?

Better communication starts with a shift in beliefs. Instead of expecting people to see you, you can take responsibility to see others. Instead of waiting for others to approach you, you can approach others. Instead of waiting for your boss to give you a promotion and a raise, you can ask your employer to meet with you and request one for yourself.

Let’s go back to two of the examples from the beginning and apply these beliefs. 

There’s this young man named Spencer who walks into a college class. It’s the first day, and everyone is choosing their seats and getting to know each other. He sits down next to a small group of people who are chatting with each other about what they like to do for fun. He waits for a couple of seconds, hoping that they’ll ask for his name and loop him into the conversation, and then pulls out his phone when they don’t acknowledge him. 

Spencer feels overlooked because the people he sits by don’t care to talk to him. But it wasn’t that they didn’t care, it was that they didn’t notice because Spencer didn’t communicate his desire to talk to them. He waited for them to invite him because he felt like it would be selfish to include himself in their conversation. In reality, the people getting to know each actually want to get to know  Spencer and add him to their group. Spencer put his phone away strike up a conversation. He introduced himself, he made friends instead of feeling overlooked.

Rebecca has been tirelessly working on her book for the last eight years, and she finally got it published. She goes to lunch with her friends today and is excited to share all about her work. She gets to the restaurant and hugs her friends. They start asking about each other’s lives and listening to each other’s updates. They are all so happy to be talking with each other, and everyone's competing for attention. Rebecca’s nature is to keep quiet and patiently wait for someone to bring up her book so she can tell them about it. Nobody asks about the book. Instead of  Rebecca going home feeling overlooked, she shares the good news with her friends. They all celebrate with her over lunch.

Rebecca’s friends weren’t trying to hurt her, and they weren’t intentionally ignoring her achievements. In all the excitement and eagerness to talk about their own lives, they simply forgot about Rebecca’s book. When Rebecca let everyone know, they were pleased to celebrate their dear friend's accomplishments. 

People are overlooked when they don’t communicate their needs, thoughts, and desires. But if you transform your beliefs from self-depreciative ones into kind ones, you’ll start to communicate better. And you’ll stop being overlooked.

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