Have you ever felt invisible?
Like people were looking right through you- eyes piercing past you to the other side as if though something better, more interesting, more important was there beyond you.
And I’m not just referencing people we pass by on the sidewalk, or those we sit by on the bus or see at the grocery store as we’re stocking our carts. I’m also talking about people you come in contact with every single day. Your co-workers, acquaintances, friends, and yes, even family members.
Do you ever feel as though you don’t exist?
While the fact that the person in the grocery store who stared past you as they headed to the produce aisle may not have a long lasting affect on you, that co-worker, whom you see everyday, who enters the office and walks past you without muttering a “good morning” to you might sting a bit- or might go unnoticed because the behavior has been accepted as the norm.
Do they know your name?
Do they care to?
Do you matter to them?
Would they notice if you were absent that day?
What I really want to ask you though, is, how often are you on the giving end of this scenario? How often do you walk by your co-worker without muttering a “good morning” as you walk by their desk?
Do you know your co-workers name?
Do you care to?
Do they matter to you?
Would you notice if they were absent that day?
How often do you go through the routines of the morning ignoring the human spirit and instead go straight to life’s hamster wheel? Are the first words that you speak to your child each morning “Get up! And hurry up we’re going to be late!” or the first phrase you say to your spouse as you wake up next to them in bed is “Don’t forget to pay that bill today!”
Do they feel invisible? Do they matter? Do they know they matter?
I have early memories of invisibility. I was a shy child, at times hardly able to carry conversations with family members or at school. At four years old I attended a prekindergarten at a small neighborhood day care. I was in a class of around 15 other children my age, yet I didn’t have a single friend. My grandmother would make me a lunch every single day and pack it into my prized metal Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox filled with treats she thought would make me happy. Every single day I’d eat alone, in total silence, on a small bench away from the rest of the group, facing a wall in the lunch area of the school.
I’m not sure if anyone knew my name. I felt completely invisible during what should have been a time to laugh and play and trade lunchbox treasures. My daycare teachers accepted my shyness and never tried to engage me or try any strategies to include in me the group. I was just shy Stephanie, and that was it.
Even at the young age of 4 I felt invisible. I felt as though I didn’t matter. And if I were absent, I’m not sure anyone in my class would notice. And the memory of that experience has stuck with me all this time.
How many people (kids AND adults) feel like this on a daily basis? How many people feel this way because of you?
We all want to feel as though we are important to someone. That we matter. That someone can SEE us. That we are valued. That we are important. That we would be missed if we were absent.
I encourage you to think deeply about your daily interactions with people. Whether it’s at the market and the mall, or at school or at home. What can you do to spread encouragement and hope to another person? What can you do to help someone feel as though they are visible? What can you do you to inspire others to do the same?
If we each made a conscious effort to reignite that human connection, to ensure that those that we come in contact on a daily basis feel important and valued, we can make a positive shift in our culture and strengthen our relationships with others around us. You never know when something you notice (and point out!) will change a person’s day for the better.
Extend a handshake, share a greeting, ask someone how their day was, reach out, offer help, pass along a genuine compliment.
It’s not about being the perfect parent or spouse, co-worker or teacher, family member or friend.
It’s about being present and noticing the souls around us.
Here is a great place to start.
And if you are interested in diving deeper into this work, I encourage you to explore Angela Maiers’s website even further!