I spent most of my twenties not wanting to be seen.
Actually, I probably spent most of my life not wanting to be seen, but what really sticks out is the period right after I got divorced.
Not wanting to be seen (take 1)
One of the many lovely things I acquired along with the divorce was
my life falling apart a horrible skin condition.
Doctors and dermatologists shrugged their shoulders and said “stress”, and “it happens”, and gave me medications that were both completely ineffective and came with a wide variety of misery-inducing side effects.
I won’t go into the complicated and tragicomic steps I took to hide both myself and the existence of this condition (which, incidentally, no one ever found out about).
Let’s just get to the real story and the point of it, because ohmygod the point.
I couldn’t stand to be seen by anyone.
Wanting to be seen (take 1)
So my mantra (conscious and unconscious, waking and sleeping) for years and years and years was please please please don’t look at me.
Then I started a business.
So … I had classes and workshops for people to take. I had services they could hire me for. Eventually (once I got over my distaste of the word “product“) I had products for them to buy if they wanted to.
Except that no one was looking. No one was looking at me. So they couldn’t use these classes and services and products that were intended to help them have less pain and fear and stuck in their lives.
I was finally ready to be seen, but I wasn’t being seen.
Being seen (take 1)
Years later. I had long forgotten the weird skin thing. I had long forgotten the painful hiding.
But it was clear to me that there was some part of me that really didn’t want to be seen because it was as if — no matter what I did — my business was invisible.
So I worked on this theme and its related patterns, getting tiny pinpricks of clarity here and there.
And then I got a healer friend to do a session with me. At the end she said we had reversed my stuck “I can’t be seen” belief and I said okay, fine.
That week I found out that I was being quoted in Woman’s Day.
Cue hysterical laughter.
Not wanting to be seen (take 2)
So I started being seen.
My workshops were filling up. People were calling. (No connection to the Woman’s Day thing, which as far as I know, had pretty much zero effect).
A little being seen was really nice. You know, that sweet sigh of finally, where has everyone been?!
But then I started getting more attention. A lot of attention. Lots of eyes. Lots of love.
And oh it was crippling and terrifying.
Wanting to be seen (take 2)
This time, though, it wasn’t a mystery anymore.
It was so completely obvious that I was the one sabotaging the show and that I couldn’t keep grumbling about how come nobody pays attention when I want them to.
So I started doing deeper work. Applying my own destuckification techniques. Clearing out some old stucknesses.
“Even though there is a part of me that dreads being seen, I am allowed to be terrified of being noticed. I’ve been carrying around this pattern for a lot of years and I don’t have to solve it right this second.
“Even though I have this love-hate relationship with being in the light, I’m reminding myself that this “being seen” thing isn’t about me — it’s about helping my Right People find the help they need.
“Even though I don’t know how to make peace with this yet, I am committing to working on ways to help me feel safe and comfortable as I do this work …”
I realized that if I just stopped hiding from my Right People, the rest would sort itself out.
Being seen (take 2)
It’s not like I’m done working on it. I’m not planning on erasing a lifelong pattern overnight. I like working on it.
But things have moved. A lot.
There was the day I got 7000 page views and I went yay instead of oh crap it’s not ready and what if they don’t like it and that’s too many people and aaaaaaaaaaaaargh.
That was good.
And I was on German television and in The New York Freaking Times … and instead of being petrified I was excited. And happy.
I don’t have to make my life be about how not to be seen. I’m just trying to connect with my Right People in a way that feels safe and comfortable for me … and (she types hopefully) also for them.
Yet again: the “it’s not about me” lesson. Which is (hahahaha) invariably followed by the “but it is about working on my stuff so I can stop making it about me” lesson …
(But wait, we have to know…)
How I lived with a horrible skin condition for three years without anyone knowing about it:
I worked nights. At a very dark, smoky bar. I slept during the day.
Spent everything I earned (after rent) on medication, special skin creams from my useless dermatologist and special make-up. And very nice scarves.
No one I knew (including my best friend and my boyfriend) ever saw me either a. outside of a bar or b. not at night for nearly three years.
I kept waiting for someone to ask if I was a vampire. Or a drunk. Or a drunk vampire. But nothing.
And still I hummed my don’t-look-at-me song under my breath. Not knowing that keeping myself hidden would launch a destructive chain of events that I’d end up healing later. Or at least work on.
And now for something completely different.
Because how can we talk about not being seen without this?
Oh frabjous day!
After a strange out of the blue email yesterday, I suddenly hit this exact pattern of not wanting to be seen. And there you are writing about it. How lovely!
And also much kudos for the Monty Python clip.
Joely Blacks last blog post..Bring on the heavy resistance
“Even though I have this love-hate relationship with being in the light, I’m reminding myself that this “being seen” thing isn’t about me — it’s about helping my Right People find the help they need.”
I like this very much. As I was reading it. And then reading it again. I realized that part of not being seen for me is fears of being unworthy, not good enough. What comes up is that old favorite, “Who do you think you are?” Icky. Slowly, but surely working on that one.
And oh, that Monty Python video made my afternoon. 🙂 Hehe.
leahs last blog post..Creative Every Day Challenge Check-In: April 27th – May 3rd
Great post. It sent me into a memory reverie.
In my earlier years (i like to think of myself as eternally young – self delusion can be wondeful tool)I experienced periods where I did not want to be seen. Each period had it’s stress and tension. For various and now mostly forgotten reasons.
Anyway, I found a solution (lots of visualisation- positive feeling and affirmation type stuff with actually getting out there and doing things) and quite quickly the issues were behind me, in the past.
I appreciate how uneasy and tense a person may feel and I’m reminded it’s all about caring and being honest with yourself first.
Then being willing to replace what you don’t want with something you’d like to explore more of.
Then you can more easily step out and happily be seen. Where and when you want to be seen.
Jens Uptons last blog post..Stepping Into The Talent of Your Role Model
Thank you so much for this post. It’s just what I needed to hear right now.*
*If I told you EVERY time you gave me great info I’d have to leave a daily reply… but THIS blog entry is so helpful and timely I had to thank you.
lindas last blog post..Gonna Get My Doodle On
I love your posts. I love you. I love Selma. 🙂 Again with the timing. Thank you.
Andis last blog post..Management From the Top Down
Oh, my God! This post is brilliant!! It should be required reading/watching for all mental health professionals. Excuse me, for all humans! I love, love, love it.
Havi, thank you!
I really really hate your post. I’ve actually been doing some serious soulsearching lately, meditation, long walks with my brain turned off, and a bit of shiva nata, of course, all trying to figure my own wall of huge stuck.
I was making a little headway, but sometimes even in the middle of meditation, I often get hit by a huge tidal wave of fear, tossing me aside, and leaving me to wonder “what the heck was that about?”.
After reading your post, it was like I found all the puzzle pieces that were missing, and it was hidden under the couch all this time, and it was easy for me to put them together.
I finally figured out one major part of my stuckiness, I was actively doing everything I can to insulate myself from the world, both consciously and unconsciously for a long time now, like you. So hard to admit and finally accept, but somehow, with your story, I can tell myself and it’s ok and come to talking terms with this.
You’ve given me a lot to ponder, some things are a bit clear for me and now I can figure out how I can work on this.
Thanks so much for sharing!
Awesome clip … takes me back to junior high, when I would sit up late at night with my best friend, watching Monty Python with big huge padded headphones on.
And a very insightful post, as usual. Not being seen is certainly safer (you could get blown up, after all!) but it’s also self-defeating when you’re trying to get the word out.
In some ways, the asynchronous nature of the internet allows those of us on the HSP / introvert end of the scale to be seen, but only when we want to be. A happy middle way, perhaps?
Echoing Leah here.
That bit about having a love-hate relationship with being in the light, but trying to remember that it’s about helping my Right People get what they need?
I printed it out and now have it next to my laptop, so I can see it throughout the day.
Really good stuff.
Victoria Brouhards last blog post..Moving Ahead without All the Answers
Oh, Havi! To be seen or not to be seen — that really is the question! My question, anyway. It really is a love-hate relationship isn’t it?
I remember when I first saw the NVC list of basic human needs, and I was FLOORED by the simple statement: “to be seen.” Having the NVC folks acknowledge this as a basic human need unleashed my own awareness a) of how much I want it, and b) how much I am scared by it. In fact, my first blog entry two weeks ago is a reflection on this very subject: http://gretchenwegner.com/2009/04/15/18/ It felt brave to publicly declare my desire to be seen (and not be afraid of it anymore).
Thanks so much for this totally timely post!
Gretchen Wegners last blog post..Could Schools Be More Like Tool Lending Libraries? Part 1/2
So great to remember just how universal this theme is, and how it scares everyone else as much as it scares me. Thank goodness for that.
@Gretchen – Yes! it had the exact same effect on me. I was astonished by just how much I wanted to be seen and just how much I couldn’t.
@JayJay – Hug!
@leah – Exactly. The “who do you think you are” thing is one of the biggest and most painful things we, um, “get to” work on in business. It sucks. 🙂
Thank you for this post, Havi–it comes in perfect timing, as always!
And for Monty Python’s last word on the subject. 🙂
Yup, yup, yup. Gonna send the link all over, again. The Monty Python clip is *perfect* — I love that sketch
Anna-Lizas last blog post..Pollyanna and the Test Chicken of Monday
Wow it has been a while since something resonated so closely with me (but then, I may have been hibernating for a while)…right down to the divorce and skin condition I am currently going through.
Thanks for sharing this.
Since last fall, I’ve been dealing with some troublesome skin problems myself. I’ve been exploring various metaphors, trying to figure out what’s going on: is my skin “keeping something in” and it keeps trying to “break out”? Are my boundaries being violated? Am I expressing “irritation,” “sensitivity”?
Your post turned on a little lightbulb for me. My skin issues showed up around the time that I started taking steps to begin creativity coaching. I offered a workshop that I thought would fill right up, but I only had one participant. Several of my free clients during training dropped out of the process early.
So I’ve got some work to do with the idea of not wanting to be seen. Thanks for the post, Havi. I’m glad it showed up today, because I’m having a session with a healer friend about it on Wednesday.
[How much do I not want to be seen? I don’t want to link this comment to my website. But I’m going to anyway.]
Alison Gresiks last blog post..I Wake You Up In the Morning So Early
Oh, it’s like you peered into my SOUL. I hate hate hate being seen and the only reason I made ANY progress is because I love to dance and my love of dance outweighs my desire to not be seen by a HELLUVA LOT.
But people can pick up vibes and I’m sure that they can read the “don’t come near me or even look at me” vibe rolling off me. In fact, my husband and I met at a club and he told me that he thought I was shy.
…which is COMPLETELY the opposite of my actual personality.
Hayden Tompkinss last blog post..Take Your Marriage From â€˜meh’ to YEAH!
Great post! Not wanting to be seen may be one of the best self-sabotage techniques ever created by the human psique. I’ve always disliked being noticed and I’ve missed a lot of good opportunities because of this fear, wich I’m trying to overcome – or at least learn to live with it and not let myself get pinned down by it.
And thanks for the Monty Python video! I think it illustrates very well how trying to hide will almost always lead to being blown up.
A.S.M. Piress last blog post..Cookies, Coffee and Appearances
“I don’t have to make my life be about how not to be seen. I’m just trying to connect with my Right People in a way that feels safe and comfortable for me … and (she types hopefully) also for them.”
And in the same way, maybe I don’t have to make my whole life about BEING seen. Wow. This doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing? Phew. **Huge sigh of relief**.
Jenny Ryans last blog post..13 Years Later, And We’ve Still Got That Magic
You have this weird way of talking about the exact thing I am thinking about when your post comes up in my reader. I guess I’m your right people because your posts are always super helpful.
Last week I started an account on Facebook and the experience was almost over-whelming. In addition to my friends who had pressured me to start an account in the first place, every acquaintance that I’d lost touch with in the last ten years was on Facebook. I accepted their friend requests with hesitation and for the first day or two had trouble even sharing silly stuff like what cartoons I liked as a kid or which movies in the theatre I was interested in seeing.
I just felt like everyone was watching me and that they might not like what they saw.
This is a bit of my stuff that is so core that I hardly ever question it anymore. Thanks for writing about this and thanks for keeping up this blog!
Ok, that clip really clarified your point for me. I have indeed learned the first rule…don’t stand up. Instead, I’m hiding behind my products. Hmmmm….yeah, that didn’t seem to work so well for the people in the clip, either.
I’m sure this is not my only stuck, but it is stopping me from being seen!!
Brookes last blog post..Fiber Friday
This is brilliantly helpful and so apropos. Just yesterday I was working on an exercise to see if I could shift myself around Being in the Spotlight.
Simply sitting with your “I realized that if I just stopped hiding from my Right People, the rest would sort itself out” felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me. So a big big thank you Havi!
One of the things I love about your writing is the way that you manage to make it perfectly clear that accepting where you are and working on self improvement are complementary instead of contradictory. You do this explicitly in your descriptions of your techniques, and implicitly in your stories about life. Thank you!
kballs last blog post..Fighting my Internet Addiction
I see a lot of myself in that. I want to be seen and noticed and then I really prefer to be off by myself in the corner. I have wondered if any of that came from being an only child.
@kball – ohmygosh I am so glad you said that because a client asked me last week about exactly that (how you can work on self-improvement and still accept yourself where you are) and I thought ohhhhhh crap I’ll have to write a post about that and I don’t feel like it yet …
But apparently the thing I wanted to teach is getting across *anyway*. That’s amazing. And thank you for helping me see this whole thing better. Awesome.
@Mike – ooh, yeah. Good point. Introverted loners unite! Okay, you know what I mean.
It’s also kind of like what Caitlin said about needing/wanting something to mediate the experience of being seen.
As in, I want to be seen, but I also want a safe space to crawl away and hide in sometimes too … and then finding ways that these can co-exist.
@Brooke – hadn’t thought of it that way. Yeah, hiding behind products. Hiding behind expertise. Hiding behind experience. Interesting. I will think about that some more. It’s also funny how the very act of hiding can sometimes make us feel more vulnerable.
@Alison – that was totally fascinating. And I love that you were brave enough to document being brave about being scared about not hiding. Awesome.
And it’s also so interesting how all these skin connections work. How we want something to clear up and yet we don’t want the stuff that comes with the clarity. And so on.
@everyone – I seriously don’t know how it is that the smartest and most insightful people end up on my blog, but it always seems to me like we get super high quality thoughts and insights here. Half the time I want to write twenty more posts based on ideas from the comments.
You guys rock and I appreciate soooooooo much that my people are bright, thoughtful, inquisitive and kind. *kiss*
Too stirred up by your post to say much more than thank you (again) for putting it out there for us to simmer on and work with and nod at and talk about and relax into and get stirred up about and… 🙂
Crystals last blog post..What Would You Be Doing For a Living If There Was No Internet?
Oh geez. I worked up the nerve to do this spiel at work today. It wasn’t really very subtle. This was to a person who walks by and stares at me when I’m working and ALWAYS makes a comment if I wear a sweater or move the pencil cup 8″ to the right or if ANYTHING is somehow at all different. Today the catalyst was for this lady to walk by and say “I see you have handwarmers on! It’s cold in here today, and you put your handwarmers on!”:
“Hey, uh, I have a weird question to ask you. [said in a chatty conversational tone, an hour after the stupid comment] Once you sat in the cubicle where I am now, right? OK, yeah, I thought so! Did you ever . . . like, did people ever stare at you when they walked by? Yeah? Did you ever find that frustrating, like you wanted to say ‘gosh, just shut up,’ or ‘yes, you’re right, it’s cold and I’m wearing a sweater. SO WHAT?’ or ‘quit commenting on every little thing I do’? Did you ever just want to not be bugged, you know? Gosh, you did?? Really?? So you know what I’m talking about? Because I always wonder if it’s, like, only me who feels weird when people stare at me when I’m working, or they make pointless and obvious comments to me even though I’m just doing my work and not even interacting with them. You know. Wow, so you know how it can feel distracting and unnecessary sometimes, and how it feels like you’re being monitored, and you wish they wouldn’t do it!”, etc.
Horribly embarrassing — it’s so very not-subtle to walk someone through this kind of conversation. But I think it may have gotten through to her. –Now bear in mind that I do also have personal issues about not-wanting-to-be-seen that AREN’T legitimate reasons to be left alone. But it takes an awful lot for me just to get to that point where I politely tell someone how rude they are being.
Why do so many of us have this to deal with? Is it because this culture is so good at “Who do you think you are?”
I’m not an only child, but a sister of a very envious sibling. I always suspected that as the cause of my hiding wanting to be seen.
Dianas last blog post..Unconditional art
I’m glad my comment helped you to see it better. Your article and response to my comment got me thinking a lot, and was an inspiration for me writing about some of my own neuroses. Thanks!
kballs last blog post..Fighting my Internet Addiction
@Havi – Wonderfully universal post, as always 🙂
I have made sooo much progress where this is concerned, yet it still impacts me in certain ways – what comes to mind right now is how I’m seen on the web. But that’s more to do with not wanting my online self (or, at least, the “woo-woo” part of my self that actually has the most to say) to be seen by those I work with. Or, more precisely, for.
Fortunately, I’m now carving out a space where I think I can honor/acknowledge the part of me that so *does* want to be seen, in a way that I think feels safe for the part that doesn’t.
Thanks for your continued reminders that wherever we are, it’s ok.
Oh and @Bonni – Thanks for sharing how you handled that!
acomos last blog post..Homework: When Everyday is “Between” Sessions
Lots of relieved feelings of recognition as I was reading this post: first as an Accutane survivor who became unnaturally acquainted with vampiric schedules, and second now as a fledgling videoblogger who hates having her picture taken or being on camera. (Um yeah… not the wisest choice if I’m trying to remain invisible.)
I so look forward to the day when I’m excited to be seen too, but in the meantime thank you for letting us know (once again!) that it’s okay to be just who we are and where we are now.
Kirstin Butlers last blog post..april 22 | links back
I think my favorite part about this is that now when I get a little nastygram from someone who thinks I should be less visible, I will picture myself blowing up to a narration by John Cleese. Which turns it from suck to hilarious. So thank you.
I do actually relate to this very much, which I realize makes no sense since my inner-three-year-old-who-dances-on-the-coffee-table is not all that hidden.
Sonia Simones last blog post..Objection Blaster #4: Why You?
Once again, something I can totally relate to. For me it was both a weight thing and the occasional skin thing. Now, I wonder why I don’t seem to be having some of the successes that those around me are experiencing.
I know that’s all started to change. But you’re right, sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that it’s all about “helping my Right People find the help they need.”
Thank you for your openness and willingness to help 😉
Katys last blog post..Do You Have Big Plans for Your Business This Summer?
Not being seen is kind of a safety feature. Kinda like camouflage in nature – there are alot of animals who survive only in “not-being-seen-at-all.”
No wonder we’ve got issues with it.
At least in my past there were a few situations where being seen could have meant griveous bodily harm. So yeah. If you’ve learned that visible = hurt, then *shrugs*
Being invisible feels safe, and at the same time it cuts you off what’s good.
It always boils down to fear, doesn’t it?
Carinas last blog post..Switching off the words.
Wow. I bet I picked up some “don’t look at me” stuff while I was in the awkward in-between phase of my transition from male to female.
Food for thought. I’ll think about how that might be stuckifying business things. Thanks! (:
Paces last blog post..The Usual Error book review roundup, part 2
Wow… this got me thinking SO much… about being invisible and why I have allowed myself to be invisible for so long… and how I can allow myself to be comfortably SEEN…
Pams last blog post..Becoming Visible again
I found it very interesting to see how pretty much every commenter talked about the wanting/not wanting to be seen thing, because as I was reading your post I kept thinking of it as being one specific example of a general pattern – the not wanting X, then wanting X and not being able to have or be it, and finally getting to have or be X. This pattern applies to so many things! (Granted, the wanting/not wanting to be seen thing is huge, and I totally understand that every one identified with it.) I thought it was useful to have the pattern laid out like this: it will help me recognize it and deal with it when I’m stuck in the middle of it.
Thanks also for that bit:
“Yet again: the “it’s not about me” lesson. Which is (hahahaha) invariably followed by the “but it is about working on my stuff so I can stop making it about me” lesson…”
This is a great reminder, a very helpful one.
Havi – I read your post and got the chills. I’m jumping up and down in my seat right now!
One of my very dear friends wrote a beautiful, amazing song. It’s on her CD (A huge dream accomplished) and it’s called “Look at Me, Don’t Look at Me.”
You have GOT to hear the lyrics to this song (and turn up the speakers). Because it’s EXACTLY what you are talking about.
http://www.anniemacmusic.com/audio.html (# 14 on the player).
By the way, her name is Annie Mac and she’s on Twitter @AnnieMacMusic.
Wendy Maynards last blog post..Metromom Online Success Telesummit – Join Me!
Thank you! Thank you! What a gorgeous post. I suffer from the visibility (invisibility?) complex in a major way and reading this has me laughing, crying, and hopeful. The video is perfecto. Good to remember to laugh at myself and that I won’t be shot on sight for becoming visible. Good times.
Wow. Just Wow.
I stumbled across this post of yours, Havi, and… wow. I had to comment, even if it means being “seen” (which, most of the time, I do not want. Nope. Do not want.)
As a child, when asked what super hero power I wanted, it was always “invisibility”. At the same time, I wanted to be a ballerina or circus performer – but one that was, presumably, invisible when not on stage. It’s quite the conflict, and I’ve spent most of my life both craving and hiding from the spotlight, and even coming to understand it as a core part of my temperament.
But reading this post, the visualizations took off in my head. That odd creature that showed up as my “brand” the other day, well.. he’s now hanging out in a curious camouflaged environment, where he’s nearly invisible when standing still. But The Interesting Thing? When he moves, poses, (and yes, dances and struts) he is easy to see, for those looking in his direction – he pulls attention to him, from those that are looking, like the motions of birds or mice grab attention of a cat. So his actions make him visible to the right people, the ones who are looking for what he has to offer.
Apologies for the wordy comment, but I wanted to get it down before the thoughts left…
Tori Deauxs last blog post..Community Gardens: Good For The Brain
Hey Havi! Great post. The link to your destuckification techniques is broken, and I’d love to know what they are! Also, I found a link to Gina — is that who helped you with this issue? I’d really love to work on this issue with someone also so if you happen to have your helpers info I’d appreciate it! Thanks~