The invisible child

Have you ever wondered why no one was there when you needed support the most? Have you experienced others reaping the rewards of your work and taking credit for it? And did you feel that your needs truly mattered to those around you, or was it more that everyone else seemed more important than you?
For me, the answer to these questions was always a big YES. Only in recent years have I understood why and finally been able to change this painful pattern that has been with me for most of my life.

When I was young, I was what I would call an invisible child. The low-maintenance daughter who never asked for anything. I was there and yet I was not. My mother even used to say that I was such a good and easy child that I didn’t need any attention. And of course she meant that as a compliment! My unassuming behavior gave her the time and space she needed to focus on my younger brother, the household, and other things. No one had any idea how this lack of attention would affect my future life.

Looking for connection

A sense of belonging is one of the most basic human needs. We need to feel seen and understood in order to truly thrive. As children, we need our parents’ attention. We need their unconditional love and presence. It doesn’t have to be 24/7, but we need to know and experience that the connection with our parents is safe. Biologically speaking, our survival depends on them. But also, our emotional stability and well-being require this need to be met.

Usually when a child begins to feel that he or she is losing connection with one or both parents, he or she begins to actively seek their attention. This can be something as simple as “Mommy look.” And the mother’s loving look and words of encouragement reassure the child that everything is fine and mommy is still there. However, if the child’s insistence is ignored, the child must find another way to meet his or her natural needs. We’ve all seen what that can look like: Children who start crying seemingly completely out of the blue or throwing a tantrum over a “nothing”. I believe it is very hasty to simply say that the child is overreacting or just “looking for attention.” Because the pain and fear of loss that the child is experiencing is very real.

 But what about the invisible child?

invisible child

But what about the invisible child now? Why didn’t I actively seek the attention of my parents? Why did I remain silent, even though closeness and connection to our parents is a basic need, especially for small children?
The answer is very simple: I did not want their attention because I associated it with negative feelings and experiences. I chose to withdraw from them and the world because it was painful for me to be there. As an empath, I could feel my parent’s subconscious pain while they were unaware of it themselves. I could feel their own neediness in the attention and hugs they were giving me rather than feeling nourished by it. And it hurt me to be seen and treated the way they assumed me to be, rather than for who I really was. All of that was so confusing and painful to me that I preferred to withdraw from them rather than going after the much-needed connection. I had created a unconscious association of “being seen means being misunderstood, used and in pain.” Being in the center of attention became a threatening experience for me.

The ripple effect

This unconscious imprint affected my behavior into adulthood without me noticing it. It caused me to tend to stay in the background at school, during university or at work, even though my performance was usually above average. And of course, others occasionally took advantage of that and benefited from my ideas and work. But in my private life it was even more apparent. This unconscious conditioning caused me to never clearly communicate my needs or actively reach out for support when I needed it. I felt unseen and misunderstood my entire life. Like I didn’t matter at all. I felt invisible and suffered as a result. And I did not realize that it was actually my own subconscious belief that had caused it all.

Becoming visible

The first step to transforming these patterns is realizing and acknowledging that they are there. And this is also the hardest part, as they are not conscious. For we do not know what we do not know! However, when you are committed to your own happiness and the path of self-awareness, you will eventually stumble over these limiting patterns and beliefs.
For me, it was the mindful observation and connection with my emotions and the active work on emotional trauma that finally brought this aspect of my life to light. But it’s not enough to simply recognize the belief and choose differently! What really holds such negative beliefs in our lives is the emotional wound they are based on. Moreover, what I needed to heal was not only the feeling of being invisible, but also the negative feelings I had associated with being seen. Once I released this old emotional wound, the beliefs also dissolved and the associated behaviors gave way to a natural confidence and a clear presence.

Today, I feel so grateful for the transformation I went through. But I am also grateful for the experience itself, because it has brought me many deep insights that now help me to live my purpose and help people. Today, I really feel seen and my relationships have changed entirely. I can finally show myself as who I really am.