Have you ever wondered why nobody was there when you needed support the most? Have you ever experienced somebody else reaping the benefits from something you came up with? Did you feel your needs mattered to the people around you or was it more like everyone else seemed to matter more than you do?
For me, the answer to those questions was a big YES. Only during the past number of years, could I understand why and then finally change this painful pattern that had been for almost my entire 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 mom even used to say that I was such a good and easy child that I did not need any attention. And for sure she meant very well when she said that. My good behaviour gave her the time and space she needed to focus on my younger brother, the household and other things. Nobody had any idea how this lack of attention would affect my future life.
Looking for connection
A sense of belonging is one of the fundamental human needs. We must feel connection, by both being seen and understood, in order for us to truly thrive. As children, we the need the attention of our caregivers. We need their unconditional presence. Not all day every day, 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 health require this need to be met.
Usually, when a child starts to feel that the connection with one or both caregivers is not safe; when they miss their presence, they start seeking their attention. This may be as simple as “Mommy look!” And Mom’s loving look and encouraging words are re-assuring the child of the connection so she may feel safe again. However, when the child’s request is dismissed, she needs to find another way for her need to be met. We have all seen how this may look. For instance, when a child is appearing to be overly dramatic or seeming to cry over what is being perceived as nothing. In my opinion, it really is not fair to assume that this child is just overreacting to get one’s attention. As the pain and fear of loss the child experiences are very real for him.
But what about the invisible child?
But what about the invisible child? Why would I choose not to actively seek my parent’s attention? Why did I remain silent even though connection is a fundamental need of every human being?
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 not even aware of it. I could feel their own neediness in the attention and hugs they were giving me rather than feeling nourished by it. And it was hurting me to be seen and treated not the way I genuinely felt but the way they had assumed me to be. All of that was so confusing and painful for me that I preferred to withdraw myself from them rather than going after the much-needed connection. I had created a subconscious 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 latent belief influenced my behaviour into adulthood without me being aware of it. It caused me to mostly stay in the background at school, during studies or at work even though my results were mostly outstanding. And of course, occasionally others took advantage of that and reaped the benefits of my ideas and work. But in my private life, it was even more apparent. This unconscious belief caused me to never communicate my perspective and needs clearly or to fully reach out when I needed support. I felt misunderstood and not seen my entire life. Like I did not matter at all. I felt invisible and suffered as a result. And I did not realize that it was actually my own subconscious belief and the behaviour that resulted from it that kept me in this position.
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 my practice in shadow work, using emotional vipassana and inner child work, that eventually brought that aspect of my life into awareness. But just recognizing the belief and choosing differently is not enough! What really keeps these detrimental beliefs in place is the emotional wound that they are based on. So, what I had to work on was not only the feeling of being invisible, but also the negative feelings that I had associated with being seen. Once I healed this old emotional wound, the belief simply dissolved.
Today, I feel so grateful for the transformation I went through. But also for these past experiences, as they gave me so many deep insights and allowed me to do the work that I am doing now. Being seen has become a blessing, and my relationships have completely transformed. Now I can say that people see me for who I truly am.