Have you ever been in an embarrassing situation where you mistakenly said something inappropriate, and just as quickly wished, “Scotty, beam me up!” In that moment you wish you were invisible; and in that circumstance such a wish makes sense. But, as a normal thing, invisibility is not good. Let’s say you feel invisible in situations where you wish others would recognize you and they don’t, that type of invisibility is a cancer that eats at your self-esteem.
A source of unhappiness for many people is a sense of exclusion, or separateness, that prevents them from engaging with others. Those same others are blamed for exhibiting traits ranging from indifference to meanness, but is it really true?
Suzanne (a composite of my weight loss clients) had body image issues and was quite insecure, despite being a highly proficient professional. She was guided to understand that it was her own insecurities that led her to ascribe negative motives and behaviors to her co-workers and spouse.
Over subsequent weeks she was pleasantly surprised to hear spontaneous positive remarks and complements from those same people directed toward her. Her response? “It was so nice to be ‘seen’.” They did not change. She did.
The truth is that she was invisible only to herself. Her caring and competency at work and at home made her quite ‘visible’ to others. They valued her work and presence. But low self-worth caused her to ‘hide’, to make herself invisible so that perceived mistakes and inadequacies would pass unnoticed.
Practiced over a long enough period of time, she convinced herself that she was invisible to others as well. The unintended consequence, then, was that she felt marginalized and ignored. Bottom line, she created a condition, then blamed it on others. “The whole world is against me! Nobody likes me! I am surrounded by nasty people!”
Ask many people to describe themselves and they initially draw a blank, followed by a statement of their work title or family station. That is a caption. When pressed they describe interests and hobbies. That is a mere silhouette. None of that explains how and why you respond to particular praise or criticism, how you make choices, or contribute to humanity. You are invisible to yourself.
And yet, as in Suzanne’s example, you ARE visible to others. When you become visible to yourself, it can come as a delightful surprise that others have been treating you better than you thought. Or, in the case of actual nasty people, who truly are indifferent or mean, it is THEIR problem, not yours.
Take a look at yourself now. Not in the mirror, but by looking inside. Describe the person you see. If you feel a bit transparent, ask Dr. Kweethai to help fine tune your image.
Do you ever get the sense that no matter how much you do it is never good enough? Are there times when you feel unmotivated and exhausted for no reason? How often do you wake up in the morning
not wanting to get out of bed?
You feel worse when there is really no reason for you to feel bad.
Your spouse loves you. Your kids are happy. Even your goldfish seems to smile. The sun is shining and the sky is blue, but something is holding you back. You feel unmotivated and despondent?
You labor long and hard at work. At home, you transform to counselor, housekeeper, and problem solver. But to whom can YOU turn for help?
People today are so busy rushing about and toiling to make a living that they forget to make a life. They live from crisis to crisis. Stress becomes a normal expectation, taking pride in the ability to cope.
Yet, recall the tale of a frog in hot water. Dump the frog in a pot of boiling water and he quickly attempts to leap out. But imagine placing the same frog in pot of cool water, then raising the temperature a little bit day after day.
Oblivious to the possibility of relocating to another body of water, the frog adapts to the warming water. Sure, the water is increasingly uncomfortable, and it becomes harder to cope; but the frog keeps on adapting until one day the water is so hot the frog wakes up cooked.
It seems counterintuitive that many people today suffer; yes, suffer; from over-giving to others and under-nurturing themselves. Even as they acknowledge that their generosity and self-sacrifice lead to stress; even when they recognize symptoms of burnout and impending meltdown; they remain oblivious to the possibility of relocating to another body of water.
Such people believe they have a responsibility to sacrifice themselves for others. The unfortunate reality is that a worn out or sick caregiver is not very effective, and a dead one is of no use to anyone.
The good news is that one need not remain oblivious. The smart frog acknowledges that hot water is an unhealthy environment for amphibians, and begins to look around for options.
In human terms we might express it as “Stress is part of life, but suffering is a choice.” Positive coping with day-to-day challenges is a strength that can be cultivated. It begins with taking care of yourself first.
For example, schedule a daily twenty minutes of personal time for yourself (even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom). Be still and simply experience your own breathing. If twenty minutes is too much, start with five and increase it a little every day.
Take three deep breaths and close your eyes. Focus on long breaths, in and out, relaxing more with each breath. Thoughts will intrude, but just let them pass through as you return attention to your breathing.
Erin arrived at iHealth Center a pretty but disheveled teen. Parents and teachers described her as capable but unmotivated. Her own assessment was that she was unworthy and undeserving of happiness or success.
Bottom line, she claimed to have no confidence. Like many people she had composed a script for her life in which she perpetually fell short. So, while having just signed herself up for a local talent pageant, she was already suffering the pain of eventual and inevitable public embarrassment.
The reality is that no one lacks confidence. Rather, you are confident that you either Can or Cannot. And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The trick is to re-define success. For Erin that meant taking the emphasis off Winning the pageant—which can never be assured with multiple competitors aspiring one top spot—to striving toward her personal best. That led to several smaller but more specific and achievable goals.
As she prepared for the pageant, Erin learned to receive and cope with positive and negative feedback, each time refining her goals. The pageant judges could not have known that the young women who performed for them with poise and confidence still harbored some fear and doubt.
Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. Erin’s doubt evaporated as her self-choreographed dance routine evoked an emotional response from the audience and she was voted Miss Congeniality by her peers. And, yes, she went on to win the pageant.
We cannot guarantee everyone will Win as Erin did, but when you perform at your personal best, it makes you feel like a Winner with whatever challenges face you.