Are You OK With Being Invisible?

Binoculars in field

Do you ever walk into a room or leave a room and no one notices?  The conversation seems to move on pretty well without you. There is no acknowledgment of your presence or absence; you are invisible.

Heck sometimes you say something witty and it catches on. But no one remembers, or cares to remember, that you were the one who said it. And if you ever get noticed, it’s because of the people you’re with, not because of what you say or do. You are not the life of the party.

Your invisible state extends to your virtual world where attention becomes a numbers game. How many followers you have on twitter or how many subscribers do you have to your blog? No social proof means you’re invisible.

We grow up wanting attention. When we learn a new skill, we can’t wait to show our parents: look at me riding my bike or jumping in the lake. A little attention goes a long way. But why is that?

Why do we make attention (positive or negative) such an important part of our experience?

Let’s explore some of our motivations for seeking attention and the price tag that comes with it.

Validation. Attention means we are being observed. Someone is validating our presence and contributions. We want to be missed when we leave a room or leave this life. We want to be remembered … we want proof that we were here at one point.

The flip side is too much attention turns validation into a nightmare. I don’t think a movie star appreciates or wants the paparazzi and tabloids documenting everything they do.

Motivation. Attention sometimes becomes a motivator (for better or worse). Sometimes we do things to impress someone or to prove to them that we are worthy of their attention.

This type of attention seeking may not be welcomed by the other party. And if it is, it usually doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

Social masking. I knew a woman who commanded a lot of attention wherever she went.  The interesting thing was: everything she said was someone else’s words. She would take other people’s words and ideas and repeat them as hers.

At first, this infuriated me then I realized the noise she created was her way of masking her confusion; she had no clue about who she was.  She was claiming other people’s views as hers, and publicizing them in any way she could, to avoid dealing with her own truth.

Leadership. Leaders command attention and a lot of people would like to think of themselves as leaders. They are the ones that drive change.  Maybe so. Public leadership has a price. In most cases the cause get twisted and what started as a genuine attempt at change ends up being the flip side of the same stagnant issue. Lots of noise but no real change.

Can you lead without attention? I don’t know. What I know is that you can affect positive change without attention. You live your life and let the rest be. Sooner or later, you will inspire someone. This is where true change begins.

Success. Someone must be successful if they get noticed and remain in the public eye for a while. This is the new type of perceived success … celebrity. The person becomes famous for the silliest of reasons and then they become a brand. Is he or she successful? Maybe.

The opposite is true. Lots of the most talented artists whose work outlived them for centuries never got the attention or the appreciation. Who would you rather be?

Are you OK with being invisible?

Consider the following questions. Answer them from your most inner felt truths.

Imagine that you got all the attention you need:

1. What would you do? Would you want to do more of something or less of something? How is it going to change your life?

2. How would you feel? Now that you are well recognized, how would you feel? Are you happy, confident, rich, worthy and important? Do you see yourself as a leader?

3. Who are the people that you want their attention most? Or is it the masses? How many … thousands, millions? If you have their attention, how would you interact with them? What would you offer them?

4. How is your life going to be different? All the fame and changes that come with it are now yours. How are you living your days? What’s so amazing about your new life?

Now imagine the opposite. You are in a world where no one cares one iota about what you do or say.

5. What would you do differently? Would you more of something or less of something? How is it going to change your life? Remember no one is watching.

6. How would you feel? Are you sad, insecure, feeling unworthy and unimportant?

7. Who are the people that you will pay attention to, knowing fair well the attention won’t be reciprocated? Are they politicians, movie stars, writers, scientists, family members? Why do you care about them? What’s in it for you?

The questions above represent two extremes. In reality most of us fit somewhere in between.  Look at your answers and determine what are the things you want to do, that you find liberating and resonate with your truth.

For me I want to do the things I determined in question 5 because they come from my core values and interests.  I will  pay attention to the people I chose in question 7 (mostly family, friends and colleagues) and let the rest go.

When you think of your emotional response (to questions #2 & #6) please note you are the same person with the same intrinsic value. You are the one who decided how you would feel in your answers—not others.

Attention and fame come and go … people come and go … your truth is eternal—visible or invisible.