I used to have this recurring dream where I was screaming and crying and no one could hear me. It was awful, and far more terrifying than any nightmare I’ve ever had about being chased. There are few things as painful as being invisible.
The Internet can make us feel invisible sometimes. Reaching out to people via Twitter, Facebook or their blogs and receiving no response can leave us feeling like a crazy person flailing their arms on a street corner as people walk by without making eye contact. And whether it happens online or in a high school gym, it hurts to be overlooked. It can leave us feeling not only unwanted, but pathetic for wanting to be wanted.
Everyone wants to be wanted.
It’s not pathetic. Some may be needier than others, or better at appreciating those who love them, but all of us crave love. We want to be seen completely. We don’t want to be judged, but we do want to be acknowledged. We need to be heard.
My instinct when I’m feeling invisible is to make myself impossible to ignore. In my recurring nightmare, the more I am ignored, the louder I scream. I add hysterical wailing to my tears in an attempt to gain attention. I throw things, slam doors, and maybe even desperately grab at someone’s arm. I can’t say I’ve never done any of those same things when I was awake.
But here’s what I’ve learned in my dreams, on the Internet, and in real life: all the screaming in the world will not make you heard by a deaf man, just as no amount of jumping or arm waving will make you visible to a blind one. And it won’t make the best version of you available to anyone.
You don’t want attention you have to beg for.
We all know that logically, I think, but what then are we supposed to do when we’re needing for someone to see us?
That desperation to be seen is really a burning need to connect. When people see us and hear us, a connection is made. But the simple truth that’s easy to forget when we’re waving our hands in a silent wind is that connection also happens when we look and listen. Being on either side of connection feeds our souls and fuels our happiness.
Listening is just as powerful as being heard.
Seeing is just as healing as being seen.
So if we’re feeling invisible – or disconnected – we can get reconnected by looking at and listening to someone else.
I’m trying to practice shutting down my instinct to make a scene. I don’t want to spend my life fighting to be seen by the blind. I don’t want to become an over-sized caricature of myself in order to drum up attention. And I don’t want to wallow in self pity when there are both people who already see me and so many others ready to connect.
I want to respond to loneliness by reaching out.
I want to love those who love me and those who want to be loved by me.
There are so many people waving their arms, hungry for someone to see them. There are stories that need to be heard, bruises that need to be seen, and people who are eager to make connections.
There are people who feel like they are talking to themselves on Twitter, and we can be the one to offer a “hey, I see you there” reply.
There are people who are working hard and wondering if anyone cares or notices, and we can be the one to send a “hey, good job” email.
There are new faces in the crowd, probably lined up against the wall, who want so badly to be recognized and included, and we can be the ones to say “hey, I’m glad you came.”
It feels a hell of a lot better than begging someone to see you.