How to Be Seen and Heard: Look and Listen

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.

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  1. Nanna says:

    gosh. this is really wonderful.
    Nanna’s most recent post: Home Sweet Home

  2. daniel says:

    gah – this is almost exactly the same kind of advice I would give, and almost exactly the same kind of feeling I have. THIS IS FUNNY! THIS IS CLEVER! or whatever, and there is no acknowledgement by anybody, and in these times of instant feedback, even a day going by without some sort of feedback, even negative, feels like an eternity.

    And 99 times out of 100 it really ISN’T YOU, but there’s just so much “out there” today it is so easy to get lost in the shuffle or for others to burn out and unplug from whatever. When a few people decided to (coincidentally) do it at the same time, it can be a Herculean task not to take it personally.
    daniel’s most recent post: More Music More Man

  3. I can’t tell you how much this post touched me. I think that is why I shied away from twitter for a long time. But its more that twitter. A blog post that gets know acknowledgment or a Facebook update that gets no comments or likes. The internet breeds and spreads this feeling of loneliness. And it does continue into real life. My former best friend and I had a huge falling out this summer. I have tried to reach out a few times and have been met with silence. Today is her birthday and I set her an email practically begging her to reply, not end things like this. I am can’t stop myself from getting a little jolt every time my phone buzzes to the sound of an email, then the fall when it’s not her. I love what you said “I want to love those who love me and those who want to be loved by me.” It is a hard lesson to learn, but I am working on it.
    Corey Feldman’s most recent post: Children’s Literature review – Egret the Elephant

    • Diana says:

      I just discovered this blog 20 minutes ago and I can’t stop reading it. I have never commented on a blog before except during grad school. I have a feeling I will be back.

      I quit Facebook because I didn’t need to be reminded that nobody gave a darn about anything I posted, which made me feel like crap. (And I already felt crap, so I didn’t need more.)

      I deal with teenagers on a daily basis at the library where I work. I do whatever I can to engage the teens who have been labeled geeks (or worse). Most of the time it is just a quick interaction such as really paying attention to them when they need a book or help with research, and making them feel a bit more comfortable. And every once in while I get the chance to provide something positive-like the time a gawky, pimply freshman told me he was a geek. I said, “Maybe so. But geeks like Bill Gates run the world.”

      I love your blog. Please keep up the great work.



  4. It’s tough when we are ignored, but you are right, we don’t want the kind of attention we have to fight for.

    And the good job emails you mention are really great. I need to make an effort to do things like that more often.
    Eric West | Friendship Society’s most recent post: The Twelve Pillars of Friendship by Eric West

  5. Chrisor says:

    This is a really wonderful post and couldn’t be more timely! I’ve felt like this many times. Sometimes I just get away from social media for awhile and other times I try to throw myself into it more. I make an effort to comment more to others and read more tweets and try to get conversations going. I have a natural affinity for the underdog so try to include anyone who seems to be overlooked. I’ve tried doing experiments where I tweet as many of my followers in a day as a can and see how many respond. I’ve thought about writing a post like this but you did it better than I ever could! ;-)
    Chrisor’s most recent post: My Personal Cruise Disaster

  6. I love your authenticity.
    Deborah Denson (aka Tawanda Bee)’s most recent post: Lots of People Say What We Need To Do-NVC Shows Us How

  7. Karen says:

    Enjoy your insights. Made me text my girls just to say have a good day. Thanks.

  8. I don’t have FB anymore so I am NOT sure I can comment here… I wrote this:
    I’ve just hopped here from Courtney Carver’s post on Be More With Less and feel like I want to comment but am also a bit overwhelmed by how much this post and others’ comments are resonating. MayBE I will think on this some more while I take my dog for our morning adventure and return a little later…
    in the comment box above but it asked me to sign in with FB so I scrolled down here and am trying again…
    Currie Silver’s most recent post: Currie’s Gratitude 24 February 2013

  9. Kristin says:

    You don’t want attention you have to beg for.

    Love this statement! Took me a long time to realize this, but now that I have realized this, life is MUCH better!

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