Stop Waiting for Others to See You
The desire to be seen by others is human. To have people inquire about our lives, our passions, and ask even the simplest - how are you? Granted, sometimes people ask “how are you?” without really wanting a genuine answer. Polite niceties aside, there is something comforting in the idea that someone might care enough to ask about something we are working on or honestly taking an interest in how we are feeling.
But what about when you spend time with someone who never asks? We’ve all been there. In circumstances or situations where we are surrounded by someone who talks and talks but never inquires. It can be frustrating, infuriating even.
Yes. We all want to feel seen. Heard. Like we matter. Like we belong.
But how often do we give ourselves the same inquiry and interest?
Maybe we could stop waiting for others to see us. Maybe we could practice seeing ourselves first. Maybe we can ask ourselves “how are you?”
Stay with me for a moment. My guess is that you can easily think of times when someone in your life intentionally or not, never once inquired about you. But when was the last time you asked yourself how you are doing or feeling?
More often than not, we let our thoughts tell us what we are thinking. We think we know how we are doing and can recite the mile-long to-do list that is waiting for us. But the deeper answers live in our heart and in our body. The deeper answers are where we cultivate the relationship and connection.
What if it isn’t at all about being seen by others?
What if it was these conversations with ourselves that are the ones worth cultivating? The ones that foster belonging to US first, perhaps only then fully being able to create connection with others.
What would it take to give yourself this level of interest? To see yourself?
3 practices for self-inquiry
Does asking yourself “How are you?” sounds strange? I get it. It might feel strange at first. Especially because the “answer” may or may not appear in any form that is immediately recognizable. The l answer might lie in a felt sense, a sound, a word that bubbles up, or an image. Or there might not be any answer at all. And that is ok. It is like building a muscle. It can take time to foster the relationship with your inner strength and wisdom.
So then how?
Treat your body as a benevolent messenger
Do you ever notice a sensation in your body? Perhaps when you are at your desk, or taking a walk, or practicing some type of movement? Instead of labeling any twinges, creaks, or tightness – treat these sensations as opportunities to connect. You can turn your attention to the sensation, maybe even smile and simply ask it “how are you?” This practice assumes that sensations are benevolent messengers rather than judgments, which starts to help reset our mindset about how we treat ourselves. It is also a practice of self-love and inquiry, honoring the fact that our body knows things long before our mind does.
Say hello in the mirror
Maybe you’ve heard me rave about the benefits of mirror work – or maybe the idea of talking to yourself in the mirror sounds scary. But a simple glance of inquiry to ask your reflection “how are you” is a nurturing and compassionate way to tune in. I often talk with my clients about how our interactions with others can be like a mirror for noticing things about ourselves. Along those lines, seeing yourself in the mirror and pausing long enough to ask and pay attention to what you are feeling and thinking, is an opportunity to consider how we are showing up for ourselves.
Say hello to your emotions
So many of us have spent years trying to bottle up our emotions, especially the scary or painful ones. But here is what I know about emotions: they need to be felt. The good ones AND the bad ones. I spent 18 months ignoring my emotions during my treatment for Hodgkin’s disease, thinking that if I let myself feel, I’d go down a rabbit hole of sadness and fear. But guess what? I may not have dealt with those emotions then, but they never really left me….until years later I finally started to make room for myself to express everything I’d been holding in. Because it isn’t about not having emotions. The trick is to notice the emotion without letting it define you. One way to do that is to notice it, feel where that emotion lives inside your body – and then ask it “how are you?” This inquiry helps you be a witness to the emotion rather than a victim to it and it fosters a sense of belonging as your WHOLE self.
My hunch is that the more you stop waiting for others to see you, and focus on seeing yourself – the stronger your connection to your own self, strength, and inner wisdom becomes. And...the stronger we are rooted in ourselves, the more likely we are to expand our capacity to receive connection...and yes, be seen by others.