Many teenage girls drift through adolescence wondering when they will finally stop being looked past. We think that no one sees us for who we are, and that there seems to be a futility in individualism that will never favor us, because we aren’t anything special. We were wrong. Here is how to stop being the “Invisible Girl.” Or, more importantly, how to stop seeing yourself as an invisible girl.
1. Remember people’s names.
This one may seem hard for someone who gets completely overwhelmed at the prospect of icebreaking sessions in school or at work. Work through that and push yourself out of your shell, because this is very important. People who remember people are memorable. That seems funny, right? But, think about all of the people that you’ve met that you didn’t consciously remember their name. A lot of people let that happen – we meet people, and we turn around and forget them, because we are only self-conscious. Turn that consciousness outwards, and be the one that remembered.
2. Stop comparing yourself to other people.
There is always going to be someone who is prettier, smarter, funnier, or happier than you – but only if you are looking for someone who is all-around better than you. Instead of looking to other people to set standards for you, focus on yourself. People who are constantly comparing themselves to others are often over-thinkers whose minds are begging to simplify and categorize the world around them. Stop quantifying and qualifying people’s strengths and weaknesses, and start looking at other people as complex, powerful beings with endless potential. And then you’ll begin to see yourself as one.
3. Push yourself to new heights and places.
Instead of rushing to the mall on the weekend, find somewhere that will inspire you in an intangible way. Look up museums and parks and go to one, and introduce yourself to someone there. Look for writing classes and book clubs and social groups where you can meet people that will push you. If you can’t afford any of those things, pick up a pencil and write until you’ve experienced something so vicariously that you’re moved. Until then, keep pressing to find something that moves you, instead of staying in the same place and wondering why you’ve been left behind and looked past.
4. Stop dwelling on the past.
Another lead round your neck in regards to seeing the future is getting over the past. It’s not an easy thing to do, or psychotherapists would be out of business. When you see people as a part of the story you’re writing, instead of a narrating voice in your story, it becomes easier to get over the wrongs or shortcomings of others. Your life is not a newspaper, where contributing pieces can cancel each other out and write undisputed inflammatory articles and where anyone can have a voice. Your life is an autobiography. You have control of the role of others, and you have a say in how they affect your story. Plus, there are always new characters to be added. This is where remembering people’s names come in. It gives them a chance to be a part of your story-in-progress instead of letting your autobiography remain unfinished.
5. Start loving yourself.
A lot of articles encourage loving yourself simply for the sake of loving yourself. I’m not a proponent of this, because if everyone did that, we wouldn’t see any need for improvement. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t love yourself as you are now. You should just love things about you that other people don’t have – and your potential. You are the only one that knows that you have the persistence to be a doctor, the courage to know that you can stand up to bullies, the strength to make it through another day sober, and the love to provide for your family. Love yourself for the sake of loving yourself, but love the more complex things, too. And know that you are capable of much, much more if you stop seeing yourself as someone who is invisible.
6. Surround yourself with people who uplift you and care about you.
The hardest thing that any of us can do is to let go of a friendship that is bringing you down. Loyalty is something that can keep toxic people in our lives for a long, long time. But allowing everyone to use loyalty as an excuse to surround ourselves with who is familiar and comfortable, despite how they negatively affect us, is something that we all need to examine. Look for people that don’t gossip, or say mean or nasty things, or that dwell on what is wrong with life. They will only make you want to go further into yourself, to stop meeting people and stay ‘invisible’. Look for people with unbridled joy and passion, someone who smiles just because they can and someone who pursues what they really want. These people will seem intimidating at first, but once you stop comparing yourself to them to confirm how ‘you aren’t good enough’, they will inspire you.
7. Let yourself be vulnerable.
When you’re invisible, it’s so easy to look at the struggles of others objectively and wonder what makes them keep going. But, what you aren’t there to see is how wonderful their lives are as a result of risking struggle. Women who have dedicated their lives to something that is their passion inevitably see pain at some point. When you put yourself out there, when you work your while life to do something, there will always be naysayers. Listen to what they have to say. If it’s constructive, keep it. If it’s not, don’t carry it around with you. That’s that. Vulnerability is a part of life, and if you stay hiding from the struggles of life, it may seem like the easy way out, but you are losing the chance to experience the endlessly rewarding fruits of those struggles.
This is dedicated to my dear friend, MS, the Invisible Girl.