2018 was the first year since I graduated college over 18 years ago that I did not get to see my college friends. In previous years between our annual girls’ weekend, college Homecoming and baby showers or weddings, I have seen them somewhere between 1-4 times a year but in 2018 I had sadly not seen them at all. I am able to give myself grace for not making time to see them because 2018 truly was a busy year, but as I allowed myself to live into my feelings I realized how much I missed seeing these cherished friends.
I am grateful for the many people in my life who see my true colors. But I also want to acknowledge how painful it can be when someone neglects to see us. There are many moments in life when we don’t feel seen. Perchance you have felt unseen when a supervisor at work gives you a low evaluation. Maybe feeling unseen manifests through not getting the job promotion you expected to receive. Another example of feeling unseen is when a client suddenly decides to take their business elsewhere without explanation. Or perhaps you have felt unseen when someone you think highly of no longer wants to be friends because of a disagreement. Feeling unseen can also show up as not feeling acknowledged or appreciated in our relationships with a spouse, child, in-laws, siblings, colleagues and many other relationships. The ways one feels unseen can be different for each one of us. Maybe you feel completely seen in one context, such as church, but feel as though your efforts at home and/or work are invisible.
I invite you to take a moment to think about the question, “Are there places in my life I feel unseen?” If the answer to this question is yes and it probably is for many of us, this can be an invitation to dig a little deeper. Answering this question can be an opportunity to look at what happened in your childhood that makes you feel as though you are not enough.
Perhaps you grew up in a home with emotional abuse where you were told you would not amount to anything, with a workaholic parent who was often not there for you or with an addicted parent who was so busy numbing their pain that they could not attend to your needs. Or maybe you received plenty of love at home, but you were harassed at school for being different. There are innumerable ways some of your needs might of have been missed as a child, but the reason you feel unseen is because at a very young age you struggled with knowing whether you were worthy and valuable.
In order to heal from these wounds, you need to think not only about your story of pain but you also must take a moment to meditate about the life of the person who doesn’t see you. You must recognize that their struggle to see you is likely rooted in their own childhood story. Often those who find it difficult to celebrate and love others, also struggle to see themselves. As you start to have empathy for their own needs that were missed in their early life, you will start to have compassion for them and hopefully also for yourself.
February is the amorous month of valentines, roses and love. In this heartfelt month, I encourage you to be thankful for those who unconditionally love you and see your true colors. But I also want to remind you that when someone is not able to see you, this in no way diminishes your significance. But it is important to be mindful that the person who does not see you is likely in dire need of love. Their own struggle to love you is a clue that they too had needs in their childhood that were missed. Just like you do, they need to know they are inherently worthy of love and belonging.
So in this month of love, can you offer to people who struggle to see you the message that you see, love and celebrate them? You may no longer be in contact with the person who struggles to see you, but through praying for them and wishing the best for their life you are still joining in Cyndi Lauper’s chorus of “I see your true colors.” But if you are still in touch with the person who struggles to see you, then hopefully you can shower them with compassion and reminders that they matter. As we see, affirm and recognize one another we will start to heal their scars and our own.
The Cyndi Lauper song, True Colors, has been a special tune to me and many girlfriends since college. Recently, I felt emotional as I blasted the song on the radio and heard the words, “I see your true colors and that’s why I love you…” One of the best feelings in the world is to feel seen, celebrated and loved just as we are. Despite my many shortcomings, these treasured girls are able to see my beauty and true colors and they are so steadfast to me on this wild and beautiful journey that we call life.
I see you and honor you,
I originally wrote the article above for the Mountain Mirror. http://www.mountainmirror.com/