Becoming visible takes passion, determination, focused work and some risks.
Staying visible requires even more – choosing a mindset that consistently takes us beyond what feels comfortable; an unwavering belief in a future we’ve never created before; and a commitment big enough to drown out the incessant perceived opinions of others.
Because our greatest threat to staying visible is not our current competition, it’s our perpetuating past. The familiar story about what we’ve convinced ourselves is possible for us.
If you’re an over-thinker, perfectionist, relentless striver or people pleaser (which covers just about all of us), then the self-criticism is never far from the surface. Gritty little self-talk like…
Am I doing enough? Am I getting it right?
Am I taking up too much space?
Do people understand me?
Should I tone myself down so others don’t feel intimidated?
Have I given too much and now I’ll be taken for granted?
And the golden crown of self-doubt… “will I be enough?”
Insidious small talk that does nothing for our Confidence, Clarity or Conviction.
Sometimes we push these niggling noises far from where we think they can be heard, but they reliably rise to the occasion in our moments of stress.
Maybe we don’t realise they’re there until we wonder why we made that excuse to bow out of a project, or let that opportunity slip. Why we talk at people harshly or allow others to talk over us. Why we react disproportionately to a comment or why we accept being treated in ways that feel disrespectful.
We know we’re playing much smaller than who we really are when thoughts like “what will they think” are on high rotation.
This ‘Invisibility Story’ means we don’t speak up when we want to, we try harder to push our ideas because we think no-one’s listening, or we seek affirmation from others rather than finding validation within.
Growing up, I was definitely a nerd (though I wasn’t out and proud like I am today!). It was always my idea to study at lunch, much more comfortable behind a book than making friends with a group of raucous teenagers.
One day in Year 9 the maths teacher was distributing test results and asked me quietly if she could share mine with the class. Naively I said “Sure”, thinking we’d all cheer in the name of humanity…I was the “All for One, One for All!” kid. Not for a second did I think my achievement could be the cause of someone being offended.
As the teacher made her announcement, I turned around from my front row seat smiling happily, expecting to see faces smiling back at me full of encouragement. What was reflected back to me, however, was something very different.
That moment was like iced water being thrown in my face, it was a shock to see their jealousy and annoyance, their disgust and disconnection. It became very clear to me then that it was not ok to stand out.
Each one of us has many moments like this in our experience. Moments when life makes an impact that we take with us. Small, subtle, unassuming moments, but profound in their ripple affect. These are the moments we decide that playing ourselves down is a better option, creating cloaks to hide beneath while we play up the facade.
These moments dilute our authentic confidence, passion and personal power, and leave us doubting who we are and questioning who we need to be, to be accepted.
They sound like…
“Maybe I should pull back.”
“I know they’re thinking…”who does she think she is?””
“Have I taken up too much time?”
“That’s not possible for me.”
“Better if I just keep quiet.”
Ridiculous self-talk that represents nothing of who we really are and tightens our armour of protection.
It’s part of our learned human condition to care so disproportionately about what others think. Even those of us who show up confident, strong and in control are often quietly hoping for some kind of external approval, whether from our partner, our boss, our profession or our children.
Relying on this kind of validation means we are like a small boat on rough seas, thrown around by others’ moods and expectations, unqualified advice and unsaid obligations. We are at the mercy of their storms, gauging how much of ourselves we allow to be seen, based on how much we think they can handle.We dance a tiring dance of trying to be more and withdrawing to being less. Showing up in full expression, and then fading out in fear; shining brightly with passion and then shrinking away with worry. This out of step tango means we never fulfill what we deeply desire in our relationships, in our careers and business endeavours, and even in our hobbies and creative pursuits.
Some of us react and fight back, some of us give in and give up, mostly we all try both at some point. Either way our bravado or resentment acts as a feeble apology to the magnificence of who we really are.
Staying visible is a moment by moment choice as each expansion is threatened by the next layer of self-doubt and self-criticism. Staying visible asks us to breathe deeply into our vulnerability and show up in presence and courage, creating a sacred space within that supports us to be brave and stand out.
Staying visible asks us to…
Connect with our authentic confidence that has nothing to prove.
Cultivate trust in our inner knowing and clarity .
Strengthen our conviction to transcend all doubts.
Peeling back the layers of our invisibility story, without judgement or regret if we can, allows us to evolve into a future we know is possible, but that we’ve never created before.