To Be Seen

I spent much of my childhood invisible. It was easier that way, as the alternative was to be blamed and punished for imagined faults and shortcomings projected on to me by my narcissistic parents. As an invisible person, I created other universes in my imagination which were not quite as sad and lonely as the one I was born into. To this day, my inner life is vivid, and I often prefer spending time “inside” to the more mundane realm of daily tasks and activities.

Perhaps it is my inclination to disappear, to blend in, when the external stimuli overwhelms me. Perhaps I still hold on to the unconscious belief that I don’t deserve to take up more space than I do in the hearts and minds of others. Perhaps I am simply so used to living this way that I don’t see how to do it differently. But I long to be seen.

I long to be seen in a way that tells me I am loved. I long to be seen in a way that tells me I am understood. I long to be seen in a way that tells me that it is not what I can do, but the essence of who I am, that gives me value. When I look in to the eyes of others, I want this to be the message. When I look in the mirror, I want this to be echoed back to me. I long to see this message reflected in every person and interaction. And yet, I struggle to remember the last real eye contact I made, even my own.

I suspect I am not the only one who longs to be seen. Children of narcissistic parents often feel they don’t have a reflection, as all the mirrors in their homes were taken. Children of narcissistic parents, determined not to be like them worry that asking to be seen at all equates with demanding all the attention. We were told that we were the ones who were selfish if we had needs of any kind. It’s hard for us to understand what a normal amount of attention looks like, because we were only exposed to the extremes. This is why it’s easier for us to pretend that we don’t have needs. This is why too often we fall back on our good deeds and activities to prove we have some value.

For me, the most loving gift I could receive from anyone, including myself, is to be seen. More than anything else, it is my greatest need.


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