Overcoming Feeling Invisible & Mentally Absent

Debbie list 3 tips for getting past feeling faded and checked out in life

By Debbie Koenig

When was the last time you felt truly seen? I first realized I was becoming invisible about five years ago, when my role as Junior’s mom seemed to take over my identity. (We’ve been at the same school for seven years, and some of my son’s classmates still call me “Junior’s mom.”) And since I turned 50, the sensation of being seen has become an absolute rarity for me.

In some ways, this not-there-ness feels familiar; back when I weighed more than 250 pounds, my extra flesh acted as an ersatz Cloak of Invisibility. I could walk down the street and not make eye contact with a single person. The only response I’d get from strangers was the occasional dirty look for taking up too much space on a crowded subway. But as I lost the weight I began toreclaim my presence. I didn’t just walk down the street — I swaggered. I flirted. I looked people straight in the eye and dared them to ignore me.

That bravado has mellowed over the years as I’ve gotten used to my body at this weight. And if I’m being honest, the fact that I work at home has made it really easy to fade into the background. I don’t work in my pajamas, but I also don’t need to wear nice clothes or put on makeup. If I did nothing about it, I could easily reach the point where people see right through me.


Pushing Past My Negative Feelings


But I don’t want that to happen. I may have multiple roles now as mom, self-employed businesswoman, chief organizer of the household, and cook, but I’m still me. To hold onto my space when I feel as if I could fade away, I’ve come up with a handful of options. The most effective ones draw my attention outside of myself, on others who might feel invisible:



How I Overcame Feeling Invisible


  • I see people. Walking down the street, on the subway, at the supermarket checkout, I look for opportunities to make eye contact and smile, maybe even say a few words. When I acknowledge someone else, they acknowledge me right back.
  • I compliment strangers. It takes so little to say, “I love your earrings,” and it always prompts that person to perk up. Making someone else feel good makes me feel good.
  • I try to help. I don’t often see people in genuine distress, but a mom trying to get her stroller up a flight of stairs? I grab the bottom and heft it up with her.


How I Became More Mentally Present


  • I bust out the lipstick. I’ve always liked the shape of my lips, and playing them up makes me feel good.
  • I wear a dress. Dresses are easy to wear — no need to coordinate top and bottom! — and yet they feel special. It forces me to choose real-deal shoes, too.
  • I do my nails. That little bit of color brightens my mood, even when I’m washing dishes.

My 2017 goal: At least once a day, do one of these things.

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