A new twist on being seen

What does it mean to you to be seen? At first glance, ‘being seen’ might make you think about your presence or absence at something important. Were you at the right meeting? The right party? The right moment? What you recognize as ‘being seen’ will differ from what I recognize. That said, I am not sure this type of ‘being seen’ really captures it. What if ‘being seen’ is being acknowledged or affirmed for who you really are? Or even better. What if being seen is really about our willingness to be seen? Not the person you are supposed to be at work or at home or at the PTA meeting….You. Your essence. Your truth. How visible are you? Are you willing to be seen?

Like so many of life’s lessons, I learned about my ‘willingness to be seen’ when I confronted a moment during which I felt invisible. I fumed for longer than I care to admit. Then I realized it wasn’t about the other person’s bad behavior at all. It was all about my own behavior.  My willingness to be seen. And what I could learn about myself from it.

Here is the story.

In the late spring I was the keynote speaker at a women’s leadership conference in Oklahoma. It was a big deal for me with close to one thousand people in the audience. I talked about transition as an invitation to bring out more of who we are to every situation. Everyone got it. What made the day special was a comment that the conference’s organizer made to me immediately after I walked off the stage. “You created so much energy in the room.” She said. I beamed. There is really no better compliment for a speaker. Let’s face it. It’s tough to get a big group of people to do anything, let alone get energized!

What came next was the wallop.

The conference was in one of those ‘you cannot get there from here’ places. Faced with a long delay prior to my flight, I decided to stick around to listen to some of the other speakers.  One of the last ones that I saw was an entertaining gentleman who was introduced as a communications ‘expert.’ He endeared himself to the audience by referencing material from the earlier speakers. He said things like, “Peter told us XX and YY.”  When it came time to referencing my material, he refused to use my name. He effortlessly blended my work into his remarks but said only, “One of the speakers.” I was the only one of the speakers left nameless in his monologue.

I was furious.

I guess I shouldn’t have been. Let’s face it. We would all be gazillionaires if we had one dollar for every time our work wasn’t acknowledged or properly cited.  But to do so in such a public forum? I was livid.  ‘How dare he not see me in front of all those people,’ I stewed.

Once on the plane, I clung to the lens of transition for ballast.  One technique, called externalization, seemed designed for this moment. It teaches us to objectify emotions and bring our awareness to why the emotions might be showing up. The technique diverts our attention, forcing us to think about a situation from another angle. In its best application, it changes our response to the emotion.

The questions I started with felt straightforward. What about ‘fury’ and ‘livid?’ Why were both showing up?  Who was I angry at? What exactly was the issue? Was my work overlooked? What had I hoped the audience would learn about me? My work? Had they? Did he really play a role?

By objectifying the emotion, I asked myself different and broader questions. Blessedly. It served as a salve on my wound.

Before the plane touched down in Boston, I realized that this guy was entirely irrelevant. While I was still angry at his callousness, it didn’t really matter what he said or didn’t say. What mattered was that I had been seen – unfiltered – by every single person in the room long before he even took that stage. Recognizing this, my response changed. I calmed down.  Yes, I had been seen. Beautifully, passionately, soulfully. Who I was emanated from every pore of my body while I was on that stage.

Without transition’s lens, I would have struggled longer before hitting the reset button. The diversion incited by his bad behavior would have sucked energy away from other things I hold dear.  It wouldn’t have gone on forever.  Just long enough to drain me just a little bit more, a continuous leakage few of us can accommodate over the long term.

The lens of transition doesn’t give us any answers. It helps us respond differently in countless situations. It helps us get clear, really clear, on those things that hold value and meaning to us. And it helps us act on them. First in small ways, then in larger ways. It teaches us how to act in a moment. Then, in every moment. Differently. Boldly. More fully aligned.

Most importantly, the lens of transition helps us ask different questions of ourselves.

The real gift of this lens occurred just before touch down in Boston. By then, the questions I got to were bigger, tougher:

When had I not been seen?

And by whom?

Yes, being seen was clearly a flashpoint for me. My depth of knowledge in transition help me direct my attention to understanding why.

All of us run the risk of being ruled by our emotions. Transition turns the tables on them. Through its lens, emotions become oracles not obstacles. I’ve come to appreciate the fact that transition is one of the only ways we will ever tap into the enormous potential that resides within each of us.  It is an enabling process for growth.  We cannot grow – truly grow into the fullest version of ourselves – without transition. It is humbling and enlivening and free.  It starts small and blossoms.

Is growth and transition something you are exploring? If so, there is really only one question that you need to ask yourself.

Are you ready to be seen?

Linda R. (linda@WomenAndTransition.com)

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5 responses to “A new twist on being seen

  1. As always, Linda your insights and ability to communicate them so clearly makes me never want to miss one of your blogs. They bring forth such important messages. Thank you for caring so deeply about transitions and how they impact our lives.

  2. Thank you Linda for your insights and ability to communicate so clearly about how to move through transitions within your framework. This story in particular resonated with me and is an important reminder of how we define ourselves through our own eyes and through others. I never thought of my reaction to feedback or having a different interpretation of something as a time for transition, but your story helps me understand how many times I have been in this place. Thank you, for I see more clearly now the work needed to move through those transitions in a more conscious way.

  3. Shannon, So nice to hear your voice! Thank you for sharing your perspective. Warmest wishes, Linda

  4. This such a true and challenging topic, and something I needed to hear today! Years ago another friend started a venture that she put her heart, soul and money into. It was an interesting idea, a bit ahead of its time, and when she talked about it privately she glowed, but when she talked to larger groups, she froze. I remember thinking “she needs to stand up and let herself be seen.” For many reasons, that had always been an issue for her. The venture never really took off and she was devastated. Lately, I’ve caught myself asking myself the same question…am I willing to stand up and be seen.

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