I have laughed when people tell me their assumptions of me: grew up with a silver spoon, lots of college someone else paid for, easy street, men falling at my feet, any door I blow on opening just for me.
I feel so lucky that I grew up poor. And that people thought I was a boy until I was 10 because I mostly wore my brother’s hand-me-downs. I remember shoes with holes and getting new ones just in time. And identity crisis after identity crisis – identity crisis comes with the territory of being invisible.
I feel lucky that I was invisible for most of my childhood. I feel lucky I was hit by mean babysitters and that I was a target of frustration and confusion and pain for so many. Pretense was literally beaten out of me at an early age so I never developed a knack for it. And I am really grateful for that.
I grew up with the curtain parted. I got to see the underbelly of humans. When you’re small, people think you aren’t smart, that you aren’t paying attention and they do things – things no one should do.
So I saw a lot. And I learned very, very early that being blonde or being pretty or being anything really (black, a champion chess player, fat, football star, in a wheelchair) doesn’t matter – what people can see, how people are, is about them – who I am doesn’t matter. I am only as much as someone has space for, or not.
To this day when I walk in a room I get strange looks. Some people stare, some look away like my very presence offends them. Apparently that I smart makes it worse. Naturally thin? You may as well just shoot me to put yourself out of your misery. Because genetics tell you everything you really need to know about who a person is, right?
I’m sharing this because I know that what you look like, what size you are, what color your skin is, how much money you have or not, how much pain you hold, how hard or easy things are, says very little – there is more to you.
It’s important to know that there are people in this world who aren’t blind to you – people who want more with you than surface presentation – people who are able to see, and want to see, your heart.
Many of my blog posts are personally revealing. I talk about things I am going through because I don’t like hiding behind a veil of appearance. I find it uncomfortable. It puts a distance, a veneer, to things that agitates me.
I know in my bones that you can’t tell who or what someone is by looking at them. Even by watching them. We have all adapted to circumstances others can’t see – we have all adopted behaviors that hide our truth.
So many of us are invisible. Even those of us who stand out. Being seen for anything other than who you really are is to be invisible. And the way society is, most of us are invisible.
I have thought of making a t-shirt that says “I see you”. Because of what people imagine when they see me, it makes it had for them to believe that I am looking past appearances, looking for them, for their truth, their heart.
We do that to each other, don’t we? We make up stories, play our roles, and miss the real live person standing in front of us. It is not a nice thing to do. Especially to ourselves, because so many people are so much more beautiful than the visible can convey. And when we blindly follow our imagination of someone we are robbed of the richness of their story, of their heart, of their unique perspective and fire.
I know why we do the judgment thing. It’s biologically based. But it is amplified by ignorance and self-absorption and fear and story.
How about we get over ourselves? Stop taking genetics so personally? Cultivate enough depth and character to make space for people to show up as they are, not as we imagine them to be?
I have been told I don’t have the right to have the pain I have had because of how I look – “at least you’re pretty” as if to say that no matter what I’ve experienced, my looks provide a magical cushion to the ignorance and abuse of others. And that, in and of itself, is dehumanizing – it’s how endemic this crap is.
I have had people attempt to dehumanize me my whole life, treated like an object, discounted, ignored, grabbed, targeted because they can only see their story, not the human being. That it is done because I am pretty (or white or thin or blonde), because pretty is viewed as “good”, does not remove my right to feel that it sucks, nor does it remove my right to speak out. I once had a man grab me by the arm from behind and attempt to put me in his car because he “wanted” me, and because I am a blonde, not a human being, didn’t see there was a problem with that.
This myopic ignorance is at the root of all of our “isms” and is what disconnects us. My beef isn’t so much with the injustice of it – though I have had a big beef with isms in the past – it is what we miss out on when we cannot see, really see, one another.
How I have been perceived and treated has forced me to dive deep in myself and find out who I really am. I have had to excavate my essence and drag it to the surface so the light in me, my truth, shines brighter than the judgment of others. I did this to save myself from the gravity of the inevitable low self-esteem and pain and confusion that comes with invisibility.
How we are perceived doesn’t matter. What we do in the face of it does.
Your truth and your real beauty cannot be altered. It is in you, intact, shining. No matter what you look like, what you have been through, what size you are, how successful you are, there is more to you, even if you are the pinnacle of a societal ideal or the lowest in the rankings. Know this. And know that there are people in this world who see past all of it and are looking to see the real you.
Shine your light. Be real. And look past whatever you think you see in others to find what is really there. People are so much more interesting when we let them be real people. You, me, all of us.