Do you know what it’s like to be an invisible woman
My parents were an anachronism. I sometimes think they were the last of the Victorians, lone stragglers from a long gone era. They were impressively strait-laced (and humorless). They believed children – especially little girls – should be seen and not heard.
In adulthood, I discovered two things:
1) My parents were not entirely clear about what they meant by seen and not heard.
2) They were far from alone in wanting their daughter to have decidedly low visibility most of the time – yet always be presentable enough to be wheeled out on public parade when required.
When my parents said “Children should be seen…” they didn’t actually mean seen, in the sense of being noticed, and having their presence acknowledged. What they meant was more that little girls should be visible, when required, in a cardboard cut-out kind of way. Little girls, they felt, should be neat and tidy, easy on the eye, and purely there to serve.
The international society of invisible women
Sad to say, my parents were not alone in this way of rearing their daughters. I’ve discovered a whole, vast, international society of women who grew up, continents apart, who are voiceless and invisible.
I was taught not to be seen, or heard.
Maybe you were, too.
I was reminded of this when a client said to me recently,
“I learned, early on, to fly under the radar.”
What she meant by that was that she had learned to fly under other people’s radar. But also under her own.
Like me, she had learned to be invisible because invisibility offered relative safety in an abusive, unsafe environment.
My first real sally out of invisibility came with the publication of my first book. That book was a scholarly work that made me an expert in my own field… Well, okay, maybe it was more the case of being an expert on my own tiny little clod of earth rather than a whole field… But, for me, that was seismic.
My book was important to around 3 academics in the whole world. Period.
How I ended up on my own map of the world
But here’s the thing: when I held that book in my hand something happened; that put me on my own mental map of the world for the first time, ever. I really felt it at the time. Seeing my own name on the cover of the book was proof that I actually existed.
By then, I was a wife, mother, and Ph.D. But until that book landed in my hand, my entire experience had been one of being an invisible woman.
That book showed me that I existed, I actually had a brain and even something of value to share.
At the time I had no idea how sad that was. I was just so excited to discover I existed on my own map of the world.
Are you on your own radar?
But let me ask you: how much do you show up on your own radar?
I’m guessing that you don’t show up nearly as much as you should.
I’m guessing that you do a great deal of earning the right to be seen by prioritizing other people over yourself, every which way.
I’d argue that based on what I’ve heard from the many, many abused women I’ve spoken to, over the years. If you listen to an abused woman for a few minutes – if you just listen to yourself – you’ll hear concern for children, concern for your abusive partner and concern for various other people, as well.
What you won’t hear is any deep, abiding concern for yourself.
Are you peripheral in your own life?
Because you’re are almost peripheral in your own life. Most likely because an abusive partner (or parent) has more or less colonized your entire head-space.
That leaves you barely on your own radar, not clearly visible even on your own mental map of the world.
When you listen to your self-talk, you’ll hear loads of reflections about how that significant, self-centred other should and should not treat you. But you won’t hear too many statements about how you should expect better, your bottom line and what is not acceptable to you.
One thing that tells you that you are invisible is this: you can always lower your bottom line and/or set the bar even lower for that person.
Trained to invisibility
When you live with a Narcissist and have been trained to invisibility, your threshold for tolerating bad behaviour becomes increasingly flexible.
What is there to stop a Narcissist behaving worse, or saying more hurtful things, when you are not jealously guarding your wellbeing and making it crystal clear that you will NOT tolerate that kind of behaviour?
You don’t do that because you were taught to be invisible.
You were taught to rely on other people to tell you when you were visible – or even that you could be visible at all.
Has it crossed your mind that having an invisible woman around is incredibly useful for these other, narcissistic people?
The benefits of an invisible woman
An invisible woman:
- Takes care of the children
- Looks after everyone, every which way
- Can be wheeled out when necessary, looking good
- Never blocks out your limelight
An invisible woman is a low maintenance workhorse whose silent screams for help pass unnoticed.
An invisible woman can live an invisible life and die an invisible death.
You deserve so much better than that.
The worst of it is you don’t stop being invisible when you leave an abusive partner. You stop being invisible when you make the decision to change, when you commit to your own visibility.
When you were a child, in the bosom of your family, being visible may not have been a good idea. It may not have been a good idea around your abusive partner. But…
That was then. This is now.
This is now.
You’re not a child any more. You’re an adult.
Adults get to choose their own environment.
You can choose where and how you want to live.
You can choose who you want to live with – or, at least, who you do not want to live with.
If you don’t know exactly what you do want – yet – you certainly know what you don’t want.
Invisibility hasn’t worked for you, so far, and it never will.
If you’d like to see yourself on your own mental map, if you’d like to see your reflection in your own mental mirror – and like what you see, I can assure you my Break Free Membership will help you.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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