No matter where I’ve lived, worked, learned, I’ve often felt like I’ve been ignored or overlooked in favor of others. Despite being the “average” woman’s height of 5’3″, I’m still considered petite when standing among others. I’ve had waitresses gaze over my head to address my party members with the menu choices and the check, even when I was the one holding the credit card.
At work and hanging out with friends, I will begin speaking during a pause in the conversation, only for someone to blurt out a question or turn to someone else to re-engage. I’ll offer what I think is a good idea in a meeting, only to have it brushed off. Then, when someone else presents that same idea later, it is heralded and praised, leaving me stunned and confused as to what in the heck I said earlier.
Being ignored can raise a lot of questions. Often, I would question my entire personality and wonder what I was doing “wrong.” I’ve never been a prolific “small talk” speaker, nor am I loud or even talk a lot. Even my fashion sense falls into muted and neutral colors. That’s just who I am.
But to think that “who I am” is someone who will not be noticed or acknowledged, can hurt.
It can be exhausting. It can be frustrating.
And it happens all. The. Time.
Or does it?
I found myself thinking about this one morning as I sat near tears, feeling forgotten in the massive shift that was the company I worked for. As the lowest job grade on my team, I felt like my professional development had been jolted, and I didn’t know how to address the gap. It left me feeling stunted and unsure of what direction my career should take with the company–or in life.
I hate this, I thought, really delving deep into my pity party. I’m tired of feeling useless, talent-less. I never get noticed or even considered when it comes to doing anything new or amazing.
But, ah. How pity can make us forget.
Standing Out Among the Crowd
In June, I had one of the best weekends I’ve had in a very long time. And part of the reason was because…I was noticed.
On the Saturday of that weekend, I had registered for an introduction to voiceover workshop. I signed up hoping my voice would be considered “good” (whatever “good” is in respect to voice over-ing) enough to be hired in the business. I knew very little about the actual voiceover industry, but I had always been fascinated by the pitch and timber of people’s speaking tones. At 7 years old, nothing excited me more than the fact that Babs Bunny on Tiny Toon Adventures had the same voice actress as Gadget from Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers.
To my pleasant surprise at the workshop, I received not only praise for my voice, but a little bit more. The instructor pointed to me eagerly as a prime example of how to stretch the mouth as he taught the class vocal warm-ups. As the class created commercial demos, he lauded my ability to take instructions quickly, stating that such a skill would do me well in the industry.
But it was a strange moment of mistaken deja vu at the beginning of class that seemed to set the trend.
While addressing the class on the workshop’s agenda, the instructor kept looking at me for extended periods. It was a small room and I was sitting in the front row, so I sort of brushed it off. Plus, I’ve always had trouble with eye contact, so I had been working on that aspect diligently. Based on his attention, I was pleased that I was appearing as interested as I felt.
Suddenly, he just stopped talking. He tilted his head, stared at me intently, then announced, “I feel like I should know you. We’ll talk later.”
Nothing extreme came of the moment (I’d reminded him of an actress he knew), but in a world where my face was overlooked, it was a little surreal to be singled out.
And this surrealism continued into the next day.
While attending the last day of the Georgia Renaissance Festival with friends, I was selected from the crowd to join a set of performers onstage and act out one of their lighthearted skits. As in the voiceover workshop, one of the performers made immediate eye contact with me and continued said eye contact as he stepped offstage, wandered up the aisle, stood next to me, and declared with a wicked grin over the loudspeakers, “I’m looking at you, mama.”
I’d feigned a cringe for the benefit of the laughing audience (after all, what innocent bystander wants to be pulled into the unknown?), but inside, I felt myself burst to life. I’d been a performer in my junior high and high school days, and it wasn’t until I was on that stage again that I felt a sense of homecoming, of comfort, that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.
Never had I been plucked randomly from a crowd, hurled onstage, and then pushed, pulled, prodded, teased, instructed, laughed at, and then thrown offstage in the span of 15 minutes.
It was amazing. I loved it.
The creativity, the excitement, the characters, the…well, drama of it all gave me a plethora of feelings I’ve never experienced in other settings. “Ignored” certainly wasn’t one of them.
It’s Not You…But It Is You
Back in my pity party at work, revelation struck me.
What if being ignored runs deeper than just being ignored?
What if being ignored has nothing (or at least, little) to do with personality or appearance?
What if being ignored is a way of the universe saying where you do or do not belong?
Mentally, I ran through some of my favorite pastimes, times when I felt happy, comfortable and involved. The voiceover class. The Renaissance Festival. Professional wrestling house shows. Improv workshops. Creative writing classes in college. Drama and choir classes in high school.
I’ve always enjoyed the more creative side of…well, everything. At work, I was more inclined to use the logical, practical, and serious side of my personality. That’s not a bad thing, but it did leave me feeling drained and anxious, and certainly not as comfortable in my daily performance. I work best when I can be animated, random, and downright silly.
In the places I felt less dismissed, I didn’t have to act out to get attention. Perhaps, because my comfort levels were already equalized, others picked up on this aura. I in turn was more willing to make eye contact at strangers. They eye-contacted back. Goodness prevailed.
Or maybe it wasn’t even my concern to be noticed or ignored in those settings. Maybe I was just enjoying myself too much in an environment that matched me, it didn’t matter whether I stood out.
Find Where You Truly Belong
If you feel like you have been ignored more than you would like, or you feel as though you’re not being recognized, ask yourself these questions:
- In what settings do you feel ignored or dismissed?
- Are you enjoying yourself in those settings?
- Do you feel like you “belong” in those settings?
- Are people randomly approaching you, appearing comfortable around you? Do they seem happy that you’re there?
So often, we put ourselves into environments that don’t necessarily fit us. We choose friends or jobs not because we like them, but because they’re better than nothing. But are they?
When you fall into a scenario where things just seem to flow comfortably, I would recommend encouraging it. You might be receiving a message that you are meant for something more than where you currently are.
You may not need to make an extreme shift like changing jobs or dropping friends. But maybe having this knowledge will allow you to shift and find opportunities in your current situation where you can thrive and shine. And placing yourself in scenarios where you know you are being noticed can give you the confidence and fulfillment you deserve.
I would love to hear your insight on this! Please comment below and let me know what you think.