At primary school I was shy. I didn’t exactly fit in. I was. In. The chess club.
I had a handful of good friends to hang around and write terrible comedy skits with. Put me in a big group of kids I didn’t know, though, and I became She Who Never Spoke. I mean, I didn’t have a Kylie and Jason teeshirt. I had crazy leather brogues and floaty jumble sale dresses twenty years before they came back into fashion and ten years too late. I wanted a tracksuit, and shiny new trainers, and fluoro socks.
What was a girl to do?
You try to join the gang, but…
It’s hard when there are loud, popular, smart and funny voices out there and you feel small and insignificant, huh? And you build up the courage to contribute, to add a comment, to pipe up with your wobbly voice and, you know, join the party.
And nothing. And you feel you might as well be talking to yourself. You might as well be invisible. So you skip home, lock yourself in your bedroom and escape into small, safe worlds of fiction. Or TV. Or bad Australian soaps where the school uniform consists of shiny teeth and incredibly short skirts.
Before you quit and go back to cubicle hell
And today? Beavering away at Getting The Word Out about What You Do. It’s incredibly brave of you. You’re amazing! You’re in business, making a difference to the world…but nobody’s listening and you wonder why. You wonder how long this can go on before you have to give up.
I don’t want you to give up. I don’t want you to be invisible. And no, you don’t need a Kylie and Jason teeshirt.
Let’s have a look at what’s really causing this icky case of invisible-itis…
1. You’re half-assing it
There’s a funny paradox in small, passion-led business. You find something you’re good at and censor it. You get a job and nearly die with frustration. You finally strike out into self-employment (or art or travel writing or anything-that’s-gonna-get-me-outta-here) and you compromise. You half-ass it. You end up falling into something you’re pretty good at because you don’t feel like you deserve to do something you absolutely love all day long.
You might not even see what’s right under your nose. You’re so busy trying to be professional and business like that you’re forgetting to be YOU in your bestest form.
So, what’s the intersection between joy and brilliance for you? What is it that comes so naturally to you that you’ve no idea how hard it is for others? What kind of superhero are you?
2. You’ve no idea how unprecedented you are
Hand in hand with not really doing what you’re good at because it’s so bleeding obvious to you is this: not realising just how uniquely you wield your superpowers. You may be another face in the playground and you may be in an industry where lots of people do what you do, but you’re the only YOU. There’s nobody who’s YOUer than you! Tapping into your unique strengths is what’s going to set you apart. Imagine yourself as your favourite café.
Now: write down three words to describe the vibe in there. Stuck? ask your friends: “Hey, Facebook. Imagine I’m a café. Now give me three words to describe my vibe…”
3. You’re totally not in love with them
If you are honest with yourself, the reason you clam up when you’re around the Popular Kids is because you don’t really like them. You can’t think of a word to say. So be it!
Erm, have you looked on the Internet recently? Have you looked at how vast the world is? There are loads of people out there who share your obsession with Quinoa/Entropy/Downton Abbey/Johnny Depp/Cat gifs/Speaking in rhyming couplets. Make it your job to seek them out. You have permission to find, and fall in love with, Your Kinda People. It will make your job SO much easier.
Who’s your favourite client? What is it about them that you like? Do they have friends/colleagues/peers who are fall-in-lovable too? Good: seek to make connections. And this: it’s okay to talk about shared interests on twitter/FB/whatever. You don’t have to be in pounce-on-client mode.
Focus on building relationships first, one at a time. Fall in love. Over cat gifs if need be.
4. You’re not telling enough goddam stories
Have you noticed how much children like bedtime stories? How much adults like stories? How our whole lives are full of stories? Yes? Good.
But I bet you’ve been resisting telling yours. This is normal: you’ve probably been trained not to make an exhibition of yourself. The thing is, humans seek to make connections. Heart connections. And we do that with stories.
If you’re not ready to tell a big story, start small. What teeny tiny story about why you do what you do, about your day or about your pet monkeyfish could you share?
5. You’re not listening
Imagine you’ve gone and got a frozen shoulder. You go to the doctor to get a frozen shoulder unfreezing cream. You’re ready, you’ve got tales of your frozen exploits and how difficult it was to get dressed all ready to go. But the doctor takes one look at you and writes you a script. Sends you packing.
You feel cheated. You wanted the doctor to nod and say ‘oh dear’ and ‘that must have been hard’ and ‘that often happens, yes.’ And then write the script. You had a real need to be heard.
So do your people. They can’t really tune in to what you’re saying until you acknowledge where they’re at. It’s like holding up a mirror.
So: thinking about people you’re a superhero for; whip out your pocket mirror. What are your sweet souls saying and seeing in it? And how could you show them that you’re really listening…and then speak out for them?
6. You’re lazy, if you really admit it (and bored)
The thing is, if you’ve read this far, you are quite probably tenacious, intelligent, almost lazily talented.
You’re good at whatever it is you try, generally. So it’s too easy to slip into a semi-committed state of busy-ness and overload. It’s easy to become attracted to new, shiny things instead of focusing on breaking through your own resistance to becoming more visible.
Your power’s in your passion: it’s infectious and makes you magnetic.
Make a list of three things you’re in love with about what you do. Find a way to celebrate each one, publicly. Write down one thing you hate about what you do. How could you not have to do that any more? Commit to a saying no habit.
7. You’re not watching enough X-Factor (or: you’re scared. Or, you’re watching too much X-Factor and not taking any action.)
You’re scared. Yes. That’s a good sign. If you weren’t scared, wouldn’t you be a bit worried? I would. I’d worry that I was getting complacent, and not making new art, new connections, new awesomeness.
Actually, being scared is a useful feeling to channel. It’s fab for getting in touch with your empathetic, vulnerable side. It’s amazing for connecting with the pain your sweet souls are in before they meet YOU. Remember: putting your ass where your heart wants to be (to paraphrase Steven Pressfield) is powerful. It’s essential. And it’s not about you and your ego.
Chances are, you’re doing it for THEM: those people who you love to work with and in whose lives you are a force for good.
My number one remedy? Google ‘amazing X-Factor auditions’ Go and seek out a used car salesman with the voice of an angel or a Susan Boyle or any one of those inspiring people who have finally made peace with laying fear aside in order to fully use their gifts. Here’s one to get you started:
Then, with the lump fresh in your throat: write an ode to your perfect client. Publish it on your site as a manifesto. Get some blood pumping.
8. You’re not being a glitterball (or: you’re too scattered)
When you have lots of passions, lots of interests, lots of talents and a big busy head full of blinking lights, it can get hard to find a rhythm or rhyme to your message. You become like a crazy pinball game, sending tiny silver bullets of zing crashing all over the place, in every direction, only to end up, ultimately, in the gutter. Which is fun, but a shitty strategy for communicating your message. After all, who can catch one of your pinballs long enough to get it?
A subtle, but hugely effective shift is to imagine yourself as a glittery disco ball instead. Put your reason for being, your passion, your big why at the heart of the disco ball and plug yourself in. Connect, think, act, rinse, repeat. Your disco ball will spin slowly around, each tiny mirror catching the light in a different and unique way (and yes, you get to play and have fun with your multidimensional nature, but it feels waaay more sustainable.)
And your sweet souls, your tribe? Invite them to dance. Invite them to your disco. Discos and pinballs aren’t a love match, but discos and glitter balls? Yay.
Be a big, glittery disco ball. What’s at the heart of what you do? What makes your world spin? Brainstorm it. Sit under a tree. Write your heart out. And then go post what you believe in on social media. Picmonkey it. Instagram it. Share it like you mean it (because you do.)
So there you go: eight ways to lift the invisibility curse.
The best thing about this? You realise that you never wanted to be friends with the popular gang anyway. You’re having heaps more fun in your nerdy tribe. To hell with fluoro socks.