I don’t know about you, but I find it strangely unsettling when I feel seen by the world around me.
Have you ever had one of those days when you keep “bumping into” the same stranger?
I just spent a couple of weeks in a small wooden cabin at the foot of Mount Conwy in North Wales.
I wandered up the mountain twice while I was there. On the first occasion, I passed a man walking his dog. We acknowledged each other with a polite nod.
The second time I went up the mountain I saw him again. And we walked past each other…two more times.
We had both obviously looped around from opposite directions. He must have felt the weird absurdity too because on our third encounter we looked at each other, confused and laughing. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this”, I said. He laughed and replied, “same time tomorrow I guess”.
It was one of those moments where strangers temporarily bounce into and out of one another’s bubble of being.
We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This
I was reminded of a recent trip to a supermarket when I had a similar encounter with a fellow shopper. We had one of those “this way, that way, anyway I go, you’re going the same way as you try to get out of the way” moments. In true British fashion, we apologised to one another for being in the way.
From then on we kept bumping into each other as we took opposite routes around the small store. It happened on the bread aisle, and then again by the coffee. The third time it happened he said, “we’ve got to stop meeting like this”. We had a laugh about it.
Those words resonated with me. I don’t know who he was and I wouldn’t recognise him if I saw him again. But “we’ve got to stop meeting like this” felt weirdly meaningful at that moment.
It made a mundane shopping trip a bit more entertaining. It became funny because we allowed space for it to be. I think we could both sense and express the humour as we kept getting in each other’s way.
And I suppose that’s what life is. All of us, bumbling around and getting in one another’s way.
At its worst, this might leave us irritated and resenting each other. But at its best, it is at the heart of connection. It helps us allow space for one another, to be and feel seen and heard. Valued and accepted in some way.
Something Powerful Happens When We Feel Seen
It might be disconcerting and uncomfortable at times. While on other occasions it might feel validating and reassuring.
Many of us have taught ourselves to not be seen.
We might have internalised a message that tells us we should fit in and become part of the furniture.
Not the kind of furniture we would love to be, but more of an innocuous and inoffensively upholstered chair. Indistinguishable from the billions of other chairs in the world but useful for serving other people. Giving them somewhere to sit so we can support them in their more important lives.
And so we have shrunk ourselves. Moved back into the shadows. The corners of the room. We’ve made space so that we’re not in the way of the people we’ve been taught deserve to be here more than us.
Do you prefer to be invisible? How do you feel when you are truly seen and heard by another person?
This is not about whether we like being the centre of attention or not. And it’s not about demanding to be seen and heard by shouting louder.
It is more about how comfortable we are accepting and owning the space we take up in the world.
How do we feel when we see ourselves through the eyes of others? In a compliment? In a photograph? When we are in their way?