Who doesn’t look back at their high school years and cringe? I know I do. In fact, I have dreams about being back there. In those dreams I am not unprepared for a test, or breaking up with a boyfriend. I’m not missing the prom, or stressed about too many activities.

No, none of that. Instead, my high school dreams are always about being overlooked. Or, more precisely, feeling overlooked.

Over the years, with all the experiences I’ve had both personally and professionally, I’ve come to the conclusion that “overlooked” is one of the most insidious emotions that a person can feel. And I’ve also realized that many folks experience this feeling often. For these people, when with groups of friends, or at work or at family gatherings, this particular emotion just hangs around, almost as if it’s waiting to be felt.

Overlooked, invisible, unseen, marginalized, ignored.

In a 2014 study, Sandra Robinson compared the psychological damage done to employees in the workplace by bullying vs. exclusion. They found that being ignored by co-workers was more harmful to people’s emotional well-being than being mistreated by them.

Why does it seem that some people appear to be slated for the limelight, while others are more the type to stay outside of it? Do limelight people have some special secret to get noticed? Do overlooked folks really deserve to be overlooked, or somehow choose to be unseen?

There is another study that helps answer these questions. As it turns out, it may mostly boil down to self-confidence. Confidence seems to carry far more power over other people’s perceptions of you than was ever realized before.

Lamba & Nityananda, 2014 found that people who are overconfident in their own abilities are viewed as more talented by others than they really are. Overconfident people are more likely to get better jobs, be offered leadership positions, and be elected to public office.

Interestingly, Lamba & Nityananda discovered the opposite is also true. Those who are under-confident in their own abilities are viewed as less competent than they actually are.

The results: you know what you have to offer, but others can’t seem to see it. That is frustrating, it’s devaluing, and invalidating. Being viewed as less competent than you are is literally a recipe for not being seen. Furthermore, if you grew up in a family that failed to notice your strengths (an important aspect of Childhood Emotional Neglect), it may make it harder for you to see your own strengths. It’s a formula for overlooked.

Is it possible that this might be you? If so, you may be wondering what you can do about it. I understand! Here’s some advice.

3 Steps to Find Your Self-Confidence & Stop Being Overlooked

  1. Start paying closer attention to yourself. Take note of what you are good at, and I do mean that literally. Start a list of everything you notice about yourself that could be regarded as a strength. Do not overthink any particular item. If it occurs to you, then it’s real. Write it down. Go back and read this list often. It will serve as a reminder of your own abilities, skills, positives, and powers. They are yours to own and you must claim them.
  2. Pay attention to when you feel overlooked. Knowing when you get this feeling can be very helpful. Does it happen more at work? In your marriage? With your family? When you’re alone? This matters because it’s possible to lack confidence only in certain areas of your life, or only around certain people or kinds of people. So learning more about your overlooked feeling can tell you where to focus your self-confidence efforts.
  3. Stop assuming that other people are better, or more able, than you are. Now you know that folks who seem naturally superior may look that way simply because of their confidence level. Evaluate people by their specific strengths, not their overall presentation. And do the same for yourself.

Since high school, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I now realize that I have some good strengths, and I have a far better idea about what they are. But, like most people, life is a continuous learning process.

I expect I’ll always have those overlooked high school dreams, and I’m okay with that. I know there will be times in the future when I will be, and feel, overlooked. It is a natural part of life, after all. But those dreams will always serve as a reminder for me to never take a back seat again. To never underestimate myself, and to never unwittingly choose overlooked, again.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is often the cause of low self-confidence and feeling overlooked. Since CEN is so subtle and invisible, it can be hard to know if you have it. Take the Childhood Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.

To learn how CEN happens and how to recover from it, see EmotionalNeglect.com and the book, Running on Empty.

Photo by crowbot