Approximate read time: 11 minutes (feel free to skim read. )
Summary: It took me decades to realize I was a leader. Although my Heart had been guiding me on this path, my human ego could not see how someone as serious, bookish, and quiet as I was could direct others to do things. I went from feeling invisible, to using my invisibility as a superpower.
I never saw myself as a leader.
In fact, for most of my life, I felt invisible. I even have stories that prove it.
Want to read two of my most memorable invisibility stories? I’ll try to keep the stories short, but if you are familiar with me, you know that is not one of my strengths. Sorry. Not sorry.
Story 1: The high school yearbook signing incident
My senior year of high school. Yearbooks were hot off the press. I mustered the courage to ask classmates to sign my yearbook. My primary motivation? So when I showed my future children what Mommy looked like in high school, they wouldn’t think I was a loser because only three people signed it.
In one of my classes, I asked a girl to sign my yearbook. Her response? “Oh, I thought you were a junior.” She laughed as she wrote something like, “It’s been great being in class with you. Be sure to stay in touch.”
This girl sat two rows over from me in homeroom for four years. Every day we heard our names being called for attendance and she thought I was a junior.
I felt hurt and humiliated. I was invisible.
Story 2: Dorm guard duty in Basic Training
Air Force Basic Training. Dorm security was a big deal. During the first week of training, our sister flight served as dorm guards for us while we got acclimated to military life. When it was time for my flight to take over, I was the first one because my last name was Anderson.
The dorm guard's primary role is to ensure that unauthorized people do not gain access to the dormitory. We had a list of people who are authorized, including all the young women in my flight.
That first morning, my first time serving as dorm guard, the training instructor arrived. I opened the door for him because I recognized him. He proceeded to chew me out for not asking him for his ID and checking it against our list.
“But I recognized you, Sir,” I said quietly.
“And why are you here anyway?” he demanded to know. “My flight was supposed to take over dorm guard at 0600. Who sent you here?”
“I’m Airman Anderson. I’m the first one on dorm guard for flight,” I said.
“You’re not in this flight,” he stated.
At that point, what was I supposed to do? I stood there red-faced and shaking. He finally stormed off to find our dorm chief. He hauled her back to where I waited by the door.
“Who is this? And why is she here?” he asked her.
“Airmen Anderson, Sir!” she replied. “She’s serving as dorm guard as you ordered, Sir.”
He looked at me and shook his head. He turned and walked away. The dorm chief asked me what happened. I told her. She shrugged and walked away.
I felt hurt and humiliated. I was invisible.
I have many similar stories. I could have walked through my life using those as proof that I had no value and made no contribution.
But my Heart has always told me I was destined for something big and special. My Heart has assured me that these stories do not define me.
Three valuable lessons came from feeling invisible
In fact, I learned three valuable life lessons from experiences such as those:
Lesson #1. Just because some people don’t see me, does not mean I have not made an impact.
At the end of my junior year of high school, I applied and interviewed for a new double-period secretarial training class (I know… my age is showing). This is the class in which the yearbook signing incident occurred.
Over the course of the school year, I learned skills related to working in an office. I improved my typing and shorthand proficiency and speed. Teachers offered mock job interviews to interested students. I was interested.
By the end of the year, I had won several shorthand and typing contests. I received a $500 college scholarship because of my work in this program. I received glowing references from my teachers for college or direct-to-work use.
I may have been invisible to a classmate, but I made an impression on the teachers and people who had more influence over my future opportunities.
Lesson #2. The courage to stay true to what you know is right is not something everyone possesses.
I felt a deep level of anxiety each time I had to serve as dorm guard while in Air Force Basic Training. While I knew that this was part of the training experience, I also knew it was training for real-world situations when security might literally mean the difference between life and death.
Other young women in my flight did not take this role seriously. More than once, higher-ranking personnel bullied their way into our dorm.
My own experience with this occurred when the assistant training instructor, who worked closely with our TI, wanted access to the dorm when the TI was not present. I denied him access.
Was I scared when the assistant TI started yelling at me? Yes. Was I afraid that I would get in trouble? Yes. Did I open the door to him when I knew he wasn’t supposed to be in the dorm without the TI being present? Nope.
When he finally walked away, I replayed the exchange over and over in my head. I checked and rechecked the access list to see if I had overlooked his name on the list. I had not. I felt confident that if the TI yelled at me for not letting the assistant in, I could defend my action to keep the dorm secure.
A short time later, the assistant returned with the TI. As I opened the door, I heard him raging over the fact that I wouldn’t let him in. He pointed at me and said, “She’s the one!”
“Oh really,” the TI said. He looked at me. I felt my face flush. I expected him to “TI yell” at me. But he said nothing. The two men walked into the classroom. I heaved a sigh of relief.
A few minutes later, an airman came to relieve me. My time at the door was not up yet, but she told me to report to the classroom. She shrugged when I asked for what.
The 30 seconds it took to reach the classroom was plenty long enough for my brain to go into overdrive. Was he going to yell at me in front of everyone? At that moment, I wished I was still invisible.
Red-faced and trembling, I stood at attention in front of my peers and was publicly commended for keeping our dormitory secure from unknown threats. My TI talked about the importance of security and that it is our duty to stand against people who try to bully their way into secure areas they are not authorized to access.
He told the flight that I was an example they should follow.
Lesson #3. Occasional invisibility can be a focus-enhancing superpower.
On the other side of hurt and humiliation stirring stories of invisibility, I learned that not being the focal point of other people’s attention allows me to stay focused on my own work.
When I consider the difference between my and the other girl’s classroom experiences, I am comfortable saying that I used my time with those two teachers more wisely. I asked many questions, practiced job interviewing skills, and took their advice with me to college, into the U.S. Air Force, and beyond.
Had I been caught up in common high school girl behavior, if I had been seen as one of the group, it would not have occurred to me to see these teachers as mentors for living in the grown-up world.
Likewise, had I been more visible while in Basic Military Training, I would not have mastered the art of folding t-shirts and studying military history, Air Force regulations, and more. Because I was not outwardly embraced as part of the social group, I was able to watch and learn how people behave. My quiet, focused nature led me recognition as the Honor Graduate of my class.
At graduation, when I was being recognized for that award, my peers and the audience were told that Honor Graduates are future leaders.
The high-vibe part of feeling invisible...
The point of these stories and lessons is to let you know that people like us… quiet, intuitive, and focused… are the leaders the world needs. We have gentle, nurturing and high vibrational natures that attract people who are ready to learn how to walk their own unique paths to fulfillment. We are the healers, the guides, and the coaches.
We may live (and enjoy living) mostly behind the scenes, but the people who need to see us… who are ready to see us… will recognize us when they do.
When the world leaves you feeling invisible, pause for a moment to discover the gift in that moment. I promise you there is one. And that gift will help you honor your Soul's Purpose.