One of our most fundamental psychological needs is to be seen. Not looked at, but seen. Really seen, for all the good, beautiful and worthy parts of us, and what more we can become.
Not being seen – by ourselves or by another – can cause us anguish. Deep down, we may feel worthless, unloved, lost or even dying. In some ways, we do not fully exist until we are seen.
That is why it hurts so much to be ignored or why it irks us when our boss does not complement us with our hard work.
Or why it is profoundly inhuman for parents to send their children to their room as a form of punishment, or for prisoners to be sent to solitary confinement.
It is said that whatever you pay attention to grows. This also applies to people. When you see a part of them, that part will blossom, occupy more spaces and become more active.
If we are seen as we really are, we will feel more strength, pride, self-confidence, joy and a deeper sense of belonging and being worthy.
Being seen by another also strengthens the relationship. A leader who sees his people is more readily followed. A parent who sees his child, will find less conflict and a happier child. And seeing your partner increases intimacy and trust.
It is simple, but not easy to see someone. For one, we are conditioned to judge and filter the world through our personal needs, values, and tastes.
Or we don’t see people because they are too familiar to us. And sometimes we define an entire person on the basis of small incident or minor trait, leaving the rest covered.
So perhaps it is time for a fresh look at seeing (bad pun intended).
Imagine someone at work or in your private life, say a boss or subordinate, your partner, child or friend. Make sure that person plays a relevant and regular role in your life.
Every time you interact with them, pay really close attention. What do you notice? What is it that drives or touches them? What do they aim for? What more can they become?
And then tell them – clearly and honestly, with a calm and kind voice, while looking them straight in their eyes – what it is you see. For example:
- I see how passionate you are about your hobby.
- I see how much effort you put into that food.
- I see that you have grown in recent times.
- I see that you are a loyal friend.
- I see the potential in you for great leadership.
- I see that you struggle with that project.
- I see how sad you are about the death of your friend.
- I see your beauty.
- I see how intelligent you are.
- I see you are trying to make the world a better place.
Give it a try. Remember not to judge or qualify what you see, or say what it means to you. Just see what you see and say it. And then notice how they react?
I will leave you with a question, which you may answer in the comments below: what is it that you would like other people to see more of in you?
Ilja van Roon
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