Fear of being seen / by Karen Staniland-Platt

I have struggled with a fear of being seen for a long time. It’s not shyness, it’s entirely different to shyness. Put me in a room of people and I can chat and talk and meet people, that’s fine but actually standing up and being seen for who I truly am, my skills, my talents, my truths, now that’s different and has in the past been a HUGE struggle for me.

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So let me tell you about when it changed. I’ve invested a lot of money into my self-development, learning about myself, my fears, my talents, my passions, my purposes, and I’ve taken part in a lot of really fabulous courses. On one particular programme we were about half way through an 8 week programme and I was struggling. In the first few weeks I’d flown. Everything was new and exciting and I love new and exciting, but the more into the course we went the more it was about just turning up, day in, day out, and DOING THE WORK. Everything was no longer so new and exciting, so doubts and fears crept in. For a few weeks I did everything I could to avoid showing up and then, realising that I couldn’t stand to ‘fail’ I went back into the private facebook group that was supporting the programme and asked for help. I got help, with shows of support and real practical tips for getting back on track. Within a matter of days, hours even, I was feeling better. Then we had a Facebook live session, a chance to talk through that weeks content and share experiences. I was on fire! I was offering up advice to the group, the tutor was using me as an example and I was super proud to be back on form. And then the thought hit me…what if the other people in the group think I”m showing off. What if they’re finding my confidence annoying. ‘Ooh look at mrs know it all’ and before I knew it the worst of my little demons was taking hold. The minute we were off the call I grabbed my journal and started to write. What had triggered me? Why was my showing up, being confident and offering help & support to the other students making me now feel bad? As I wrote down all the things that were coming to mind I realised just what a powerful role this story had been playing in ALL my life…if I am successful, confident, speak up and be seen, people won’t like me!

Pretty nasty gremlin right?

I am not a show off at all. I’m equally not a know-it-all. But I had convinced myself, over many many years, that with success comes hatred. I could see a few triggers in the past. Some small, like parents and grandparents saying ‘stop showing off’, ‘people will think you’re big-headed’ and other unintentional but nevertheless incredibly damaging statements. I thought about how at school I was seen as the ‘rich’ kid…which was utterly ridiculous. My mum didn’t work, my dad was a bus driver working ridiculous shift patterns and the only reason I got this label was because we owned our house, whilst the majority of my classmates lived in rented council houses. So I used to give stuff away, wrap up my own toys, or books or clothes and gift them to friends. I lied at school saying my parents were divorcing because it seemed many of my friends parents were…I was basically learning how to give away anything that made me look even the slightest bit better off…anything that could be labelled as me showing off. Skip forward some years and I remember hiding in the kitchen crying when one of my family called me a show off for answering a few questions on a tv quiz show. What she’d said wasn’t meant maliciously at all but ‘showing off’ was such a trigger for me and I can remember it as clear and as painfully as if it was 2 minutes ago.

So if I know about this gremlin, how do I deal with it? Well I”m not gonna pretend I did x, y & z and all was solved…it’s an ongoing battle but most powerful of all was when I truly began to see how much it was holding me back in my career. I wasn’t doing any activity to attract new business, my website needed an overhaul and my service packages needed updating but I spent the best part of 18 months putting it off. All of my work was coming through recommendations which was great but not sustainable as my only means of new business. I was stopping myself becoming successful. It wasn’t fear of failure that paralysed me, it was fear of success because in my mind with success came bad stuff!

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Here’s what I’ve started to do (and I say start because a gremlin this big ain't gonna go down without a fight!)

  1. I Journal on it daily. First I sit quietly, consider what ‘showing off’ means to me. What am I truly scared of and I then grab my journal and write down whatever’s come up, be it true or false. I then go through it again, on paper, and challenge the credibility of the statements I'm making. ‘What about all the friends I have that are massive cheerleaders for me, they don't think I'm a show off!’ I carry this on until I’m satisfied I've exhausted all possibilities.

  2. I then begin to list all the things I'm losing out on by remaining tied to this story. For one, my business suffers because quite simply it’s not being seen by anyone, I'm literally hiding it for fear I might actually become really successful. Secondly my family relationships suffer because I'm basically self-sabotaging any financial success which puts pressure on us all, and heaps a whole lot of shame & guilt at my door

  3. I then use a technique that I learnt from the incredible transformational coach Jody Shield. I call it ‘talking to the hand’ It’s based on the premise that it’s pointless trying to convince your mind that it's wrong about something it’s believed in for so long, so instead you agree with it. I put my hand in front of me and I talk directly to the ‘story’. ‘You’re right. I don't want to lose friends because they think I’m a show off. You’ve done me a massive favour by protecting me, keeping me small, helping me hide my talents. By doing that I’m loved and liked and nobody hates me.’ I say thank you, I repeat how grateful I am for protecting me but here’s the crucial point…I reframe the perspective so whilst saying ‘you’re right’, and crediting my story for keeping me safe, I'll also add ‘from your viewpoint, from your perspective, from where you’re standing….showing off does lose me friends. It’s like an argument with a loved one…you don't wanna go head to head, you’ll never agree, but by agreeing that from 'their perspective’ it’s the right decision you are regaining control. I usually finish by saying something like ‘I’ve got this now though, I’m so grateful you looked after me but I’m ready now to grow, to be bigger, to expand and I’m confident the people who care about me will only love me more for being true to myself’

  4. I'll then sit quietly again, and imagine the energy in my body changing and moving, like I can physically feel the energy shifting.

  5. As well as the above I repeat affirmations every day (sometimes a few times a day) that help alter the script in my mind. Statements like ‘The more success I experience the deeper my relationships and friendships become’ or ‘the more I am true to myself, the more people I attract and can support’

As a photographer and a writer, NOT being seen has stopped me moving forward for quite some time but it’s like the universe, or something deep inside me, knows not to entirely give up just yet. Helping other people to quite literally BE SEEN through my photography is especially rewarding and my belief is that any sharing more of my own fears around this topic, it’ll encourage you to bust through yours and come work with me!

See, everyone wins!