I had a realization today: almost all of my setbacks, roadblocks, and self-sabotage throughout my entire life* have stemmed from my desire to remain invisible. I have been fighting again myself this entire time because one part of me wanted and craved (at times to the point of desperation) recognition and attention, but a separate, deeper part wanted to be invisible, ignored, passed over, and forgotten**. That's where my eating disorder came from. I thought I would fit in if I was skinny, and fitting in meant invisibility.
Invisibility isn't easy, but there are a whole host of benefits to it:
- freedom from criticism
- freedom to remain mediocre
- an easier time dodging the slings and arrows of Outrageous Fortune (which incidentally takes a to-hit impediment of -4 against invisibility)***
- observation without the risk of affecting the subject
- performing nefarious deeds without risking getting caught
I could go on, but you are probably well acquainted with the benefits of invisibility. There are of course some drawbacks, like not being heard when you cry for help; or if you get knocked unconscious because the Outrageous Fortune rolled a 20, your cleric can't find and Heal you***. But the greatest drawback of invisibility is that it is diametrically opposed to leadership. You can't take on any form of leadership roll without being visible. It's impossible. For others to follow you, they first have to see you and then have to know why they should follow you. But it all begins with visibility.
Now, there are drawbacks to visibility, but we all have the ability to create our own little magic items to counter-balance those drawbacks. For example, me allowing myself to become visible leads directly to the possibility that someone is going to criticize my weight, shape, or size (unfortunately, it also opens the door for innocuous comments that I take as criticism because I'm sensitive). But, I have the ability to craft a +7 Ring of Body Acceptance and have a greater chance of making my Save versus Assholes roll***. I can use my charisma to attract followers who will buffer me against the criticism of others (less effective), or I can dual class as a cleric and cast a spell that makes me impervious to superficial criticism.
None of that makes me a leader, though. Visibility is just the first step... well, in my case, stopping the quest to find invisibility is the first step. All of my body image and other self-esteem issues go back to that desire to become invisible, because when I was very young invisibility meant safety both while playing D&D and while trying to navigate my life. However, as an adult, I can't get safety from being invisible anymore. If I continue my analogy (which, yes, I'm going to do), as I've leveled up the things I'm fighting have better abilities, including ones that render invisibility useless: Poverty and Heartbreak aren't affected by invisibility, because they don't use their eyes to find their victims. What's worse, the things that I want in my life still can't find me!
In order to lead myself, I've had to shine a bright light on the deepest, darkest corners of my psyche and make my whole self visible. There are things in me that I wanted to ignore, but instead I must accept them as part of me and move on. Like my favorite D&D character, I have the capacity to turn all those scary and dangerous traits about myself into something amazing that I can use to control the outcome of the game. Remaining invisible, however, means that the GM is going to say "you just hid the whole time, why should I give you any experience points?"*' And worldly ambition, my friends, requires mega XP.
Maybe this post is less accessible to you because you don't play RPGs*'', but the message is the same: you'll never become a leader if you keep finding ways to make yourself invisible again. Visibility brings vulnerability, sure, but vulnerability is the antidote to shame which is what makes us want to be invisible in the first place. Vulnerability also leads to love, learning, acceptance, and vision. Being vulnerable gives you experience and wisdom, and when you couple your vulnerability with visibility you become a leader. Maybe on a small scale like within your family; maybe in your faith community or your professional field; maybe even on a much broader scale. Other people will be drawn to what you have to say when you speak from a place of having walked through the fire and finding peace and actual safety on the other side.
Stop being afraid of other people seeing you as you are and just lead them. Anyone who's going to follow you wants to see what's really there anyway.
*From the Age of Ambition, anyway
**To the point where I once had my best friend go off on me because I said I didn't want to be remembered when I died. She was right to chastise me.
***That was a D&D joke
*'And then the Paladin gets all of your XP because she's a freakin tank.
*''Or think they're evil, in which case, why are you reading my blog?