Art & Mind

The First Time I Felt Seen

Vector Arena stage and mic by Oscar Keys

I've discussed the topic of representation here on my blog before, and based on the reception of that post, it was clear that I wasn't alone in my interpretation of the phrase "Representation Matters." A number of people sent me an email or contacted me online or face-to-face to cheer on my words and perspective, as they either had the same thoughts themselves or felt that my interpretation was eye-opening in one way or another.

I appreciated that feedback, so I thought I'd revisit the concept again, but from a somewhat more personal angle. The phrase "I feel seen" is sometimes thrown around in jest on social media or in casual conversation by younger generations as a indication that a connection has been established with an idea, concept, or image. Even if it's said tongue-in-cheek, there's still that subtle acknowledgment that up until that point, the person speaking did not feel seen -- at least on the topic at hand.

I can't help but laugh a little because the phrase is a bit jovial for an issue that, quite honestly, can be very serious. Don't we all have the right to "feel seen" at some point? Don't we all want to experience that connection to something bigger and feel less alone? Even if it's for something as innocuous as an addiction to collecting notebooks and journals, watching the Real Housewives franchise when everyone else is watching The Queen's Gambit, or eating cereal out of a coffee mug because we didn't feel like doing the dishes and they're aren't any clean bowls.

I rarely use this phrase, but I understand why it's a popular one at this time in our cultural atmosphere. Yet I had to ask myself why. Why didn't I use it very often? (Other than to avoid being accused of trying to sound "cool" like people 20 years my junior.) Was it because I rarely ... felt ... seen?

So I did a deep dive and asked myself the question: When was the first time I felt seen? And believe it or not, there's two answers to that:

  1. I've never truly felt seen, and
  2. In popular media, the closest to my first time feeling seen was on the American TV series A Different World*

Regarding #1, I can honestly say I've never felt truly seen because I've yet to meet anyone in real life that I connected with in terms of disposition, life philosophy, politics, spiritual inclination, work ethic, or general personality. Not within my family, in my neighborhood or community, and certainly not within the public sphere of celebrity or cultural/civic leadership. At first glance, this may sound a bit depressing, but I can assure you that my Aquarius ascending is not at all surprised or disappointed in this reality.

But it did give me pause. After reflecting on this, I came to appreciate that self-esteem and self-acceptance that isn't built on the foundation of "seeing yourself in others" isn't a bad thing at all. My self-confidence had to develop on its own with the recognition that my differences from the majority made me an invaluable asset to society. I was someone who could provide a point-of-view that challenged the status quo, and with time, step into my power to facilitate a lasting change that could lead to helping others feeling heard or "seen." [Insert shameless plug for my copywriting and content writing business here.]

Dubai sunset by Hassan Pasha

So in my own way, walking through the process to examine why I never felt seen, I managed to create the same emotional reaction -- a connection to something bigger that left me feeling less alone.

Sure, it's not the same as when I found out that I wasn't the only one who has "What I should've said" conversations with myself in the shower, or when I found out that I'm not the only one who thinks the city of Portland, Oregon is a tad overrated. But it's no less poignant or uplifting in terms of the value of "feeling seen," something I created for others in that previous blog post.

Yes, I would love to meet another eccentric weirdo with brown skin who is unafraid of mixing jewels tones and patterns; loves museums, theater, sci-fi and professional wrestling; thinks the world is hyper-obsessed with sexuality and labels; and recognizes that the true source of global oppression and disenfranchisement is the greed facilitated by a close network of powerful nations and not just the one nation everyone wants to blame for all the world's problems. But alas, if there is no other such eccentric weirdo, I'm happy to take up that mantle and be that weirdo.

I'm at a place where I'm ready to embrace that connection, stand in my power, and for the first time, feel ... finally ... seen.

* The character of Freddie Brooks, played by the incomparable Cree Summer, was the closest to my first-time feeling seen (just in case you were wondering).

Top Image: Vector Arena stage and mic by Oscar Keys | Bottom Image: Dubai sunset by Hassan Pasha

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