Dr. Helen

The Beauty of Being Invisible

People seem to get up in arms about “feeling invisible” these days. Many women complain they are invisible or not seen by the opposite sex. Seniors feel that they are often overlooked and treated as invisible. There are even Nationwide insurance commercials depicting Indian actress Mindy Kaling as feeling invisible (hint Mindy, maybe your tendency to push a man’s basketball out of his hand plays a part in them wanting nothing to do with you):


It’s funny but in Obama’s America, most of us are invisible it seems to me. You can blame it on discrimination, sexism, ageism or whatever but I think a good part of it is just plain old incompetence. No one feels like working anymore or feels entitled to be working somewhere better, so they no longer see it necessary to try their best or give good service. Hence they overlook people in stores, restaurants, and in general. Or you have the opposite problem. Doctors and staff are so overworked with paperwork and have so many patients that everyone has become a number and a chart, making it easy to shrug off any real human connection. People complain about feeling invisible and the lack of human compassion but why not embrace being invisible instead?

What do I mean by this? Well, given how little people pay attention to others, a whole new world is open to you if you are willing to engage in a bit of passive-aggressive behavior or even act a bit on the sociopathic side. Is this good for society? No, but it might be a decent way for individuals to behave in order to keep their sanity in a society that devalues individualism.

A few examples. You walk in a store and can’t get anyone to wait on you in the meat department. Before you head there, act like Mindy in the Nationwide commercial above and grab a snack if hungry. Eat the snack in line as you wait for someone to wait on you. If it is a few grapes, you may not be able to pay for it but it is hardly a crime and is to be expected. Sometimes bulk food such as almonds or nuts have places to weigh and get a price you stick on yourself and you can do this if you want the totally honest approach. If it is food with a wrapper, you can just get the cashier to scan it when you check out. The beauty of this approach is that you are full and can stabilize your blood sugar and eat while waiting, meaning that you are not really wasting your time. Just multi-task.

At the doctor’s office, bring along your phone or other electronic device and work as the staff ignores you. This way you can read email or keep up with the news. Again, get somethings done so that your valuable time is not wasted. Sometimes it helps to have a time limit in your head such as only waiting for up to an hour for your appointment at which time you simply inform the secretary that you are leaving. You can even be nice about it. Just ask when they can reschedule you when it is more convenient for them. Often they will get you in immediately as it is their problem if you walk out without being seen. They don’t get paid. If you have to wait due to an emergency or other problem, when the staff wants you to move quickly, doddle a bit and look at your phone as if you have much important business to get to or if they ask for your insurance card, read your phone for a bit til you get the time to pull it out. Is this passive aggressive? Yes, but it is really satisfying to know that keeping others waiting isn’t just a one way street.

Finally, you can get away with a lot if you are invisible. You can watch people, you can sing to yourself, you can pull out a full course meal like one of my colleagues used to do at work and just eat or do whatever you need to get done without worry that you are being strange. Apparently, no one cares. So embrace being invisible, it can honestly be freeing.

Do you ever feel invisible? If so, how do you handle it (or not)?