When It Feels Like No One Knows You

Some of us, to some extent, have felt like no one really knows us. Maybe it is persistent, or it comes in intense waves. It could come after losing someone important to you or when you sit down alone surrounded by yourself. Regardless, when it surfaces, it is painful, better yet, excruciating. Maybe you have tons of friends and a wonderful family, but it still seems like no one really knows you. You are not alone. Other people feel the same way, and there is hope. There is a great depiction of this feeling in the show Mad Men.

The scene happens when Don breaks down after losing Anna. If you aren’t familiar with the show, Don Draper is the main character who plays a brilliant adman on Madison Avenue in the 1960s. He remains distant and shows very little emotional vulnerability throughout the show. He continues to shove people away that care for him and keep them at arm’s length.

Anna plays the wife who was married to the man that Don steals the identity of before the show takes place. She allows him to take the identity of her dead husband, knowing that he didn’t want to go back to war and wanted to start over from a past of being raised poor and brought up in a brothel. Through Anna’s kindness and support, Don is able to start over. Don doesn’t share this with anyone for several seasons of the show, so Anna is one of the only people that knows about that part of Don’s life.

The scene takes place in Don’s office when he receives a phone call while with arguably one of the closest people he knows post identity swap. During the phone call, the person on the phone tells him that Anna has died from cancer. It takes him a few moments, but after the phone call, he breaks into tears. You see the pain, grief, agony, and loneliness sweep across his face. He realizes that he has lost someone who knew of his past and loved him regardless. He knew that she hadn’t been drawn to him because of his current prosperity and status; rather, she supported him before he had accomplished anything. He hadn’t lost everything, but it felt like it. After being asked what was wrong, Don says, “Someone very important to me died…The only person in the world who really knew me.”

You may not have lost someone, but maybe you are acquainted with that feeling. Sometimes it doesn’t seem obvious as to why you feel that way. You might have plenty of friends and great family members but still feel alone and unknown. After a while it can build, and the usual conversations and relationships may not seem like enough. You want more and don’t know where to find it or how to get it. Other times it is obvious why you feel that way. Maybe you don’t have many people to talk to, and you feel forgotten.

The antidote to this feeling is genuine deep connection. Tim Keller, a public speaker and retired NYC-based pastor, describes this well:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is…. what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

The pain is real and the satisfaction from connection runs deep. There can be a strong temptation to keep pieces of yourself hidden from everyone. If you hide the bullying you went through in school, the bad divorce you experienced, or the guilt from the way you have treated people in the past, people can’t judge you or treat you differently for it. You can keep things from people and, in fact, sometimes you should. However, the feeling of loneliness and being unknown can start to creep in the more that you hold painful things in.

Don is an excellent example of this. He keeps his identity and past a secret from most people throughout the show. No one knows of his painful and ugly past except for Anna. She was the one person he could turn to that knew and cared for him unconditionally. There is a strong sense of relief that comes from showing someone everything and then having them love and care for you despite your ugliness.

Make time to share with people that you know are trustworthy. A supportive and encouraging ear can be transformative. This isn’t something that will go away overnight, but with the right people and willingness to share, it won’t hold as much power.

If this feeling persists more often than not and doesn’t seem to go away, then seek professional help from a local counselor or psychiatrist. This could be a symptom of depression. With the right care you can move forward and find healing.

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Importance of Self-Care: Why Caring for Yourself is Caring for All

You’re overwhelmed at work. You have a ton of projects piling up at home, and your calendar is packed with overdue tasks. To make room for all of this stuff, you skip lunch, stop going to the gym, and forget about your social life entirely. When we’re stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go. And that only makes things worse.

It’s easy to neglect taking care of ourselves because when we’re busy and overwhelmed, even a small reprieve feels like a luxury. So actually taking time to eat lunch, exercise, and hang out with friends? That just feels like slacking.

Self-care is important for your physical health as well as your mind, soul and, let’s face it, your overall health. Without self-care, your relationships with others can suffer tremendously. Neglecting ourselves and focusing too much on work or other people can be like trying to write a 50-page paper, the night before it’s due, working on 2 hours of sleep. You need to get the paper done, and you might finish it. However, it won’t be published in any journal or selected as a New York Times Best Seller.

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Why?

No matter how unimportant you may think it is, self-care is crucial for our physical, emotional and mental well-being. You shouldn’t neglect self-care and here’s why:

It increases your sense of respect and care for yourself, allowing you to appreciate and accept yourself for who you are. Self-care is only possible after you come to the realization that you are important and need to be cared for. Also, it helps with productivity. When you learn how to say “no” to things that over-extend you and start making time for things that matter more, you slow life down in a wonderful way. This brings your goals into sharper focus and helps you to concentrate on what you’re doing. It also promotes feelings of peace and relaxation, serving as a way to refocus and come back to your daily life refreshed and ready to take on anything. It also enhances self-esteem like when you regularly carve out time that’s only about being good to yourself and meeting your own needs; you send a positive message to your subconscious. Specifically, you treat yourself like you matter and have intrinsic value. This can go a long way toward discouraging negative self-talk and your critical inner voice.

At the same time, it improves both physical and mental health by reducing the effects of prolonged stress on your mind and body. Lastly, when you’re good to yourself, you might think you’re being selfish. In truth, self-care gives you the resources you need to be compassionate to others as well. Giving compassion is a bit like filling a bucket; you can’t fill someone else’s if you haven’t filled your own!

Four Pathways to Self-Care

Fortunately, there are several ways that you can care for yourself:

1. Physical: care for your body (everything from sleep to seeing the dentist)

Your body needs what it needs. Getting enough sleep, food, and exercise is critical to your mental health and stability. The more you neglect your biological imperatives, the less energy, motivation, and will-power you’ll be left with throughout the day to deal with intense feelings like anxiety, anger, or depression when they come up.

2. Emotional: care for your feelings (acknowledging & processing feelings, changing distressing situations)

Take time to notice and process your feelings. For example, if you start to notice anxiety come up, then take some time to cool down and think through what might be causing it. A lot of times what feels like life or death in the moment turns out to be less severe once we have time to calm down and think through it. Other times you may need to reach out for support from people you trust.

3. Spiritual: care for your spirit (a worship community, a cause greater than you, nature)

Whatever your religious background may be, connecting to a cause greater than yourself can provide deep fulfillment and satisfaction.

4. Social: care for your relationships (friends who get you, family time, lunch with your coworkers)

Significant, healthy relationships are incredibly important. Connecting with others provides stability and support. When people notice you for who you are, and appreciate you, then it helps you to notice how important and worthwhile you are. Relationships help us to see the pieces of us that sometimes go unnoticed.

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Some practical tips for self-care include: living healthy, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid drugs and excessive alcohol. Manage stress and go for regular medical check-ups, exercise by taking classes with others for motivation, and spend time doing things that help you relax. Practice good hygiene which is important for social, medical, and psychological reasons in that it not only reduces the risk of illness, but it also improves the way others view you and how you view yourself. Also, see friends to build your sense of belonging. Consider joining a support group to make new friends. You may also try to do something you enjoy every day. That might mean dancing, watching a favorite TV show, working in the garden, painting or reading. Lastly, find ways to relax, like meditation, yoga, getting a massage, taking a bath or walking in the woods.

With so many types of self-care, it can often be difficult to find a good balance. Having a self-care routine can be incredibly helpful. It’s so important to take time for yourself and shed the stress. An hour a day can make a huge difference. It’s a great way to stay motivated and take time for yourself every day!

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