Before I moved to the second the largest city in the world, a friend who grew up here gave me a piece of advice that I’ll never forget.
When you live in this town, people will feed you with things that will make you feel bigger than you really are. Don’t let the skyscrapers fool you.
Interestingly enough, I never found that to be true. In fact, I found the opposite to be true.
Because when you first arrive in a city that’s perpetually cold, fast, rude and all knowing, it always feels like you came late to the banquet and were served up crumbs. Like your name is no more than a misprint. And no matter how hard you try to shed your cloak of invisibility, feeling genuinely seen is an exercise in futility.
It’s nothing personal, it’s simply the nature of big city life. People don’t ignore you because they don’t care, they ignore you because they’ve seen everything. They’ve already heard and experienced things that have given them immunity from astonishment for the rest of their lives.
Besides, they’re too busy getting ahead to care about you anyway.
This social reality can be crippling to the ego. I’m reminded of a fascinating book about the history of status anxiety. Alain’s research suggests that the human ego can be pictured as a leaking balloon, forever requiring the helium of external love to remain inflame, and it’s ever vulnerable to the smallest pinpricks of neglect.
That’s why we are lifted by the attentions of others and sunk by their disregard. To feel that we are taken notice of is among the most ardent desires of human nature.
But the good news about feeling invisible is, it forces you to build an internal locus of worthiness. It makes you indifferent to what goes on in the minds of other people.
Because they’re not paying attention to you anyway.
Sweet, glorious liberation. Now you can spend less time looking over your shoulder and more time finding opportunities to do your best work.
Sure beats feeling like a piece of riffraff on the tide of history destined to be washed away into a whirlpool of meaninglessness.
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
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