The Desire for Recognition & the Fear of Being Invisible to Others

Megan Smith
 min read

Some people are afraid of indifference, which is rooted in the desire for recognition.

All Kinds Of People Also With Disabilities Or Obesity Who All Share The Desire For RecognitionThey are worried that they will be forgotten and that no one will be interested in them.

They have the impression of being invisible, transparent to the eyes of others, or even dead to them.

They feel even more alone when they are sad and walking alone in a crowded street, and no one is watching them.

The desire for recognition: Introduction

For people with low self-esteem, there is another fear besides the fear of rejection. This fear is located upstream of it and is more discreet and less spectacular, but also harmful to our well-being and behaviors.

This fear is the opposite of the desire for recognition, namely, the fear of indifference.

What happens to us when we feel like we don’t matter to others? Why do we feel invisible to others?

This article will explain this fear of indifference and the desire for recognition of others.

Why do we desire recognition from other people?

Feeling ignored or even invisible to others is painful, so we all develop a strong desire for recognition.

But is this desire for recognition a kind of maneuver to prevent possible rejection?

Does feeling like we have a recognized and regularly confirmed place in the eyes of others enable us to suffer less from social rejection?

Being or feeling recognized: what is recognition?

Recognition is a need that differs from and precedes the need for approval or love.

We can define the desire for recognition as wanting to be looked upon by others as a worthy human being.

For example, it is to be greeted and welcomed when we arrive somewhere, to be called by our first or last name, depending on the relationship.

All of these events are generally discreet. Indeed, their presence does not necessarily bring joy, but it is essential to the well-being of all humans. As for their absence, it’s not loudly noticeable, but it is quietly toxic.

Recognition is a very normal feeling to feel reassured that someone knows you.

Let’s take the example of the elderly and their relationship with shopkeepers: being greeted and called by their names in the market, knowing that we know their habits, preferences, elements of their existence, etc.

All these details are meaningful to them because these people’s social ties are often weak, fragile, and become rarer over time as their contemporaries gradually die.

This may explain why isolated older people often fear dying alone at home without anyone realizing it.

All this comes from the feeling of recognition and reminds us of the need for human beings to have social capital around them.

Another example of recognition is receiving attention without asking for it, such as receiving invitations, a visit, an engaged conversation, a postcard, or a small gift that shows us that “someone has thought of us” without having to ask for it.

Feeling recognized grants a sense of social existence, or even existence in the first place.

On the other hand, that recognition does not necessarily have to be positive.

For example, when neglected, children sometimes draw attention to themselves with mischief or tantrums. Or more frequently, if their family chronically forgets them.

In fact, some people have a history of petty criminal behavior. After the fact, they admit that all this petty crime was just to attract attention.

The particular case of narcissistic people

Some narcissistic people derive satisfaction from being hated. Arousing hatred will feed their need for recognition of their existence.

It is relatively rare to encounter these people in therapy because therapists more often have their suffering relatives as patients.

Narcissistic people often struggle to form friendships or relationships where others are considered equals. They function more easily in an environment of conflict and dominance.

They understand perfectly well that hatred is a bond and a validation, unlike indifference.

Generally, they don’t mind being rejected. For them, being rejected is more of a recognition or even a victory in their eyes.

Therefore, narcissistic people will need to make regular provocations since quiet rejection and indifference cause them to panic and make them doubt, like everyone else.

Two ways to increase your self-esteem while being recognized by others

There are two ways to obtain recognition and, consequently, improve your mood and self-esteem:

  • Recognition by conformity: to be like others
  • Recognition by distinction: to differentiate yourself from others.

Recognition by conformity

Generally, the search for recognition by conformity is more strongly present at the ends of existence, namely in the child and the elderly.

During these moments, we want to be like others in how we present ourselves, our appearance, tastes, speech, etc. Because it represents a kind of “passport,” a guarantee of social acceptance.

Often, this recognition of conformity is associated with a sense of fragility.

The search for recognition by distinction

The search for recognition by distinction is more frequent among adolescents and young people. Recognition by distinction serves to affirm themselves and to build their identity.

For teenagers, their look is critical, but so is the concern to present that look as a conscious life choice.

Through their look, they want to show that they are not subjected to fashion and do not want to look like others.

However, recognition by distinction is ultimately the same as recognition by conformity within a small group one has chosen or to which one tries to belong.

Basically, it is always a need for recognition by a group, a need for affiliation. In reality, true recognition by distinction is relatively rare. But does it really exist?

Signs of recognition also increase with feeling like a minority or threatened.

Take the example of bikers passing each other and greeting each other with a little wave of the hand or a nod of the head: it gives them a good feeling.

However, this little greeting tends to disappear as a spontaneous sign of recognition, especially as there are more two-wheelers. Therefore, it becomes less necessary once this community is no longer a minority.

There is also another little ritual specific to certain motorcyclists in large cities with frequent traffic jams. Namely, lifting the foot in thanks if a car makes some space to let the biker pass.

This wave of the foot is a sign of recognition, thanks, and acknowledgment of the effort made.

To be or not to be like others is also related to self-esteem:

  • Conforming to the codes of a majority is often the choice of people with low self-esteem.
  • Distinguishing oneself from the majority, or conforming to a minority, will be more the choice of those with high fragile self-esteem.
  • Being more or less indifferent to these social codes testifies to having good self-esteem.

Mistakes and risks of the desire for recognition

Concerning low self-esteem, the first risk of the desire for recognition is hyperconformity, at the risk of alienation.

Those with low self-esteem hide everything that stands out to try to conform to the social image that seems to guarantee us the greatest social acceptance.

People with low self-esteem will follow the fashion only at a respectful distance:

  • Not too early not to attract attention
  • But not too late either, so as not to seem old-fashioned.

They will express their opinion only after they are sure of the view of the leaders to avoid contradiction or mockery.

On the other hand, people with high self-esteem will try to compensate for their doubts by looking to valuate themselves.

As such, they can differentiate themselves from the herd and escape the anonymity they fear disappearing into.

Therefore, they will risk unwarranted and unnecessary provocations.

For example, among adolescents, it is common to find young people who doubt themselves and seek acceptance from more psychopathic people than themselves by engaging in delinquent behavior.

Adopting this kind of attitude will make them feel confident that it will serve as a gateway to the group.

Each and every one of us is confronted with the same risks of mistakes:

Confusing the desire for recognition with the desire for love and waiting for the other to make the first move

Some social relations can only give us recognition, not more. This is not to denigrate these people but to realize we should not ask more of them.

Generally, the more relationships we nurture, the higher the chances of encountering love, improving psychological well-being (and consequently openness to others) while developing relational skills.

Not feeling recognized when you actually are

Some think they are invisible to others and will start an additional random search for recognition when all they have to do is open their eyes and recognize what’s right in front of them.

Not taking into account the signs of recognition that we receive and not feeling valued by the group and the people who do recognize us

Some people tend not to see the signs of recognition that others send them, which is often the case for people with low self-esteem.

It is essential to accept all the signals given by others to feel recognized by them.

Loneliness and the feeling of loneliness

There is a lot of research that focuses on the feeling of loneliness.

Indeed, in psychiatry, loneliness and social isolation are identified as risk factors for depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and, more generally, for fragility in the face of stressful life events.

Studies on this topic show that it is not only real loneliness that affects our mental health, but also perceived loneliness.

Feeling lonely is a source of disturbances that are not only psychic, but also bodily, with consequences on heart function and blood pressure.

Research has also found that those who suffer from feelings of loneliness often have about the same amount of social contact as those who do not feel lonely.

This is more of a qualitative issue related to the satisfaction gained from these contacts than a social and mental attitude issue.

The only worthwhile loneliness is the one we choose, not the one we are forced to endure.

It is possible to define yourself as a sociable loner, meaning you enjoy being alone, but you also enjoy the company of other people.

If this solitude is decided and appreciated, it is possible to be happy and have good self-esteem. Many enjoy distancing themselves from the world now and then and consider solitude a healthy exercise.

Just because these people like to be alone does not mean they are necessarily unhappy and lack confidence.

However, we must not forget the people who did not choose this solitude: the isolated, the lonely, and the abandoned, who only suffer from it.

For most of us, loneliness can be just a break between two periods of exchange and connection.

It’s just a passing moment that is often useful, sometimes even required. It is a passage, not the rest of your life, and you should be careful not to lose yourself in solitude.

The desire for recognition: Conclusion

Generally, people with low self-esteem tend to seek recognition from others. As a reminder, recognition is being looked upon by others as a worthy human being.

These people are afraid of indifference, they have the impression of being invisible to the world, but this is only their feeling.

Know that just because you think you are not recognized by others does not mean that is really the case.

It is important to accept ourselves as we are and consider all the small signals of recognition we receive during interactions with others.

There are two ways to obtain recognition and consequently increase your self-esteem: through conformity (being like others) and through distinction (being different from others).

Sometimes, it is also possible to isolate yourself from others to take time for yourself and to focus on yourself, but be careful not to lose yourself in these moments of solitude.

And finally, don’t look for recognition from others at all costs. Instead, learn to love yourself as you are and appreciate your body with all its flaws.

About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded Plus Size Zeal to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More