“I see you.”
Three magnificent little words.
Yet they’re powerful enough to heal us because, as human beings, we all have an innate need to be seen.
Even if we don’t admit it, most of us have a sincere wish for someone to accurately and kindly witness what’s happening inside of us:
- what we really feel
- what we fear
- what we want and need
- what we love and cherish
- what we secretly wish
- what we experience in our bodies and with our senses
- how we feel when we’re totally free inside
- who we are at our deepest core
When we don’t feel seen, especially for long stretches of time, we end up hiding precious parts of ourselves. We start feeling alienated, disconnected, and lonely. We don’t participate in the world, and yet we yearn to belong.
How It Feels to Be Truly Seen
Working as a healing practitioner for the past thirty years, I’ve taught many people about being seen. It’s one of the cornerstones of my approach. Every day, I act as a seer of extraordinary people, many of whom, like me, have insatiably curious minds, open and sensitive nervous systems, and unusual ways of processing the world. I currently teach more than one hundred people—from all walks of life and from all over the planet—how to discover and make friends with who they really are inside. Ultimately, that learning includes being able to clearly and compassionately see ourselves, regardless of whether people in our environment recognize us or not. But for most of us, we start the process of this realization with a trusted companion in a safe holding environment.
During my own inner-work journey, I’ve been fortunate to sit with many master teachers from different parts of the world. Each one has contributed to my development, but I received insight about being seen, from one particular person—a woman nearing the end of her life in a Tibetan settlement in South India. Even though I spent only a short time with her, and even though she was blind, mostly deaf, and spoke only Tibetan, we shared some profound moments when she relived memories and released emotions as I sat beside her with my hands gently placed on her back. The next day, wanting to give me something but having no money or possessions, she vigorously and repeatedly rubbed her face and then put her hands on mine. Puzzled, with her palms still resting on my cheeks, I asked my teacher, who was translating for us, what she was doing. “She wants to rub off every bit of goodness from her life and give it you,” he replied. I had no words. I felt completely loved and seen by this remarkable woman.
When someone sees you as fully as the Tibetan woman saw me, you relax. You feel your body melt. You sink into your tissues, muscles, and bones. Your heartbeat and your breath slow down. Your nervous system unwinds. Your voice softens and sometimes gets lower. You experience deep peace.
Learning to See Ourselves = More Relationship Success
I teach many things to clients to help them connect more successfully with other people. Surprisingly, these practices focus on our inner relationship first. In other words, they are inside-out tools.
Most people want to focus on healing key relationships in their lives. We are relational creatures, and it’s our nature to have closeness with others.
But relationship moments, or the lack of them, can also frustrate us, especially if we tend to be more introverted or if our relationships have unfinished business that causes us stress.
It’s helpful to understand how relationships impact us, which we can grasp more deeply by studying human development in general, as well as psychological terms such as mirroring and healthy narcissism. I recommend works by Carl Rogers, Louise Kaplan, Alice Miller, and Annemarie Roeper. (I’ve listed some favorites at the end of this article.)
But most importantly, if we’re ready to do some unconventional learning, we have the chance to explore something that we never learned in school or from our families. We can directly and experientially discover the one relationship that can fundamentally offer us the steadfast warmth and companionship we seek—the relationship with ourselves.
A Safe Inner Sanctuary for Healing
I call this “inner harbor” work. It’s an unusual way of spending time with ourselves without judgment. We create an inner safety zone where, at any time, we can have short little visits with ourselves where judgments, negative thoughts, old beliefs, and automatic historical movies quiet down.
It’s a friendly space where we can see what’s happening for ourselves and become comfortable with that experience first—before we choose to speak or take any action. We realize that we’re OK with whatever we’re feeling right now. We don’t need to defend or modify it. We give our experience space and have no need to act it out. We simply hang out with it and want to know more about it in the way we’d relate to someone we care about. Ultimately, our experience will shift, and that shift will happen more naturally and easily because our own kind attention is there with it.
By becoming more aware of ourselves in this intimate way, we see our innocence and sincerity, and we give ourselves permission to feel privacy, compassion, and curiosity. This inner aloneness can feel vulnerable and awkward at first, because we may imagine that other people can see what we’re doing with ourselves and will judge us. But in fact, we’re totally safe and secure. Unless we invite someone in and share what’s happening for us, no one knows.
Developing an inner harbor matters because it means that we can start healing right now, without waiting for anyone to see us or give us anything. We’re not dependent on anyone else understanding us, ideally in a calm and loving manner. We give that to ourselves right now. That is tremendous freedom, especially when we’re in a conflict with someone and believe we need something from them to feel peaceful again.
This doesn’t mean we care less about the other person or we want to reject them. It’s a moment of our own inner expansion and existence. We’re simply here now. Because we can give ourselves positive attention, we’re actually more able to connect with the other person in the present moment. In short, we can see the other person because we already see ourselves.
There’s a game you can play with the people in your life. It’s a sharing game that begins with this prompt, “Something I want you to see about me right now is …” Each person fills in the blank, ideally after they’ve paid a gentle visit to themselves. It takes time to learn to self-reveal; having light-hearted ways to practice revealing helps us gain confidence. The delicate act of simply seeing the other person or having them simply see us can deepen our relationship and help heal old wounds. We can learn together slowly, dipping one toe at a time into the pond of change.
Kaplan, Louise. Oneness and Separateness: From Infant to Individual. New York: Touchstone Books, Simon and Schuster, 1978.
Miller, Alice. The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self, Revised Edition. New York: Basic Books, 2007.
Roeper, Annemarie. The “I” of the Beholder: A Guided Journey to the Essence of a Child. Arizona: Great Potential Press, 2007.
Rogers, Carl. “Carl Rogers on Empathy,” filmed in 1974. YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMi7uY83z-U&t=18s.
Thank you your words touched my soul Diana as they always have 💜☮️💜🙏 love you and wish you endless JOY 💖❌⭕️
Thank you so much, Jo. Words have such power for all of us, especially words of love and joy. ~ Diana
Beautiful, amazing article. I will forward to my family and close friends. Thank you Diana Zaheer!
Thank you so much, Jan. ~ Diana
This is wonderful! Love the message of creating safe spaces within ourselves to behold our amazing humanity.
Yes, exactly. The safe spaces within ourselves are a gateway to a life of freedom, happiness and peace. ~ Diana
Abby Diamond says
Everything that I read, watch, or otherwise witness created by Diana Zaheer brings me such deep clarity and peace. What a beautiful, brilliant mind. Please write more!!
Thank you so much, Abby. I am quite excited to write more about this phenomenal inner journey. It is so helpful for each one of us, including you and me, to share our deep clarity and peace, when we are ready. ~ Diana
Thank you Diana for sharing this amazing article! It is so beautifully written.
Thank you so much, Ajreen. It is such a pleasure for me to share everything I know and am experiencing, so we can all feel closer to ourselves, to each other and to the life force. ~ Diana
Mudita Chandra says
This is so simple yet so powerful and liberating. I love the book recommendations as well, so grateful Diana, thank you for all that you bring to the world !
Thank you so much, Mudita. May we all feel more liberated and more connected to our inner power. It is lucky for us that learning something so powerful and transformative can be so simple. One step at a time. One day at a time. We can practice new, simple moments for abundant inner change. ~ Diana
Namgyal Phunrab says
I am so happy to know that you are creating this opportunity to bring the compassion in action from your warm heart to serve the beings, who are in need of. This article will be very helpful for the interested people to understand the true nature of our materialistic life….doc
Thank you so much, Dr. Namgyal. As I have learned from you, within each one of us there lives a boundless, warm, compassionate heart. We can get acquainted, learn to visit and become steadfast friends. And that changes everything. ~ Diana
Lovely article and so well explained. I love the way Diana can create this space with people she works with – including me – and she has so gently brought me into an expansive space of understanding these three words – I See You.
At its most basic and earliest – being seen – playing peek-a-boo with a baby. Notice how a baby immediately lights up with joy at being seen. It’s an inborn need that we have in our human form. Remember the feeling growing up as a child – when someone just looked at you and said – I See You Sweetheart or acknowledged something you did – the joy and calm that created was immense. We all were seen in our younger years – in varying degrees – some more and some not so much. And there’s no judgement. Our families did the best they could.
Diana’s approach to this gives us an opportunity to make this a daily practise in our lives – with others and ourselves – and to start healing old traumas and hurt.
The space to start is with ourselves. When we lovingly, without judgement, without pre conceived ideas start the process of seeing ourselves – in every form – with acceptance – we acknowledge every part of us in its entirety – helping expand our heart and love for ourselves. We allow ourselves to feel every emotion, every shift in our body. And we start realising – It’s OK – Everything is OK. It empowers us to deal with our relationships and the world in a very different way – in a more loving way.
The stronger my relationship with my heart and the more I love myself – the more I see shifts in the people around me.
Diana is my teacher, mentor, guru, guide and friend.
I acknowledge with love and humility her presence in my life.
I see her from my heart.
Yes, Manu. Your clear and compassionate understanding of this part of our inner journey is so helpful to have written here. Thank you so much for sharing it and further helping readers connect with this essential part of learning to turn toward ourselves in a friendly, natural and transformative way. ~ Diana
I was drawn to the hearts of many of Diana’s clients before meeting her myself. Now I am forever grateful to be learning and loving my own heart too. It is the purest peace to be at once with myself and among the people of Diana’s network, people who truly see each other.
So true, Abigail. Being friends with our own heart brings pure, vast, steadfast peace. Your words convey that experience so clearly and touch my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. ~ Diana
This piece is so spot on. Diana has taught me SO much and it truly all starts with the self. I think she once told me many years ago “you are the love of your life” and it really stuck with me. I think about it at least every few months. Even in a loving committed relationship, it’s so important to have that foundation of a loving and introspective relationship with yourself first and foremost.
Thank you so much, Tory. I cherish that reminder also. It helps us remember that – ultimately – everything is made of love, including us and this moment. We can learn to tap into that ultimate reality right now. Many teachers include this deep understanding in their work, especially Byron Katie and her four questions and turnarounds. So wonderful to see how you are integrating this into your life. ~ Diana
I cannot find the words to describe what Diana has meant to me. I started this journey with her over a decade ago and oh what an incredible journey it’s been. To learn to see myself, to have the space to see myself and to appreciate what I see – it continues to take practice, commitment and patience and most importantly, Diana’s gentle and loving guidance. Her love and teachings have brought joy and meaning to my life – a way for me to understand myself and others in a world that makes little sense some times.
Sitara, your words so beautifully and clearly describe the process —
*learning to see ourselves,
*having inner space for that to happen,
*and appreciating what we see.
We are lucky to have a way to be in the present moment with ourselves and to be able to do this in the midst of a world that doesn’t often make sense. And I am so lucky to take this journey with you. ~ Diana
Alicia Blue says
Before working with this teaching, I had no inner safe harbor. No concept of it. I was running in the dark and waiting to be found. Luckily, at a little over 30, I have been given a gift. This gift; the opportunity to see myself, to peel back the distortions, or hazy fog, and see my true self. Feel my true self. Diana’s presence created trust for me. I trusted her, because she was there, present. And so I was given permission to trust myself, turn on the light, and look around inside.
Alicia, I am deeply grateful that you are seeing and feeling your essential self. This is truly the best gift we can give ourselves and the world — to share our journey and inspire each other. I am watching you already inspire many people just by being your true self, and that makes my heart so happy. ~ Diana
Hannah H says
Thank you, Diana. This is a teaching that keeps on giving. It is so helpful to me to see it distilled so clearly and with so much love in written form. What a profound practice it is to delve into more intimacy with our own hearts, thereby learning to feel other hearts with deeper resonance. And what a gift it is that being seen allows others to be seen, and on and on! This inner harbor work has allowed me to safely, kindly set sail to such precious inner terrain, and I am grateful to be part of an expansive network that supports each other in our learning/life/growth/love. Such belonging <3
Thank you so much, Hannah. You bring up such an excellent point. When we practice this kind of inner friendship, we experience unconditional belonging with ourselves in that precious inner terrain. And if we have the privilege of being friends with people who also have an inner friendship, there is even more belonging. It’s an exponential gift! ~ Diana
your article really resonates with me and the work i am doing with you right now, as being seen is the first and most important step in our journey towards healing…..looking forward to many more posts from you.
All the best
Thank you so much, Vandana. Yes, it is indeed a primary, essential step in healing. It’s part of a paradigm shift where our own awareness begins to include our own sincere and innocent existence. We aren’t taking anything away or rejecting anyone or anything we love. We are adding more awareness. It’s an abundance model. I look forward to sharing more posts with you! ~ Diana
“Developing an inner harbor matters because it means that we can start healing right now, without waiting for anyone to see us or give us anything.” YES! When Diana started teaching me about inner harbors, I felt liberated in ways I hadn’t known to date. It feels so good to be able to be in control of when I chose to start healing. SO grateful to Diana for all her lessons.
Thank you so much for your comment and especially for mentioning how essential it is for all of us to personally decide when we start our own healing process. When we learn to be at the helm of our healing journey, we begin to live a remarkably different daily life. So glad to be sharing this journey with you. ~ Diana
This article causes me to melt! It captures both the profound and the practical aspects of nurturing a connection with yourself and others. I am going to refer my clients to it as a template for creating relationships that are generative and loving, not depleting.
Thank you so much, Sheira. I’m excited for your clients to experience the steadfast and sustaining relationship with themselves in this way. It feels so wonderful and freeing to melt into that center inside of ourselves. So glad you felt that warm, yummy inner feeling while reading the article. ~ Diana
Thank you for this profound yet, clear and concise expression of the importance of being seen.
Your article is such a wonderful encapsulation of the process of getting to know yourself intimately.
I am aware of the immense courage it takes to begin to explore our relationship with self and am aware of the profound ripples it makes in our lives when we begin to do this.
You have given simple yet practical tools to start this journey and your unique expression stemming from your lived experience makes it sound easy!
Thank you so much, Zoey. So glad you mentioned courage. It takes tremendous courage to look and not know what we will find. That’s why companionship and community make such a difference to our inner journey. Eventually, not knowing naturally becomes more about wonder and mystery. As we grow stronger inside, we notice more miracles each day – how each snowflake is like no other, how colors of the sunset perfectly paint the sky, how a chocolate dessert tastes better than imagined. We befriend our curious and compassionate nature. ~ Diana
Diana has a strong gift, one that she consciously nurtures & grows, of meeting people where they stand w/ compassion & grace. She models & communicates about this so very well, & does that here poetically, yet succinctly. In this piece, in clear language, Diana shares some of her gentle, yet keenly astute wisdom about this great value of allowing ourselves to feel what we feel, to be who we are, in a way that brings on “Aha!” moments. She helps us to see ourselves, be glad of that, & shares some resources to learn more.
I love that this article makes it clear that we have options; what we do w/ the tools we gather & gain skill with, is up to us. That’s empowering. What Diana writes here of creating safe harbors within ourselves, resonates w/ me deeply. It sums up something I cherish about work we’ve done together, which can sometimes feel indeed like a wash of healing waters, rain washing the debris away. Or making that debris good for soul nourishing compost. That is largely due to being seen by her, in exactly the way she talks about here. The compassion shared, is what makes it deeper, more freeing, than simply withholding judgment. Diana has helped me understand the difference.
My experience is when we carry havens within, it’s easier to allow others to be who they are, explore new POVs & knowledge, while keeping our own true north. And it’s easier to forgive ourselves in a way that doesn’t preclude accountability, but springs from a well of deep compassion, that starts w/ self. That well replenishes us, & our relationships.
In my experience, it’s less scary to be seen, more joyful to share, to explore, when we have healthy boundaries, yet also have a core within that allows us a safe jumping off place to take some leaps of faith. That’s includes seeing, & being seen by others. Life feels richer when we can be authentic in the world. We cherish the good moments, notice happiness when it comes, even more.
Sometimes, I forget that. So I’m learning to forgive myself for this, return to that core repeatedly from what I’ve learned w/ Diana, & seeing how she interacts w/ those she loves, & her wide community of interesting, varied people.
At a later stage in life, I’m still learning more about how to navigate, especially when the waters get rough, I’m sad or angry w/ myself getting about lost in the storms, & that harbor seems harder to reach. When the world is harsh, when difficult things happen, when we hurt, when we’re ill, when those we love suffer, when we need to stretch, we need that harbor within, those genuine connections that come w/ being seen, & seeing. We need that wellspring of joy & creative spark all the more.
Good stuff- good stepping stones here!
Thank you so much, Shekinah. I love what you have shared and added to the conversation here. Having a friendly relationship with our inner core radically changes what it’s like to be in our lives each day, alone and with others, when we face joys or sorrows or all of the experiences in between. Our presence and inner strength grows, emanating out of us like concentric circles of uplifting energy. It’s a gift in all directions, inside and out. ~ Diana
Pallavi Gupta says
Having begun the inner journey work with Diana, and applying the process in seeing my own self accurately, I have realized how much I was fighting my own self (and still do) to see myself. We are so conditioned to look outward and distort our own needs, and wants, or how we really are, we go on battling with ourselves. I have noticed that when I am able to sit and have a visit with myself consistently over a few days, I can feel an inner power, and more importantly, an inner yes to allowing myself experiences that are true and meaningful to me, even if it means having a difficult conversation with someone. Then I can speak from a space of clarity and conviction that I normally don’t possess. On the flip side, when I step away from this process, I once again fall back into battles with myself and my environment.
This is the inside out approach, which many of us hear and agree with intellectually but few apply. It moves us away from dependency on others and toward feeling fullness within.
Thank you so much, Pallavi. You make such an excellent point about the inner battle. We have a lot of experience battling with ourselves, so of course it will feel new and awkward for us to try something different, especially something “friendly.” With any process of change, our awareness is the key. We don’t have to stop battling, because of course we can’t until we are ready to stop, but we can begin to witness the battle, be curious about it, have compassion for it, feel the parts of us involved in the battle. This is actually the exact work of turning toward ourselves and being kind. We don’t need to push any content away. We are learning to allow and be present with whatever we find. Then whatever limitation is there has a chance to be seen, relax and ultimately become transparent and melt, leaving us with more of who we really are inside. our true nature. ~ Diana
Thank you. I think your article touches a very important topic. The desire to be “seen” by the “other” is a concept most of my adolescent clients struggle with. We all have an innate desire to feel heard, cherished, desired, and loved. When we depend on others to feel seen, we extinguish parts of ourselves – the very parts that make us beautifully vulnerable and unique. The need to feel seen or approved by the other becomes imbedded in our psyche. This in turn can turn into an addiction. The more we feel seen the more we crave it. Subsequently, setting in motion a negative cyclical thinking and maladaptive coping mechanisms. When we don’t feel seen we may internalize our anger and engage in self blame. This can overwhelm us and exhaust us.
To love is to love oneself fully and accept all aspects of ourselves. To acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses. To show compassion and kindness to ourselves. However, in order to do this we need to be ready to do the work. We need to dig deep into our consciousness – to uncover and confront everything that makes us messy and beautiful and hold on to it. Self love is a gift we must give ourselves.
Thank you so much, Pritha. It’s wonderful that your adolescent clients have the chance to learn these tools early in life. As you explain so clearly, to extinguish the parts of us that make us beautifully vulnerable and unique is tragic and utterly painful. We are truly learning to take our life force back when we practice seeing ourselves this way. It is that life-changing. ~ Diana
I really enjoyed reading your article. I really love the idea of the inner harbor. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you so much, Rosie. I really love the idea of it as well. And the experience of it is truly amazing. ~ Diana
Beautiful article. It is simple, intimate and pure. The concept Diana writes about penetrates on the deepest level of the psyche. It’s a truth that’s been there waiting to be seen since the beginning. And I love the story of the woman rubbing her hands on Diana’s face. Powerful.
Thank you so much, Shiloh. Truth has its own energy. We can feel it. Just like feeling the powerful moment of the Tibetan woman’s hands on my face. These moments are palpable for us. They guide us like an inner compass. ~ Diana
NATASHA MAGO says
Diana’s wisdom and insight is so profound, it would take most of us many lifetimes to accumulate anything close to it. There is no situation which Diana can’t help you navigate. To be touched by her healing, is to know you are on the path to a better life. 🌈💫❣️
Thank you so much, Natasha, for your kind words. Inner work is the change agent. Glad to be someone to help spread the word. ~ Diana
Nitasha Anand says
I have benefited a lot from your love and wisdom in the past. I want to thank you for continuing to share it in this beautiful article with all of us. The loving message of being seen and creating a wonderful friendship with self to be able to see ourselves first is just such a healing and transformative elixir for all sensitive souls like me. Very grateful for this guidance Diana!🙏🏻😊💞
Thank you so much, Nitasha. It is such a pleasure to share what we learn. I see you doing that as well and it makes my heart so happy. ~ Diana
Karen Leh says
Diana has offered so many (myself included) deep and unbelievably simple but delicious ways to reconnect to ourselves on the soul level.
The story she embeds here about the old Tibetan woman really touched me, and it’s often through these stories that she opens me up to new possibilities, to that deeper layer of experience and understanding. Gifted storytellers have a profound way of helping us to “see,” and Diana’s stories unveil levels of being in just this way.
I love the connection she makes here with knowing the self and being able to bring healing into the world. Often, people think that the spiritual work offered by practitioners like Diana is only inward, but those of us who have participated in it know otherwise. To see oneself, to be present in this way without judgment, allows the space around the individual to transform, and that energy ripples outward. The peaceful become the peacemakers.
Thank you, Diana, for your teaching! All the goodness in that woman’s life HAS obviously rubbed off on you. I’ll be trying your simple exercises and will report back. I feel certain that they will help heal my relationships, not only with self but with others.
Thank you so much, Karen. You sum this teaching up so beautifully — the peaceful become the peacemakers. How wonderful that reality works this way! I know that you are helping so many people, and I am extremely grateful and happy about that. ~ Diana
Nora Waters says
Love this piece. I feel good when I give to and receive myself. It makes me wanna love harder, flow free, and root deeper.
Diana Zaheer says
Thank you so much, Nora. I love the image of rooting deeper. That’s what happens for us when we have an inner friendship. We keep growing deeper, sustainable, steadfast roots of compassion and curiosity. ~ Diana
It’s almost hard to believe that inner space can be help with so much care and compassion, no judgement at all(?!), so grateful to Diana for showing me there is a way.
Diana Zaheer says
I agree, Isa. It is remarkable how inner space can change our lives so drastically. So glad to be on this journey with you.