By Susan Traugh

I was at yet another business function for my husband, Steven, when a woman we know sidled up between us. A colleague of his, she wore her Ph.D. like body armor while her tongue shot poison arrows – and I was her favorite target. Loyal Steven instantly began to brag about my new book agent.

“What?” exclaimed the woman as she spun to look at me – maybe for the first time – “I didn’t realize you were somebody!”

So, there it was: invisibility.

In the next days, her comment was all I could think about. I wanted to make her wrong. But, I couldn’t. I couldn’t because, despite what she said, I was the one who had made me invisible. I was the one who allowed my stardom to be clouded over.

As a wife and mother of three disabled kids, an enormous amount of my energy is spent just keeping our lives afloat. Because of the kids’ unpredictable needs, I can’t work outside of the home. My writing is vital to paying the bills while still allowing me to run to the hospital, school or doctors as needed. But, while I don’t work outside the home – I do work. And I have dozens of published works to prove it.

Yet, everyone knows me as “Steve’s wife,” or “Katie’s mom.”

Nobody sees me as a writer because nobody sees me write. My books sit on the shelf or in the boxes that they came in because I don’t share them. While my peers hold book signing parties, I turn from the spotlight. While others announce on Facebook or blogs, I keep quiet.

I write while the kids are gone or in the middle of the night. I take my manuscript to the hospital while I wait. And, I’m chair of too many committees, volunteer for too many events, and take on too many projects because I don’t honor the writing I do as “real work.”

Despite contracts and deadlines, I vacuum, help with homework and run carpools first. I drop everything to do the mundane because I feel like I owe everybody but me. Then, I panic in the night and work until two am. I watch as writers with less experience and no better skills teach the classes that I could easily teach and garner long lines of devotees while I anonymously walk the aisles.

I’m not alone here. My circle includes many accomplished, talented people in varied professions. And yet, every one of them can relate to my haunting question: “Am I an imposter?” Why is it that we women always question if we’re good enough? Why is it that, instead of giving ourselves “attagirls” for the hundred problems we solved today, we admonish ourselves for the one we didn’t get to?

I’m GOOD at writing. I’ve known for a long time that I have a gift of reaching kids that are hard to reach. I’ve even won awards for that gift. I can also write essays, articles and stories. And, my bet is that you’re good at myriad things, too. Maybe you’re the expert in your department at work. Maybe you can clean your house faster and more efficiently than any Mighty Maid service ever could. Maybe your lemon squares are to die for.

Why is it, then, that some little voice in us says that we’re not good enough unless we do…whatever? What is it about me – about us – that makes “yeah, but…” so much a part of our personal assessment that we shy away from our own stardom and sink into the shadows of invisibility?

That woman didn’t know I was “somebody” because I didn’t let her know. She defined me as “Steven’s wife” because I didn’t define myself any other way. I was invisible because I made myself invisible.

As I pull her poison arrow out of my heart, I realize that her barb has infused me with a new kind of strength.

It’s time I step up. It’s time I stop being invisible and step into the spotlight of my life.

Women tend to be the great supporters of the world. But, we need to support ourselves. What does it say about us if we grow up only to be someone else’s shadow? How do we teach our kids self-respect and the depth of their true worth if we treat ourselves as unworthy of that same care and respect?

As I lay her arrow aside, I have decided to use it as a laser to point my way.

At home, I’ve made my kids start doing their laundry and cooking dinner, for my family needs to define me as someone other than their housekeeper. I can no longer attend solely to their needs, and they cannot ignore mine. Support needs to flow both ways in our household.

I’ve started my own blog and begun posting monthly essays which I’m compiling into a book. I’ve self-published a special education curriculum and am getting rave reviews from educators. My agent is pushing my biography series, and I’m putting myself out there…and stepping into the light. For each of us, that spotlight is right there, waiting for us to simply move over and step in. We just have to declare that we’re worth it.

As I step out of the shadows, this new phase of my career is still unclear. I’m feeling my way, step by step, out of the wings and onto center stage as the star of my life. With each step, I’m hoping that my confidence builds as my platform does. But, however it turns out, I’ve taken charge. I’ve made a statement about who I am as a writer and a woman. I’ve stepped out of my invisibility to declare, not that I will be somebody, but rather that I am somebody.

About this writer

  • Susan Traugh Susan Traugh is an award-winning author of both commercial and educational books for children and adults. She lives in California with her husband and three teenagers.

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3 Responses to “Somebody”

  1. Yes we have many hats. The trick is to value each one of them, recognize that we are amazing in our ability to do it all, and smile at the comments such as “I didn’t realize you were somebody” Hats off to the women who can see their entire lives as a human work in progress. Thank you for shedding your invisability cloak and standing up for all of us.

  2. monica says:

    wonderful and inspirational! susan i too have “hid my light under a basket” to keep the peace with people in my life. i realize after many years that 1. it just hollowed my soul out, and 2. it didn’t garner for me the results i was hoping for.
    i agree with you that as women we end up sacrificing so much of our precious self in attempts to gain something we don’t truly need, and something we already have. i hope to more of your work – thank you!

  3. Betty Rowe says:

    Just remember that you are #1. You have to put yourself FIRST in order to accomplish anything. Being the best MOTHER, WIFE AND FRIEND WILL not come unless you put yourself FIRST. Everything else will blossom as long as long as you have FAITH in yourself. Love ya, Mom

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