Attention | Stories of Self-Love

When I was younger, I lived for the attention of anyone whose attention I craved. Not so much in the “everyone please pay attention to me” sense (I was WAY too introverted for that), but in the sense that I wanted them to talk to me and focus on me in the hopes that they’d eventually think I’m cool. You know, whatever that meant, at the time. That went on pretty much through all of middle school, and then through high school, and then a few years into my time in college. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I snapped out of this desire to bother people I admired for attention, but I’m glad I did, because it’s one of the things I know was holding me back from having a decent level of love for myself. 

I would crave attention from certain people, whether it was a crush, or just someone who I really wished was my friend, to the point where I would legitimately get upset if they wouldn’t talk to me. I’d send them texts, Facebook messages, AOL or MSN messages (oh boy, remember those days?) all in the hopes that they’d just talk to me, even if I only got just one response. Believe me when I say that, sometimes, the attempts for their attention got very desperate, to the point where I look back now and still feel the pang of regret.

Let’s just say that I messaged one guy so much, that he actually told me to stop. I’m cringing just thinking about how it went down.

It never occurred to me that, you know, they were possibly just busy and had more important things to worry about. I never thought that maybe they just weren’t in the mood to talk. I never once thought “y’know, maybe they’re just not interested in talking to me,” without allowing myself to be okay with it. I wish I had known then that I needed to work on that the most, rather than working on what I could say next to guilt them into responding to me. Yikes.

My journey into “being okay with it” started a bit negatively. It began as a feeling of being worthless, as if not getting the attention of this one person (or group of people) meant I was less worth-while as a human being. I would get into these moods where I thought no one liked me, and that I was a bother just because just a few people showed no interest in talking to me. It clouded my judgment enough to where I couldn’t see that I already had several kind, thoughtful, and supportive friends that would give me the love and attention I craved. Of course, it took years to come to the realization that I had this right in front of me, but I have no regrets about realizing it sooner rather than later. I’d be a damn wreck if I still thought that way, let’s be real.

Though the feelings of insecurity linked to attention-craving, for the most part, have been banished, a bit of it still seems to linger. Sure, I’m more secure about people not talking to me when I so desperately wish they would, but not to the point where I feel emotional impairment over it. I might feel a little sting of rejection, but then I try to recognize that the rejection isn’t necessarily a reflection on me, especially because there’s only so much that one person can do to start some sort of connection with another person. It’s natural to want the attention of those we admire, but there comes a point where you’re sacrificing who you really are just to get any sort of recognition from them. If you’re not normally a super socially assertive person when it comes to meeting new people, there’s no need to force yourself to be that way when an infatuation kicks in. If they’re not already noticing you for the dynamic and complex person that you are, there’s no need to compromise that by being something completely different. If it takes a great deal of work to get someone to pay any sort of attention to you, to the point where it feels like far too much effort, then that’s exactly what it is.

Once that realization starts, I feel like that’s when things really start to get better.

Presently, as I spill my heart out onto this blog post, there are still people/love interests that I crave the attention of. However, throughout the years of getting to know myself and develop my feelings of self-worth, I know that building these relationships is very much a two-way street. I still get kind of shy, not really knowing how, or even if I can try to start conversations with them, but still doing my best to reach out in the attempts to start something. I’ve now reached a point where, if there’s not much reciprocation, I respect the progress I’ve made in the way I interact with others, and I have enough love for myself to just leave it alone. There’s more kindness in putting my attention toward people and aspects of my life that are more enriching than a potential friend/significant other that won’t try to see the beauty in what makes me who I am.

Through all these trials, tribulations, and nights of intense self-loathing, I’ve gained the ability to recognize when people are showing no interest in me or the journey I’ve traveled thus far, and that this is a sign pointing me in the direction of a more serene path for the rest of life’s adventures. No matter how much the realization of a potential friend/relationship turning to dust could hurt in the days to come, I hope this ability I’ve gained is one I can hold onto for as long as I live.

You might be struggling with something similar to this. Maybe you found someone that you have a huge, giant, teenager-esque crush on, or maybe someone you’re drawn to because you feel that they’re what you need in a friend. Maybe you try to talk to them, sending them a text or trying to chat with them through some social media account, hoping to either pull them into your world, or get invited into theirs. Maybe it works, and in that case, that’s amazing! Maybe it doesn’t, though. Maybe they don’t answer your messages, try to find reasons to not spend time with you, and ultimately put out the vibe that they’re not interested at all, which you might not feel too secure about. Maybe you start going through all of the things I talked about earlier, thinking it’s your fault, and that you deserve this treatment because you start thinking that you’re not all that great, anyway. If that’s how it were to go, I’d hope you at least know that you deserve the love and friendship of people who want to make you feel like your efforts are worth something. I’d hope you would know that, when someone doesn’t pay you any mind, it doesn’t mean you’re any less beautiful or deserving of the attention you’re looking for. You’re worth more than anyone can put into words, and have so many nuances about you that make you beautiful. Only the people who are meant to be in your life will be the ones who are willing to see that.

To quote Aibileen Clark from The Help, the movie that always succeeds to get me all teary-eyed, “you is kind, you is smart, you is important,” and no matter where you are in your journey, I hope you never lose sight of this.