When I first began blogging back in, I don’t know, 2010 I want to say? I didn’t really know why I was doing it. It seemed like something a lot of people were doing at the time, Facebook hadn’t really boomed yet into the sort of ubiquitous, all-encompassing presence it is today, yet. We were still couple years off the back end of Myspace, forums, chat rooms…
People told me that they liked the things I wrote, that I should write more. I still don’t quite give myself the credit that some people seem to – and I honestly don’t expect anyone else to either, cause it’s great when a family member or a close friend or a family friend says something like that, but when you have to really harshly test that against reality… I was always a little scared. A lot scared. Very, very scared. Scared I wouldn’t measure up, scared that everything I had to say had been done before. That I was nothing new, nothing original, not too smart, not too witty, not too… anything. Plain.
Because of that, if you look through my old blog (see archive) you’ll notice that posts were few and far between. Sometimes years in between. I had life, I was busy, I was ultimately feeling just self-conscious.
Since I picked this up again and have been making the effort to fill the space provided to me, I’ve been mulling over one particular question, quite a bit. I have never promoted my blog in any real sense of the word. I’ve certainly never attempted paid advertisement or SEO, but thinking smaller, much smaller – I’ve never really gone out of my way to even let my friends know my blog is floating around. Never tried to share that much. Which led me to wonder, basically, what’s it all for then? Is it just an outlet for me, is it just a journal? Is it just something to fill up my time? Do I want other people to read it? Do I care? My feelings on those things change from day to day. Sometimes I tell myself this is just for me, that if others appreciate it, great, and maybe I just share these things on the off chance that someone like-minded will appreciate it.
But, those are a lot of questions and I said there’s one question that I’m mulling. When it comes down to it, I am scared of attention. In real life, face to face, I’m scared of attention. I don’t like people focusing on me. It panics me. And even so, even if I don’t want to admit to myself sometimes, blogging really is an attention seeking thing, and on some level I must want some attention.
Without going full-on “Dear Diary,” I’ve always had a number of creative outlets. As a kid I drew a lot, I wasn’t too bad at it. I went with pencil, later pastels, charcoal, smudging. I never got the hang of proper shadowing, that was always my problem. I got older, and I played MUDs. Online, text-based RPGs, with other people. I worked for a time on building a “zone,” a playable area, that never quite got finished. I cook, I bake. I decorate cakes, make candy, that’s my art. I’d garden for relaxing. But I’m currently living in, let’s say, a house that’s not a home. Not my home. I don’t feel comfortable here, and there’s no sense of permanence. I feel “in the way” constantly and as an anxious person, that’s difficult. I don’t feel comfortable baking, making the mess, taking up the space. I don’t feel comfortable building a garden. I live here, but it’s not my home, and the fact that it’s not my home has been made abundantly clear to me – I say that with as little bitterness as possible.
Without being able to have those creative outlets, I’ve turned back to the internet. And the question, why do I do this if I don’t want attention?
No, the real question is… why don’t I want attention? So I started looking things up. I read some pieces about negative attention, about how children crave attention and affection and if they don’t receive it in a healthy way, they will act out to get that attention. But that’s not resonating with me, because I’m the opposite.
I realized that to me, growing up, attention was painful. It was the exact opposite of what the experts are talking about, where children act up to get any sort of attention; for me, the attention I was given was often unbearable. I was bullied mercilessly through elementary school, not just taunted or pushed, but physically abused and mentally scarred. I was abused by adults too, and I grew up in poverty so the idea that I was second-class was instilled in me pretty early.
When I think back, I realize that my best defense as a child was to be invisible. If nobody saw me, nobody hurt me. And I really feel like that’s part of my aversion to attention as an adult, that if people see me, I’m vulnerable. In a way, I still feel like prey, no matter how much I have managed to bolster myself, raise my self-esteem and feel comfortable in my own skin over the years.
There’s a voice in the back of my mind still that tells me that anything I want to show people is stupid, I’m stupid, they’re going to laugh, I’m going to look foolish for ever thinking that I could make something worthwhile. Some of the biggest blows to my psyche have been times when I really, really cared to impress someone and not only got shot down, but was made to feel foolish for even thinking I might be good enough. And seriously, shit like that cuts right down into your soul.
I feel like, now… I’m not a child anymore. I’ll be 38 soon. And it’s time to get past this.
We live in a world where people are scrambling for attention, 24/7. And it’s a problem. It’s a matter of some teenager’s entire self-worth hinging on the likes their photo gets or how many shares their post gets or how many followers they have. Our whole society, in the internet era, has become driven by self-centeredness and this bravado and false ego. In a way, that’s what I want to avoid, because it’s not me.
As a kid, it was me. I was a people pleaser to a fault and I was only comfortable if I was seen by the people I made happy and invisible to the people who couldn’t stand me. I felt my worth was very low unless I was making someone happy, serving a function, being useful.
The problem that I found with that though is that so long as my own sense of self-worth hinged on the approval of others, I had no control. I had no control over what I felt my value was, no control over my happiness, no control over anything at all. I learned in time that that peace and contentedness needs to come from inside, where it’s part of me that nobody can take, and it doesn’t matter so much who approves of me. I can take criticism now, I can even take hate, because it doesn’t shatter me anymore. And, I mean, shatter is a good word for it because you feel like this fragile shell with nothing inside – nothing of yourself that matters, all that matters is how you’re perceived and it’s so easy to break a person like that. I know this, because I’ve been that person, I was that person for a lot of years.
Now, though, it’s logic vs. instinct I guess. My head tells me I’m fine, people can take or leave what I have to say, I’m not going to cry into my pillow if someone insults me or what I’ve made. But that little lizard part of my brain that’s hung up on habit and trauma… it still tells me to hide away, to shy away, to stay safe.
When a child says “Look at me!” “Look what I did!” “Look what I can do!” Nobody sees a thing wrong. It’s actually amazing to be drawn into a small child’s world that way, to know that they value you enough to show you what matters to them. To be a part of their wonder and innocence. There aren’t many people hard-hearted enough to want to squash that, to stop that child from wanting that attention, to stop a kid from showing off, to tell them they’re not good enough.
Do adults really need attention less than kids? Do we outgrow that? I kind of feel like we don’t, it’s something that we all still crave to a degree, that we all need affection and we all need attention because we are, at our cores, social creatures. And why then, when an adult says “Look at what I can do!” do other adults, sort of, scorn that behaviour? Why does “attention seeking” become negative? It really shouldn’t be seen that way, when it’s healthy need for attention.
I challenged myself a few months ago to actually use my blog for something. And I did it. Now I’m challenging myself to actually put myself out there more. Maybe actually share something and attach my own name to it. Maybe I just DGAF what people think for a change?
So, ladies and gentlemen, your attention please…