This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, so this post might be a little touchy-feely. But whatever, here it goes.
I was a very exuberant child when I was young. I was the typical loud, dramatic, attention-seeking kid that most adults get annoyed by. I was extremely extroverted, talkative, imaginative and probably more than a little loud.
The problem was, my family was very underwhelmed with my personality. This is an understatement. I remember spending the afternoon with my Grandma once. I was eating yogurt at her kitchen table. I wasn’t really fond of plain yogurt and instead of eating it, I was talking my poor Grandma’s ear off. Suddenly, she interrupted me in a very perturbed voice and said something like, “Boy, you sure are a motor-mouth!” Suffice to say, my pride wounded, I ate the rest of the yogurt in silence.
I was always being told to calm down, sit down, be quiet, etc. There were very few members of my family (immediate and extended) that ever appreciated my antics. As an adult, I can understand that a child like that can be super irritating sometimes. But having been that child, I now understand how hurtful it was to tamp down that side of my personality.
Over time, I grew quieter, but I still did things to draw attention. The problem was, I began seeking negative attention. Sometimes that was the only way I could get ANY attention. I believed that attention=love. For me, it did.
My family recognized what I was doing. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words, “Jenny is just trying to get attention.” I got brushed off, pushed away, and my needs were quashed. I mentioned in a previous post that my parents both worked. Not only that, but they didn’t have a happy marriage (they’re divorced now), and, well… years later I was diagnosed with Abandonment Depression (there is much more to this diagnosis… I went through a lot of other hard things, but that’s not for this post).
I withdrew so far into myself because I thought that doing anything to draw attention to myself was wrong. That’s what I had learned as a child. Attention was not a good thing, and wanting attention meant that there was something wrong with me.
Later into my teenage years, I found some of my old school stuff, including a review card from my kindergarten teacher. I was super excited to read it, remembering how much I loved my K teacher and was eager to see what she told my parents about me. It went something like this-
“Jennifer is loud and talkative and is constantly doing things to draw attention to herself.”
Broke. My. Heart.
When I read that, something kind of snapped inside me. It hurt, for sure, but I realized something–
I wanted attention because I NEEDED it. I was abandoned. And those extroverted parts of my personality got so stomped on that, for a very long time, I didn’t even know who I was. It took years of therapy and healing for me to finally unwrap the shell I had created for myself and come to terms with the fact that inside, I am still that little girl. For years, I thought I was an introvert. HECK no. I’m a total extrovert and a huge people person!
Once, I read a meme that said something like this, “Sometimes the children who need the most love, act out the worst.” Our children do need attention. They need love, and validation and time. It’s something that I’m trying to give to my children because I didn’t have it, and it broke me for a long time.
I no longer need or seek negative attention. I have a loving husband and awesome children, and wonderful friends and family who I know love me. And when I see my children act out, I try to give them just a little extra love and attention. It helps. We’re all human. We all need love. Sometimes that means we need a little extra attention.
And that is not a bad thing.