Let’s be real. Love and attention are human conditions. The question becomes, what are we willing to do to get the desired love and attention?
When we aren’t taught healthy boundaries, our self-respect and self-reliance can become dependent on approval from others. We can seek attention in some crazy ways.
I know because for much of my life I lived this pattern.
Returning to NYC after the pandemic shut down has been energizing and revealing. As I walk the familiar streets and ride the familiar trains, I find myself reflecting on the instability I had in my younger life. I find myself reminiscing about the places I’ve lived, the bounced rent checks, bouts of joblessness, and food insecurities.
I learned to be dependent on others from an early age from my father who never said ‘no’ to me. He wanted my life to be conflict and trouble-free.
For lack of another term, he showed his love in unhealthy ways which created a spoiled child with unrealistic expectations. Combine that with outrageously mismanaged type 1 diabetes and visual impairment, which resulted in a serious recipe for disaster. I am still not sure how I even survived those years.
I learned to use my ‘isms’ as a way to dodge responsibility for my own life. I felt entitled because I had a chronic condition and therefore, I felt as though I should receive a free ride in life. In truth, it was arrogance on steroids and underneath I had a deep-seated fear of everything. I was secretly envious of my friends who held down steady jobs and earned their own money. I craved independence yet, for some reason, it was simply easier to play the victim and take no accountability for how my life was unfolding.
As a result, during this time in my life, I attracted like-minded people. I thought of myself as a ‘go-getter’ but in reality, it was an orchestrated façade to make it ‘look’ like I was working. I had several menial jobs that I struggled to keep, taught a few fitness classes here and there, and at one point I was a bathroom concierge in a nightclub, working for tips as I provided paper towels and tampons to drunk women. Yes, it was demoralizing but I did not have the belief or capacity to aim higher.
In my early thirties, I remember always having these ‘big ideas’ and working on ‘projects’ that never really got going and certainly did not make any money. On some level, my destitution was serving me, I was a victim that wanted to be rescued and pitied. I had no practical or emotional resources to speak of. My toolbox of life was empty.
Eventually my enablers, including my Father, either couldn’t continue to pay for my NYC life or they just disappeared. I had no husband or boyfriend or rich cousin to help me out. I woke up every day in a state of terror. I was wracked with shame and my poor me ‘excuses’ weren’t working anymore. I was becoming aware that nobody cared if I had diabetes or any other ‘ism’, instead the interest was more in line with could I pay the rent. I had to put my big girl pants on and get to work, real work.
The real point is less about a job and more about the fact that I hid behind my illness and insecurities. Let’s call it what it is, the negativity and bad behavior garnered a LOT of attention.
Eventually, I was able to hold down two full-time jobs and my financial standing was improving. Those were tough years. I didn’t feel well most of the time but the freedom and confidence that I was gaining were worth the exhaustion.
My life was expanding ten-fold, I was showing up, putting my skills to work, and experiencing the new behaviors resulting in new effects.
As I have been reflecting on my earlier life in NYC, I realize that those early years afforded me harsh but necessary life lessons and I can now say I appreciate those hard-fought lessons and I am so grateful for those days.
My relationships also changed as I no longer needed financial help. I was becoming my own woman at nearly 40 years old. I was no longer dependent on anyone.
Can you relate to any of this?
Have you sought out negative attention as I had for so long? I understand and I am happy to say that life on the other side of that need for attention at any cost is amazing. Gaining confidence and boundaries takes effort as does letting go of those familiar yet comfortable unhealthy patterns.
Awareness is the first step in any recovery process. The question is are you ready to stop being the victim? Are you tired of being comfortably uncomfortable?
Our environment is reflected in EVERYTHING including the kind of life we accept and lead. I can’t blame anyone for my life, not my parents, my conditions, or my impairments.
I am the only person who can create my reality. How liberating!