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Authentically You 3: Attention

Authentically You Day 3: Attention

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6, ESV)

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV)

Everyone needs and deserves attention. I thought I should get that truth out first before I approach this topic. Maybe it’s just me, but I have always been annoyed by people who need what I deem as excessive amounts of attention. As a person who doesn’t want much attention, I guess I never could understand these people nor was ever envious of the attention they received. All of this, of course, derived from my own insecurities. We all need attention, whether in a big way or a small way; we need to be seen, heard, and recognized by the people around us.

There are numerous studies discussing a baby’s/child’s need for attention and what effects a lack or overabundance of attention can have on them. Babies that are not given the love and attention they need are almost always emotionally and mentally underdeveloped. This has many negative effects later in life, whether they believe they don’t deserve attention, act out to get attention, or crave both positive and negative attention. Inversely, if a child is given too much attention, which usually means they are overprotected from big emotions, failure, pain, or consequences of their actions, it can also affect their ability to function properly as an adult. If a child only receives negative attention, they may never want any attention, assuming it will always be bad; if they only receive positive attention, they may be overly sensitive to criticism. So at a basic level we all need attention, but attention is not what gives our life purpose.

The biggest issue when it comes to being authentic to ourselves is how we deal with the attention we receive. If you crave attention, you may mold or transform yourself into the person you think your friend group wants you to be so that you can always be at the center. Pressure to fit in to the world is caused by our need for attention. You may change yourself, dress a certain way, or act a certain way to get attention from a parent, sibling, friend, crush, authority figure, you name it! Inversely, if you fear attention, you may make yourself so small, non-confrontational, quiet, and invisible so that you are never really seen. You likely fear the negative aspects of attention, and so you lose parts of yourself as you blend into the background and avoid criticism. 

More attention does not make you more desirable, nor does a lack of attention make you less desirable. While at a basic level we do need to be seen and heard, we also should not let attention dictate how we live. If you only speak about God to impress your Christian friends, are you really connected to Him? If you only give charitably when someone can see you and praise you for it, are you really giving out of the kindness of your heart? If you are only wearing certain clothes in order to be noticed by a crush or accepted in a friend group, are you really being true to yourself? Who we are is not the equivalent of the attention we receive. You are not beautiful because people compliment you or give you attention; you are beautiful because you were made beautiful by God. You are not smart because people are impressed by or praise you for your knowledge; you are smart because God made you intelligent. You are not worthy of love because of what you do; you are worthy of love because God has deemed you worthy.

My challenge for you today is to check your heart. Take inventory of why you do what you do. Is it because it’s what God wants you to do and it fits your own desire, or is it because you receive attention when you do it? Instead of acting a certain way because it gains you attention, aim to be who God created you to be, despite the attention you may or may not receive. Seek to do His will for the purpose of loving Him and not for the attention you receive from others.  Be authentically you, whether you receive positive or negative attention from the people in your life. By the way, if being true to yourself makes your friends react negatively, spoiler alert: they aren’t your friends. Learn to be who you are and grow in Him daily, and the desire for attention will fade.

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