When I was in elementary school I was taking swimming lessons at our local park pool, and had the biggest school-girl crush on our instructor. One day, I decided that a good way to get the-object-of-my-affection’s attention would be to show off. We were all lined up and waiting to get in the pool, so I turned around and sassily jumped in backwards… straight down onto the drainage ledge that ran along the inside of the pool’s perimeter. My chin hit the ledge and I immediately sunk to the bottom, blood filling the water around me. Yep, that got his attention alright. He jumped in after me and scooped me up and out of the pool. I was only a little scared but feeling more than a little foolish when he took one look at my chin and yelped “Oh My GOD!” And that’s when I freaked out. Needless to say, this was NOT the interaction that I had envisioned with this poor high school kid who’d likely not been trained in what to do with idiotic school girls who split their chin wide open.
Several stitches later my chin was fine, my ego was slightly repaired, and I was on to new adventures. I still have the scar to remind me that showing off might be one way to get attention, but it’s possibly not going to be the exact attention you’re seeking. It also may involve personal injury.
Unfortunately, the incident at the pool wasn’t enough to help me learn that lesson for life. When I reflect back, I realize that over and over I have gone to ridiculous lengths to get attention—whether in relationships, in a job, with friendships. And inevitably, whenever I try too hard I don’t get the results I want. When I’ve tried to get attention at work in the form of accolades or promotions, they just haven’t come. When I’ve tried to get someone to APPRECIATE WHAT I’M DOING already, I’m disappointed in their lack of response. When I sought relationships by trying to be too funny, too pretty, too smart, too “put on,” I came up empty-handed and feeling foolish. Basically, anytime I have tried a “HELLLOOO, World. Look at ME!!” approach, the world has chosen to look elsewhere.
On the flip side, when I’ve been able to just relax into myself and the moment; when I’ve loved without concern for what comes back to me; when I’ve been able to successfully balance confidence and humility without expectation for accolades—those have been the moments in my life when I have actually felt the most love in return.
As David McCullough, Jr. said: "Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."
Today, can you do things for how they feel to you rather than how you think they’ll look to others?
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