I want a lot of attention.
If you’re reading this and you know me, this will probably seem hilariously understated. I make no secret about my desire for everything to be about me; for everybody to love me, and appreciate me, and fawn over me.
So here’s the counterpoint to that: I’m really introverted, in the truest sense of the term. Not the internet-age definition, where an introvert is somebody who is shy, and shuns company in favour of isolation due to nervousness or even dislike of others, but the original Jungian definition. This describes introversion as being, among other things, the quality of finding your energy to be recharged by solitude and drained by company. If I’m feeling weary, time alone is what restores my energy supply. I enjoy being around people, I do – it’s just that it is draining for me in the way that a physical activity could be expected to be. I enjoy it, but it takes it out of me. It’s an energy expenditure to socialise, even under relaxing circumstances.
Okay Katie, so you want everybody’s attention, but you find spending time with people to be draining. What on earth does that mean? What is it that you want, ideally?
The short answer is that I’m not entirely sure on that, and maybe I never will be. Understanding this is something that I am still learning to do. That being said, I’ve made some strides in the study of my own psyche that I’d like to share with you all.
My introversion is innate. It’s a core feature of my personality, and it’s not something that I believe to be rooted in any aspect of my upbringing. I’ve always been this way. I remember being like this as far back as my memory will stretch. I’m happy this way, and no longer wish (as I once did) to be extraverted. So that’s that, and we’ll move on to the trickier trait.
My want for attention is not innate. It’s nurture over nature on this one, and it’s all very classic stuff. I’m a middle child, but the only girl, meaning that the attention I got was somewhat singular. Some things were all for me, other things only for the eldest or youngest, or all for the boys. This is a little complicated, but my loose understanding of the effect my placement has had on me is that I have erratic expectations for attention, both in its frequency and its focus. I have a craving for attention that is all mine, rather than in a shared or otherwise diluted form. A lot of this also originates, predictably enough, from a rocky and complex relationship with my father, which I’ll not be going into further than to say that it’s contributed.
The manifestation of all this in my romantic relationships has been… destructive. I’ve been difficult to please, yes, but the problem also lies in my own understanding of what I’m looking for.
Initially, I thought I wanted obsession. I’m obsessive myself in the way that I approach romantic feelings. I love with my whole heart, I love immediately, and I don’t let go. Even my crushes are more global warming than tornado, as they grow steadily into more and more of a threat to my well-being, rather than just blowing through. When I like somebody, when I love somebody, I love everything. I’m fascinated by minutiae and peculiarities, I educate myself on hobbies and interests, I study emotions and behaviours… This is how I feel love, and I express it with an overwhelming investment of myself and of my time.
So, naturally, I thought that what I wanted was for somebody to show the same level of interest in me. I’m worth knowing intimately, I’m worth studying, I thought. I’d push for it, and even outright ask for it. It’s not something that can be forced though, and I found that out pretty definitively. More importantly, I found out that when I do get it, it isn’t what I want at all.
This is where my introversion steps in.
When I get attention, when I get the level of attention that I’ve always been convinced I wanted... I hate it. It’s too much for me. I love the idea of someone being obsessed with me, but the reality tires and frustrates me. I don’t quite know how to deal with it, and it makes me crave the solitude that I need to recharge myself. I push it away, and in doing so I spoil it.
Okay, so everything I thought I was looking for in love was wrong. Now what?
Recalibration. I looked inside my mind, really looked, and I tried to answer my own questions. Why do I want attention if I don’t like getting it? How do I satisfy that? How does somebody else satisfy that? What do I need to give and what do I need to receive in order to be content?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not entirely sure. I am unwilling to say that I’ve figured it all out, because I haven’t yet. I haven’t yet had a perfect love, so all I can speak for now is my idea of what that might look like for me. I have a new answer to that now, so here’s what I know:
I like to be the one that can’t leave the other alone. I truly enjoy the feeling of being obsessed with somebody else, of being fascinated by them and by the things that they do and that they love. I like pining, and I like being a little bit needy. It’s part of how I love.
I’m okay with not getting all of the attention that I ask for. My obsessive heart will always want for more, but I need time to myself. It’s necessary for my mind and my energy to have downtime, but my heart won’t make room for that time when it could be filling it with the company of the person it desires. This means that I have the odd need for my relationship to be somewhat unfulfilling. I know that it will feel like I want more, and that that is a good thing for me.
Finally, the attention that I actually do receive must be loving and affectionate. This is the way in which I want to be fussed over. I want to be loved passionately and affectionately, just not obsessively. This is the attention that I crave.
I always thought I would love someone who was obsessed with me. What I’m figuring out now is that, as per usual, I had it backwards. What I want is to obsess and fuss over somebody else. I want to give all of my love, I want to burst with pride, and in return I want to be loved for who I am and for how I am.
In the end, I’m not even asking to be understood. How could I ask that of someone, when I’m still figuring myself out? Nobody has to be understood to be loved. After all, it’s the love for somebody that drives the want to understand them in the first place, isn’t it?
All I know for sure is that it will take a patient soul to deal with me.
But then, anybody who knows me could have told you that for nothing.