Day 16: Taking the Struggle Out of Life – A Better Way to Get Attention

Indian Elephant

There’s a scene in the television show, Breaking Bad, where the character, Jessie is talking with his younger brother, Jake. Jessie was always the “bad kid”–not applying himself in school, doing drugs, and hanging out with a bad crowd. Eventually his parents do “tough love” and kick Jessie out.

Jake on the other hand is the the “good kid”–he’s only 12 but is already recognized as a star by his parents and teachers. In fact, one of the main reasons, Jessie was kicked out was to protect Jake from Jessie’s bad influence.

In the scene, Jessie is telling Jake to stay clean because he’s going to make something of his life (unlike Jessie). It’s like the only kid their parents see is Jake. Jessie might as well be invisible.

“Are you kidding?” Jake says, “All mom and dad ever talk about is you.”

Everyone wants attention and recognition. Kids want to be recognized by their parents for their unique talents and achievements. As adults we want to be noticed and recognized by people we respect; our bosses, clients, friends, and family.

Although we’re always told the way to get that attention and recognition is to be exceptionally accomplished, in practice, the people who get the most attention are the “bad kids.”

I was a troublemaker in my family and it got me attention but it didn’t get me what I really wanted. That’s what what I’m writing about here.

I used the example of Jessie and Jake because although my problems weren’t the same as Jessie’s my sisters can confirm I was the elephant in my family’s living room.

As I got older, I found that when I didn’t get the attention and appreciation I felt I deserved, I’d get resentful and from time to time I’d do or say something that got people’s attention and not in a good way.

I never did anything that got me fired from a job. More typically it would be an argument with my boss. Or I’d promise to do something important and I’d forget. Sometimes it would be an angry email or I’d get caught saying something mean.

I’d get attention alright but as a result of my actions I paid a high price: people lost their faith in me. And because I value integrity, it hurts me to the core when I act in a way that suggests I’m not to be trusted.

I’m not just talking about other people being able to trust ME. I’m talking about my ability to trust myself as well.

I feel the need to address this issue because I’ve become more aware of the damage I do to my relationships with others and my relationship with myself.

I’m typical of enneagram 4’s who have a deep desire to be appreciated for their unique contributions. I think most people like to be appreciated for what they achieve but enneagram 4’s really want to hear how they added unique value to the result.

If I don’t get what I want I’m very quick to go to my “doing something well isn’t going to make a difference, GRRR.” And without conscious thought or intention on my part, I do the elephant in the china shop thing.

To get attention in better ways I first need to catch myself before I act out of the emotions i’m feeling. Put simply, it means stopping and getting some emotional space so my ego can disengage. This is something I’m already doing and I’ve experience some real success.

But sometimes things build up and I’m hurting enough that I don’t catch myself in time. For this reason, I’m committed to getting support and reinforcement from other people. Having accountability and knowing other people care about my progress helps a lot.

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