The need for attention is a symptom of loneliness. We all want to believe that someone somewhere is thinking about us as we check our phones in the middle of the night to see if we are missed. We want to feel wanted so badly that we settle for a generic brand of affection that consists of late-night texts for meaningless sex and shallow conversation. We are starved for intimacy but binge on attention from whoever is willing to stroke our egos and give us counterfeit feelings of worth. If are are to truly begin loving ourselves and others, we must first have the ability to distinguish between intimacy and attention.
Attention is nothing more than someone briefly shifting their focus to you. A “relationship” in which someone only pays you attention will result in insecurity when you are no longer the focus. You are entertainment and will always be in competition with anything shiny that distracts him. You will be the one he calls when he is bored but you will likely experience radio silence when he has anything else to fill his time with. You are the “go-to” when he needs a date to a wedding or when a new movie comes out (that he wants to see) but you are not the one he stays with or considers beyond his own needs. While being acknowledged feels euphoric during times of crippling loneliness, we cannot be dependent on faux connections that will always leave us wanting more. Real connections require more than sporadic texts for booty calls and sweet nothings.
Someone acknowledging your existence is not intimacy. Intimacy does not leave us wanting more or feeling empty- we are fulfilled and secure because we have learned to love both ourselves and another. There is a refreshing vulnerability that takes place because, for the first time in a long time, we are no longer scared to jump. Intimacy does not require constant text messaging or reassurance because it is without insecurity. To be intimate with another person suggests that a healthy, fulfilling connection has taken the place of fear and doubt. We are no longer afraid of opening up or appearing weak because our partner has consistently demonstrated through both words and behavior that we are considered and supported- that we matter even after the sheets are cold and the sweat has dried.
Our willingness to accept attention over intimacy is related to our self-worth. If you believe that someone merely responding to you is enough, your bar has been lowered to a place of incredible desperation. We have become accustomed to confusing being polite with being worth our time. Responding to you within a reasonable amount of time does not make him your soulmate, it makes him an average person with mediocre communication skills. Similarly, texting you at 3am to come over does not mean he misses you and values your company- it means that he is drunk and you are consistently available for late night shame sex in which you shed your clothes and last shred of dignity on his bedroom floor. We have got to start adjusting our standards to reflect our worth. If we do not value our time, there is no reason for anyone else to.
Attention is freely given and easily lost, which leaves us at the whim of another. We fill our emptiness with sorry excuses for connections because we have accepted so little for so long that we have forgotten how real connection feels. Intimacy has become some fantastical, unicorn of a relationship to those that have settled and can no longer remember what it feels like to be loved by another or themselves. Attention has become the standard of modern dating and we have consented to being options at the expense of being valued.