“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” – Oscar Wilde
When you don’t like being the center of attention or even remotely in the spotlight it can be unsettling when all eyes seem to be on you. Extroverted types may think – “hey, new social opportunities!” while introverted types feel their heart beating faster – “uh oh, what do I do now?”
When you’re a young reasonably attractive female, it can be challenging to navigate all the attention given to you by men. Often times young women have a complicated relationship with it; on the one hand it’s flattering to know others are attracted to you, on the other hand you may resent that so much power resides in appearance, the ambiguity about why others want to know you (“do they like my personality too or just the way I look?”), and the invisible walls you feel you have to put up to filter out those just interested in the superficial. It’s similar to the resentment wealthy men sometimes feel – “if I didn’t have all this money, would she still want me?” To complicate things further, it is nice to be good looking/wealthy, people treat you better and it opens doors, so whatever you resent about it takes the passenger seat in your own desire to maintain it.
When I was in high school, there were times when I’d have a crush on a guy until I found out that he liked me too. Then I’d run away. It was an odd thing to do, but it was my reaction because I couldn’t handle what might come next – dates, romance, kissing, touching someone, someone touching you, and god forbid – a relationship! All inside the small world of high school where everybody knows everything about everyone else. For whatever reason, I also didn’t feel like anyone actually wanted to be with me. Not when they really knew me at least. I didn’t want to be naked – either physically or mentally – in front of anyone.
Let me backtrack for a moment – I was never the pretty or popular girl growing up. I was always somewhere in the middle. That was a comfortable place to be until…. puberty. Puberty crept up on me. At 11 or 12 years old, other girls were buying bras, because they needed them. This is when I started to get insecure. I don’t think I’ve ever focused harder than when I was a young girl asking the universe to send me boobs. My mother was empathetic to my cause and patiently took me to every department store until I found a padded bra that fit and didn’t look ridiculous. Only my personality developed over the next few years. Adults tried to comfort me by saying, “it’s OK, you’ll look younger when you’re older.” What they should have been talking to me about was how to handle the attention once I finally did grow up. I wish someone had sat me down and explained the effects of female beauty and its fleeting nature.
At 15 – 16 years old, I started to look like a woman and got a couple of inches taller every year right on up to the end of high school. Then men started to notice me. I didn’t know how to deal with the attention I got so I purposely made poor food choices and put on the “freshman 15” like everyone else. This little bit of extra padding stuck with me into my early 20s. It was my insulation against the world, and male attention. On Friday nights I’d stay home reading a book.
How did I get over it? For me, it took being married to finally relax and feel comfortable being beautiful. Right now, I’m the healthiest I’ve been in 10 years, and it would not have happened without the love and trust that goes along with such a commitment. Sometimes it takes someone else’s nurturing for us to want to nurture ourselves. Everyone’s different and some people don’t need a “piece of paper” or even another person to feel fully confident and content. But for me, giving love so freely and feeling it being returned is very grounding. It’s in that grounding that I thrive.
If I could give any advice to younger women out there who are overwhelmed by male attention, it would be: figure out what grounds you. It might be spirituality, relationships, family, a career, a hobby, exercise, something else or a combination of those. Outward appearances do matter, and a lot of times that’s what initially draws people to each other, but feeling sexy and confident comes from another place – within.
Thumbnail image from the film, Maléna, starring Monica Bellucci