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Pay Attention

Jezebel had a post about the dismissive phrase: “she just wants attention” (or “she’s just doing it for attention”) and how we apply it to problems.

Gender becomes such a vital part of how we judge others…It has to be realized that if a woman or girl is upset about something, it’s not just because she wants attention. And if she does want attention, maybe it’s because she wants care. Is that something to dismiss? What happens when we do dismiss it? I’m not sure I want to know.

The post rambles about but at its core is the idea that we withhold sympathy based on an ever-changing definition of worth.  That one girl starving herself has anorexia and that another girl starving herself is “just doing it for attention.”

I’ve noticed it in the blogosphere as well.  People will rally around one blogger telling her tale–her problems are real!–and dismiss another as just attention-seeking.  One person, we cluck around.  The other, we think the proverbial “suck it up!” (or, even worse, say it).

How does one decide what is sympathy-worthy?


1 Carrie { 06.30.10 at 8:17 am }

This is a great post. I just wrote this week about feeling that my issues were not real problems b/c my medical conditions are not life threatening. I often feel the need to show proof that I am worthy of support. I know there are times that I wear my IF jouney like a badge and that collecting failed cycles makes me more worthy. I wish it did not work this way, everything is relaitve. Its all painful. Thanks for posting this Mel.

2 N { 06.30.10 at 8:27 am }

A good friend of mine wrote about this fairly recently. And I agree with her, and you, and the Jezebel writer, to a point. But there is a point past which I don’t, and I know that I’ve been somewhat led to that by my personal experiences with a specific person.

The hard question is where that line comes, and how it’s judged that one person’s problems are valid and another person’s aren’t. And I don’t have that answer. I don’t know it. If I did, I’d certainly have been able to save myself (and a lot of other people) a lot of heartache.

Of course, that also puts me in a position of stating that I think somebody needs to deal with their problems on their own, and that makes me feel like a crappy person, so perhaps I am not the person that other people should look to in regards to this.

I don’t think this comment makes sense anymore, and I don’t know how to let it make sense without a crazy long backstory that nobody’s interested in. But we’ll just leave it as: in theory, I think it’s bad to overlook anybody asking out for help, even if it’s by harmful methods. In actuality, it can’t always work that way. And I don’t know what the difference should be.

3 Kir { 06.30.10 at 9:38 am }

wow, this is a hard post. In my real life if I tell someone who only knows me casually that’s I’m blogging about motherhood or infertility etc, they look at me like “WHY??” what could YOU possibly have to say? ” and they like me..you know? Or they look at me with pity, like “you got the boys, Kir, can’t you just MOVE ON already?”

I try NOT to do that here, when I comment I really try to cluck around everyone, not because I want people to cluck around me, but because I honestly think that the more stories you hear and the more care you get, the more HOPE and less alone you feel.

I truly believe that, that’s why when I read a post, I feel guilty if I don’t comment, and comment with feeling and empathy…trying to be in their shoes even if I don’t know what it’s like to be there at all.

I hate thinking that people would do this, this total output of writing for attention (I wouldn’t blog during my Bedrest because I didn’t want it, I just wanted to hibernate) but I guess some do. I just don’t know how I know in my heart that they are and I click away…you know some women actually say “I”m writing for validation” but with that kind of honesty…I stay and read…because maybe they really need it.

I’m “TOO NICE” , the words I’ve heard about myself since I was 4 yrs old. LOL

4 Kristin { 06.30.10 at 9:52 am }

Honestly, I try to never assume anyone is “just doing it for attention.” I have no clue how to determine what is sympathy worthy or if it’s even fair to make that determination. I think the important thing is to never be dismissive of somebody’s pain.

5 mash { 06.30.10 at 10:46 am }

I have a theory that everybody has a reason for how they behave, and we should always have sympathy and understanding and compassion. And how far does it stretch, should it stretch to murderers? In fact, yes. But do we have it in us? Not always. I was reminded of this recently when DH and I went for a drink with his cousin who is getting divorced after (we suspect) cheating on his wife. He is very boastful and full of exaggeration. I could definitely feel my judgement welling up inside me, my frustration at his arrogance. And yet deep down I know that he too must have had some kind of hurt to cause this behaviour. But I don’t have it in me to comfort him, and I guess that’s where you draw the line, you show compassion where you can, and where you can’t, don’t beat yourself up about it.

6 serenity { 06.30.10 at 11:00 am }

We’re bloggers. By definition we are ALL attention-seekers, right? I mean, if we didn’t want the attention we’d write in our journals that never see the light of day. But by putting our thoughts and fears and emotions into the internet, we are inherently seeking attention from others.

In this community, it’s to find like-minded people who understand the struggle of infertility and how it affects your life.

So for me, personally, I don’t look at one blogger as more attention-seeking as another. That said, though? I do react to the TONE of a particular post. Where someone is posting about how awful some situation is without acknowledging that some people have it worse, or blaming everyone except for themselves for something which is clearly (at least to me) their issue. That’s where I have to click away instead of rallying around and supporting that person. But it’s less about “oh, that person just wants attention” and more about the fact that I’m turned off by the person themselves.

But that happens very rarely – because I know from my own experience that the support I found in this community was a HUGE part in helping me through our IF. I feel like it’s my responsibility to give that support back to the blogosphere whenever I can.

7 Mrs. Spit { 06.30.10 at 11:10 am }

It’s the balance between people, interests and time.

I am not always good at listening, not really. I mean I listen to the words, but not the sub text. I solve problems when someone wants to be told that they were heard.

I do the that thing where I defend or explain away what has hurt people, assuming that people didn’t mean what they said, or that they shouldn’t be hurt, and I know it burns me when people do that.

And finally, there’s what you know. I know what it is to lose your child, to hold your child in your arms as he dies. I struggle, mightlily, for example, when people tell me that they have birth trauma from a c/section. It’s their reality, and not mine, and my stuff gets in the way of hearing them.

8 JessPond { 06.30.10 at 11:17 am }

I think that some people mesh better with others and naturally talk with and encourage those they are close to more often.

I hate to see bloggers going without comments, especially those in crisis, which is why I’m adamant about commenting at least fairly regularly on blogs I read.

I agree with Mrs. Spit…it’s hard to hear people complaining about things you’d easily trade for, or things that you know don’t really matter in the long run. But the good thing is…out there there ARE people who feel the same as that person, and they can offer support.

Though…I’ve seen a few bloggers get no support when they needed it, for some reason, and sometimes I can’t figure it out.

9 Dora { 06.30.10 at 11:37 am }

I admit, I sometimes feel dismissive. But I would NEVER say so. It’s a big blogosphere, and I relate to some people more than others. I just click away.

10 jamie { 06.30.10 at 11:47 am }

I think people write blogs to be heard. Its their feelings, their experiences. Some write them to communicate with their family others to share their challenges.

Mine is about family building and the emotional toll. Others may see that and roll their eyes, but I see it as a support system. People have blogs about their sick children. I don’t feel they are seeking attention at all. They are seeking support.

11 PaleMother { 06.30.10 at 12:27 pm }

Serenity nailed my thoughts exactly.

Blogging is attention-seeking by definition. If you prefer to put a more positive spin, community-seeking? Connection seeking? Blogging means you want an audience to receive your words for one reason or another.

The attention-seeking label is absolutely a dismissive one. On the ttc >35 message board where I found support, those labeled attention seeking were the ones perceived to be making mountains out of mole hills … creating drama for themselves while at the same time (and this is critical) ~not~ perceiving the pain of anyone around them. The attention seeking is not necessarily a sin, it’s the degree of self-centeredness that can sometimes go with it. The lack of things like perspective and humility and self-awareness. If you lack those, you are going to have a harder time inspiring some people (including me) to reach out to you. You may be judged, rightly or wrongly, as unworthy. Worthy is always in the eye of the beholder.

Everyone is worthy of support — TRUE support … not mere ego massaging and enabling — I think that’s what we mean when we label someone as an attention seeker. Someone we perceive who blogs/posts/talks for vanity alone … and seeks to feed their vanity by manipulation (sympathy seeking).

I don’t think the judging can be helped … rather than fight it, I think you just have to go with it as a practical point. You have to look for support in the right places or you will be judged. And it’s very hard, unless you are the Dalai Lama, not to judge others based on your own experiences.

Not sure I got to the point you were looking for … but I’ll click submit anyway so you know I was here and you got me thinking.

12 Myndi { 06.30.10 at 12:33 pm }

I see blogging as an outlet and an opportunity to reach out and ask and receive help from others who have been or are going through something similar. So it’s not attention-seeking for the mere seek of attention-seeking. There is clear intent.

That said, there have certainly been times when I have read a blog post that I couldn’t support, and in those cases, I just click away. I don’t provide false support, but I also don’t criticize. The reality is, we are all in some kind of pain at points along the way. Sometimes it’s self-caused, sometimes it’s not. Even if we can’t understand the hurt, we have no right to invalidate it.

13 Heather { 06.30.10 at 3:22 pm }

First one must discern between sympathy and empathy….I for one appreciate empathy and don’t want sympathy. Ever.

14 a { 06.30.10 at 3:24 pm }

I never think of people as attention-seekers (well, occasionally, in person, I will notice that certain people need to be the center of everything…for instance, all of my sisters-in-law). I do notice when there’s insincerity or embellishment or more drama than I care to read. I guess I don’t really attribute it to attention-seeking, but I file it under places I don’t wish to comment.

15 Keiko { 06.30.10 at 4:30 pm }

This post really struck a chord for me. As many above have noted, blogging is an attention-seeking forum: instant self-publication in the public eye. I wonder… with all of the promotion I try to do for my advocacy work, do some folks see it as truly outreach, or are others perceiving it as attention whoring (pardon my French)? I don’t know – I’m not other people. But until I’m told otherwise, I keep putting it all out there.

As far as what is sympathy worthy, I think of it in the context of the LFCA. I submit like a fiend, b/c I think support is vital to this community. I honestly pick and choose my submissions through my Google Reader, so there’s a lot I miss b/c I don’t follow all 2000+ blogs on the Blogroll here. But when I read the LFCA, I don’t always click on everything or comment on everything. Sometimes it’s too much to click through a long list of loss announcements. Emotionally, there are some days I just can’t invest myself into other people (wow, that came off as wildly selfish, but it’s the truth). I click b/c something catches my eye, stands out, or I feel drawn to a particular news blurb. I’ve never once considered it attention seeking on the part of the other person, b/c you never know who submits the news.

I feel like my comment strayed off topic, but that’s where your post took me.

16 Bea { 06.30.10 at 4:30 pm }

There’s a good point here about the fact that, if somebody is “just” doing it for attention, then why do they need that attention? Is there something about their general self-esteem, their ability to cope, or perhaps some stress we don’t know about in the background? Sometimes protesting “too” loudly is simply a sign of not getting enough sympathy up front – people start shouting louder and more dramatically hoping that the balance will be redressed. If they’d got the right amount of sympathy in the first place, they would had displayed a more proportionate view of the problem from the beginning.

How do we decide? That’s a tricky one. It’s been shown that we do tend to get sympathy fatigue with those who constantly demand it (or groups who demand it a lot). Sometimes those demanding it have tangible problems, sometimes less tangible, but I think it’s safe to say there’s always some sort of problem, of some nature, even if it’s a profound lack of coping skills rather than the actual thing they’re complaining about. It’s almost as if human beings have limited reserves of sympathy, which I guess makes sense – when it comes to survival, we want to keep some of that sympathy for ourselves. I don’t know that we systematically decide who and when, though – I think it has a lot to do with how well you know the person, how responsible you feel for their wellbeing, how well you know their motivations, and what’s going on in your own life at the same time.

And yes, blogging is attention-seeking by nature. It’s a matter of degrees.


17 Melissa G. { 06.30.10 at 4:32 pm }

I didn’t get a chance to read all of the other comments so forgive me if I repeat anything.

If there is anything, ANYTHING that IF has taught me, it is to feel sympathy without judgement (in most cases). I used to be the no non-sense, “suck it up” kind of person, because that’s how I lived. I never asked for help or complained about the cards life dealt. What an idiot I was – I thought I was being strong, but in reality I was just suffering in silence. Even when I started my blog, I didn’t go public with it until almost a year of writing it.

The longer I’ve dealt with IF, the more sympathetic I have become to nearly every situation – Hey even the girl who is doing something for attention likely NEEDS that attention because something else is missing… A sad thing for her..

Thanks Mel.

18 niobe { 07.01.10 at 10:15 am }

I’m pretty sympathetic to most people. Well, except the ones I’m wildly jealous of.

19 Tara { 07.01.10 at 3:00 pm }

I’ve learned from blogging & reading blogs that EVERYONE is worthy or sympathy or encouragement or just some kind words…even if you don’t necessarily agree with them or if you question their motives…their putting it out there for a reason & that takes some guts.

20 Guera! { 07.01.10 at 3:29 pm }

I believe that “attention” is a basic human need and doing something “just for attention” has an unnecessary negative connotation. As we grow and mature and develop, hopefully, healthy self esteems we learn healthy, productive ways to get/ask for the attention we need.

21 Amel { 07.02.10 at 7:00 am }

Food for thought indeed…After reading all the comments, I’m not going to add anything here, except I THOROUGHLY enjoy reading Pale Mother’s comment. Really enlightening and I agree with her views! 😀

22 B { 07.02.10 at 9:24 am }

I think the attention I am willing to give is in proportion to the directness with which some one asks.

If someone says “I really need some care today” It’s easy to give.

If someone says “No-one bothers to stop and take the time” It’s really hard to give.

But it doesn’t mean that one is more deserving then the other or that one is truer than the other. It’s just easier to give.

23 Kami { 07.04.10 at 12:58 pm }

Interesting post and comments. I know the ‘drama queen’ nature runs in my family so I try not to be that way. It is in my nature so I often ask my DH to read my blog before I post it (if it is a sad post) and ask, “Is it true or is it just drama-seeking?”

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