When I was growing up, oh man, did I just want to be noticed.
I remember in third grade intentionally wearing braided thread bracelets just so the girl who sat next to me would think I was cool. And want to be my friend (and girlfriend!).
I remember wearing my favorite band shirts around school and town – so proud of the punk or emo or indie rock group that I was repping – and hoping so hard that someone else would like the same band, compliment me, and want to get to know me.
And I remember walking down the aisles of grocery stores and around shopping malls and concerts and theme parks, just waiting and wishing and wanting for anyone to make eye contact with me, and for those eyes to be captivated by what they see. I wanted them to acknowledge me, smile at me, be drawn to me, and convey some sort of…delight, or care, or tiny affection towards me.
I wanted them to acknowledge me, smile at me, be drawn to me, and convey some sort of…delight, or care, or tiny affection towards me.
Those days, I would take anything.
I just wanted to be noticed. Like, really, truly noticed.
To be honest, I still want to be noticed. Even today.
And I think this is a perennial desire for each of us. It is something we long for – a deep-seated need which has to be fulfilled in time. And we will do everything in our power to fulfill it.
Let’s start with social media: I mean, some of the posts we see online come across as desperate attempts to be noticed (like all of my selfies. And yours). Even if it’s purely superficial and because we’re shirtless or wearing a bikini. We all understand that #ootd (outfit of the day) posts are simple calls for someone – anyone – to care about what we’re wearing today – even just a little. To really understand the ubiquitous nature of this, just follow the hashtags of #noticeme or #showlove, where you’ll find hundreds of thousands of manifestations of this felt need for at least a *scrap* of attention from others. And regardless of whether social media likes and comments and follows do it for us or not, we often give ourselves away in hookups and romantic relationships just to be noticed, to be wanted, to be delighted in, to be the apple of someone else’ eye.
We often give ourselves away in hookups and romantic relationships just to be noticed, to be wanted, to be delighted in, to be the apple of someone else’ eye.
At least for a moment
Or an hour.
Or a night.
In one way or the other, this is a cry of our lonely, incomplete hearts.
When we’re teenagers, I think we’re somewhat okay being noticed and liked for our beauty, for our bodies, for our looks. I’m not saying it’s right, just that we don’t mind it if it’s helping us to be noticed and liked and enjoyed by another person. It helps us to feel that we have some value, something to offer, something that others want.
Of course, as we move past adolescence and into young adulthood – and especially if we’ve been used or hurt or taken advantage of – we want to be noticed and liked and enjoyed for who we are, and not solely for what we look like. We are coming into our own, and we want someone to want to get to know us deep down – what we think about things, what makes us excited, what makes us sad, what gives us hope, and what we dream about for our future. Of course, we still want to be physically attractive to others, but our hearts want to be pursued and explored by someone else in a genuine, caring, and loving way. And we want our entire selves to be valued.
On certain days, as I am spending time with others in work situations, or at church, or at get-togethers, I sometimes feel this. I feel like someone else notices me, and nw wants to get to know me and what I’m all about, beyond surface level.
But on most days, this never happens. I’m in and out of classrooms and meetings and public transportation and public places, and no one notices me. Most days, I may get brief eye contact and a nod of acknowledgement, but rarely is a smile initiated by someone else (I honestly try to smile at everyone). Rarely does someone make eye contact and hold my gaze because they enjoy what they see. Even in many conversations, I don’t feel truly noticed and valued – but rather, that I am a means to an end.
Rarely does someone make eye contact and hold my gaze because they enjoy what they see. Even in many conversations, I don’t feel truly noticed and valued – but rather, that I am a means to an end.
And you know what, that is okay.
It is absolutely okay.
Because I have realized that I cannot be dependent on other people noticing me and wanting to get to know me and showing me that they care about me in a meaningful way.
But it took me a long while to get this. Decades. And as I look back upon the past, I feel like God kept trying to help me understand that He alone was the judge and jury of my life. For me (and perhaps for you), He intentionally led me into super rough seasons where people failed me over and over again. Family, friends, everyone.
And in those painful seasons, when no one else was around to help, He showed up to bail me out. When no one else seemed to care, He did something kind or special for me. When no one else wanted to be close to me, I started to feel His presence. When no one else was listening, I knew He was available to lend an ear. And when no one else noticed or pursued me, I started to learn – and actually feel – that He did.
Slowly, it started to sink in that I am the apple of his eye. And He reminded me that He created my inmost being and knows my inmost thoughts. And I learned that none of my pain or loneliness or misery was ever wasted, because He keeps track of all of my sorrows and has collected all of my tears. And it was so encouraging to me to realize that unbelievably, He rejoices over me with gladness. Me! With gladness! And I don’t have to worry or desperately pine for the affection and favor of others, because He pursues me with goodness, mercy, and steadfast love all the days of my life.
The difficult seasons taught me this and brought me so near to Him, because I had no one and nothing else. And in time, I started to care so much more about Him delighting in me than anyone else. I soon realized that I was making great progress, because when people didn’t notice me, it didn’t send me to the lowest of lows anymore. And every once in a while when someone did notice me, it didn’t send me to the highest of highs.
This felt right.
This felt healthy.
I felt secure and stable and content. I didn’t feel desperate, or needy, or clingy, or anxious for someone to try to do what only He could do, really, fully, completely. I didn’t feel like I had to try harder to be noticed or valued by others. I could just be. If He wanted to initiate or orchestrate a new friendship or romantic relationship or conversation, He would do it. If He didn’t (and 95% of the time, He didn’t), I could just enjoy being with Him, increasingly discovering that He is enough.
I didn’t feel desperate, or needy, or clingy, or anxious for someone to try to do what only He could do, really, fully, completely. I didn’t feel like I had to try harder to be noticed or valued by others. I could just be.
Do you currently find yourself desperate to be noticed? Does it feel like nothing is ever working? Maybe that’s for a reason. Maybe God is up to something in the painful season you’re in. Maybe He wants you to learn the truth about who you are, and how much He notices, values, and pursues you.
It is that truth which I have needed to get deep into my heart. There, it can beat loudly and drown out all the lies I used to believe: I am screwed, I am useless, I am ugly, I am unlovable, I am forever alone.
I so want it to get deep into your heart, where it can reverberate through your entire being.
And drown out the lies that you’re currently believing.