“I’m gonna jump. Screw it, looks like it’ll be fun.” So I jumped into the Caribbean Sea from a massive set of breakers in the Bahamas Islands. I was seventeen years old and pretty drunk at the time. Despite the protests of my mother, I thought I could swim around the massive rocks and make it back no problem.
There was a problem. I wasn’t in shape and being drunk didn’t help. I made it probably a quarter of the way until I grabbed a hold of the people snorkeling since they had life jackets on, they weren’t impressed. Next I swam towards the rocks to climb them, which also proved futile. At that point, I figured I was a dead man so I accepted that fact and was willing to end it right there for some reason. My last chance appeared above me when a lifeguard asked me what I was doing to which I replied to throw me a preserver. She ended up throwing me a life line and I finished my swim and returned to shore only to be greeted by an angry mob. I loved every minute of it.
I was the center of attention. Here we all were on vacation on a private island and I had to go off and do something stupid, for no reason, other than trying to gain attention. I got my wish once some elderly woman asked if I was on drugs for jumping in and that my parents should be ashamed. I laughed in her face.
That was one incident out of hundreds where I needed attention to be completely on me. Whether it was something as large as that or something stupid such as dying my hair to piss off my catholic school administrators. It was an addiction that only got worse as my alcoholism increased throughout my late teens into early twenties.
It wasn’t just attention really, more or less approval from my cohort. I always wanted to be the class clown or throw the biggest party, I never got anything special or paid from it, but it provided a “love” that I never received at home or even through myself. I was always unsure of myself and had rock bottom self-esteem, which was a catalyst for my behavior.
Methods of approval have shifted over the last 10-15 years, as technology has replaced behavioral actions. The times we live in now make it extremely difficult for people, especially millennials to escape that mindset. Today’s cultural affinity with instant gratification due to social media updates only promulgates that type of behavior, where if we don’t garner enough attention or “likes” then people are upset, which I find to be insane. Maybe I shouldn’t use insane, but it’s crazy that people are becoming depressed due to a lack of approval from others based on a picture of what they made for dinner. I should know, I was one of these persons that checked my Instagram account every two seconds to see how many likes I received.
Approval should come within. I know that can be difficult based on my past struggles with it, especially if one does not come from a loving house as a child, but it can be found. For me, it was done through spirituality and self-realization. If I was doing all this damage to myself, drinking, etc, to gain acceptance from others, then what would stop me from committing more dangerous acts? People can care less for what you’ve done because eventually the act is going to keep progressing due to the approval subsiding.
Thankfully, I broke out of that behavior and it was pretty difficult, although sometimes I do enjoy the occasional ego inflation (don’t we all?), the life lived without the approval of others is indeed the life worth living.