- Thoughts for inspired living

October 24, 2007


Filed under: John Morgan's Blog — John Morgan @ 8:54 am

I have a theory about subtraction that is best explained when thinking of young people – especially teens.

Many teens do things to externally add to themselves – like wearing a lot of make-up, getting a tatoo or body piercings of some sort. They become culturally fad conscious and add to themselves by adding the latest clothing craze to their wardrobe, or they start smoking, or dye their hair purple to add to their persona. Drinking and drugs are also additions, as is hyperbole. Joining the Marines or entering the convent at this age is another way of adding to yourself.

The immediate conclusion is a poor self-image and that’s pretty accurate for most teens. The focus of this particular blog, though, is about attention and subtraction.

Eventhough they add all of these things to themselves, the rub is, they don’t get what they are craving – attention. They may attract attention to the addition but they won’t attract attention to themselves.

Think of a young girl with 3 different piercings on each earlobe and one on the top. Where is your attention? It’s on the things, not on the person. The less you decorate, the more YOU are noticed. I’m reminded of the Coco Chanel quote from the movie, Working Girl.

“Dress shabbily; they notice the dress: dress impeccably they notice the woman.”

Most young people don’t think they are enough so they add things. It’s a part of growing up. This addition process calms down for most as they get older but not for all. They strive to be noticed because they want attention.

Sadly, the result they want will never come from external addition. The attention will go to the things or the behavior, not to the person.

Start simplifying and watch the attention increase. Start giving attention and others will reciprocate. The addition process returns for some people as they approach middle age. They may start perceiving themselves as old and decorate themselves with fashions, fads, or behaviors that draw attention to the things versus the person. The comments they don’t hear aren’t “look at that fashionable man.”  They’re more like, “look at that guy trying to be hip.”

When there’s a 60 year old man with a ponytail, what do you notice – the person or the ponytail? I remember when I was 19 and my mother was 42. She came to my girfriend’s graduation party with earrings that were the fad with much younger people – dangling balls. She wore fake eyelashes that were the rage with teens and women in their early 20’s, and she had on an orange outfit with a mini-skirt. I can assure you the attention was on her apparel – not her. She added to herself because she didn’t think she was enough and the comments about her that day were about her shortcomings instead of her substance.

This isn’t a critique on style and fashion or telling people what not to do. This is about the one thing that every human being wants – attention. If you are adding things to yourself to be accepted, you may want to get curious about subtraction. Subtracting any addition that causes peoples’ attention to go to it rather than you is a worthwhile endeavor.


All the best,


Be Sociable, Share!