The Pros and Cons of Being the Center of Attention

Is it better to have all eyes on you, or to keep things mysterious?

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The Joys of Standing Out

Chantal Strasburger, assistant editor, @chantagold

When I say I had an intense awkward phase, I'm not being modest. Somewhere underneath the frizzy hair, less-than-stellar skin, and multi-colored braces was a young Chantal trying to figure herself out. I rarely spoke up in class, I shuffled down school hallways with my headphones in, and I avoided sleepovers like the plague (which I mostly blame on having to wear a head brace at night which caused me to drool in my sleep. You can't make this up!). Needless to say, any attention was bad attention in my book.

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A few years later—when I was finally set free from the chains of my orthodontia and realized there's more to life than the texture of your hair—I realized I needed to make more of an effort. I was tired of my weekends consisting solely of homework, and I knew I was missing out by keeping myself in. Painful as it was, I began Operation: Put Yourself Out There, starting with auditioning for the high school musical freshman year. By senior year, I was running for class president—and guess what? I won! When graduation came around, I was fully equipped with a desire to meet people because that, I now knew, is what makes life interesting.

The trick is to not give people the option of ignoring you.

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I saw college as a valuable opportunity to broaden my horizons by expanding my social circle, and the most efficient way to do that was to get people's attention. I ran for student government with a guerrilla campaign that included writing my name across the washing machines in all the dorms and posting fliers of my face across campus (the trick is to not give people the option of ignoring you). Obnoxious? Yes. Attention-getting? Definitely. But as long as I kept my tactics good-humored and easygoing, I could use them as an excuse to get to know my peers.

I'm proud to say I've carried many of the connections I made in school to the "real world." Those contacts have helped me land jobs and introduced me to new experiences—opportunities I don't think I'd have if I'd continued blocking out the world.

Here are my three tips for stepping into the spotlight:

Tip No. 1: Stalk Your Idol (Responsibly)

Without being creepy, find someone you admire who nails the whole "center of attention" thing, and observe them in action. Where do they source their confidence from? Is it their outfit? Their sense of humor? Maybe even a wingman? How do they deal with rejection? Sometimes learning the habits of someone you look up to can help you find your own chutzpah.

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Tip No. 2: Define Your Personal Style

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Clothes introduce you to a room before you've even opened your mouth, whether you intended them to or not. Use this to your advantage: A statement sweater can start a conversation and a band tee can launch a friendship. In college, I would strut into the dining hall in a gold sequin jacket in the middle of the day. I'm sure I got a lot of eye rolls, but when I got the occasional compliment—boom—connection made.

Tip No. 3: Get Involved

Whether it's signing up for more clubs or going to that housewarming where you won't really know anyone, the best way to be the life of the party is to actually go to the party. The more people you introduce yourself to, the more opportunities you have to make an impression! So put on some comfortable shoes and get out there.

The Joys of Hiding Out

Stefan Marolachakis, senior editor, @stefanmymind

My life is relatively mellow: I take my dog for long walks in Brooklyn Bridge Park, watch movies with my girlfriend, read about basketball. But I'm only comfortable laying low because I spent years hanging out like it was my job. These days, the FOMO phenomenon has nothing on me, because my old M.O. was making sure I was never MO, if you catch my drift.

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So while I now wholeheartedly endorse laying back in the cut, I do believe it's something that needs to be earned. In order to explain, allow me to present a brief history of my tenure as attention hound.

I've played in bands since I was 18 years old and, as a result, spent the better part of a decade on tour. That's 10 years of driving and flying from town to town, during which the climactic moment of each and every day was 40 minutes or so of performing to an audience whose attention you were (hopefully) monopolizing.

During that same stretch of time, when I wasn't on the road, I could be found "DJing" around NYC—which translates in the English language to "drinking for free at friends' bars and staying up super-late." As a DJ, you're the center of attention whether you like it or not. If you play a song someone loves, they're likely to run up on you and demand you play that singer's entire catalog; if you play something they don't like, be prepared for a drunken tirade about why you've just ruined their night, week, year, life.

One of the most purely rapturous moments of my life, just seconds after I'd just ridden a motorcycle at shockingly fast speeds around the racetrack in Valencia, Spain.

I juggled those two duties with steady work as a freelance writer, which had me traveling around the world on a fairly regular basis. So, all told, there was a 10- or 11-year stretch when I was almost never at home. During that time, I learned to surf with Sunny Garcia (yes that Sunny Garcia, the former number one-ranked surfer in the world), boated among the icebergs in Greenland, rode along on a MotoGP bike as it zoomed around the track, and played music festivals in Spain, France, and Tennessee. Should you get the chance to do these things, I highly recommend them all. (Even the motorcycle bit. But be warned: those machines are shockingly loud.)

I had an absolute blast, but the problem became clear: When you're constantly moving at breakneck speed, there simply isn't time to process what is happening. One wild event blurs into the next and, unless you're very mindful, it can easily all blend into one hazy stew of memories. And yes, life is to be lived—but your experiences will become all the richer if you take time between them to process.

Here, three tips on how to make the most of a night away from the spotlight:

Tip No. 1: Anti-Social Media

Own what you're doing: if you're going to spend the night in, focus on yourself. Put down the phone, and put on a movie you've been meaning to watch, pick up a book you've been wanting to read, or maybe even call an old friend on the phone. Do not spend your time following the ins and outs of other people's evenings—that kind of defeats the whole purpose.

Tip No. 2: Be Straightforward With Your Friends

I spent years telling every friend that I wanted to hang out that night, when sometimes I just felt like staying in. That resulted in everyone being upset, including myself. Instead of lying to yourself and your friends, just be clear that you're not in the mood to party. Your real friends will get it.

Tip No. 3: Keep a Journal

This is important, no matter what phase of life you're in. Whether you're busy being a social butterfly or just sitting at home daydreaming, you need to be documenting it. You'll be amazed by the epiphanies that will be sparked merely by the act of writing down the events of the day.

Follow us along as we stand out and stay in—add Chantal on Instagram and Snapchat @chantagold and Stefan @stefanmymind.

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