Is no amount of attention enough to satisfy you? As a teenager, I used under-the-radar methods to get noticed, such as: lying, playing the victim, being moody. But if you’re into the more in-yo-face variety of attention seeking behavior you might: dress provocatively, say things like, ‘maybe I should just kill myself,’ argue all the time.
Either way, attention seeking behavior sort of makes you the center of things. Which sort of feels rewarding, in a crooked sort of way.
Wanting attention is kinda, actually, pretty, VERY normal
We all have needs, and we want confirmation that we’re loved and cared about. That we matter. Cos’ we’re human. For example, think of a baby wailing for food… in that situation getting attention, or not getting it, could literally be the difference between life and death.
And as teenagers/young adults we want to impress our friends by doing crazy stuff, like drinking ourselves into A&E once a month. And we believe our relationships are renditions of Romeo & Juliet. *‘Arrghhhh, my heart!’*
Also, having an attention seeking personality is LESS of a character weakness and MORE to do with how our brain is wired by our life experiences. For example, neglected children are more likely to be attention-seekers as adults. They naturally associate getting attention with survival, to an extreme degree.
On top of all that, humans are social creatures. We’re all programmed to operate on traded attention because if we’re unable to get ANY attention, this is dangerous.
So perhaps we can agree… although it is quite complicated *like people*, attention seeking behavior isn’t all that strange or unhealthy.
It’s just a matter of how we go about it
And I like to think of this as the choice between two options:
#1 You either mostly earn attention.
#2 Or mostly feed on it.
Feeding is a quick-win strategy…
It’s getting that 2,000 likes on a selfie of your body only-5%-covered-with-clothes *and feeling important and productive as a result, despite not working on your exciting idea for a food-based-makeup biz that could actually do some great things*.
Your Instagram page provides you lots of positive feedback for working way underneath your potential. And, like feeding on an addictive drug, you can never quite get enough… until you forget that you’re actually considerably intelligent and creative. *And if that Instagram account dries up you feel like garbage*.
Feeding on attention robs you of doing great things that require hard work. It also makes you vulnerable to manipulation by people who know you are insecure *despite all of the attention you get*. For example, you might end up with a partner who lies to you. You may even search out people who don’t like you, in an attempt to get the ‘ultimate validation.’ [Read: We accept the love we think we deserve: A real life example]
All this drama is fun for a while, but who goes to the amusement park every day? Anything, even something fun, quickly becomes a living hell, rather than a thrill, when it controls your life. By contrast, earning attention happens when you work consistently to develop your skills/yourself as a person.
Strategies for understanding attention seeking behavior
Okay, with that said, let’s dive into some strategies. Consider these things and you can turn your attention cravings from a dirty high into jet fuel…
#1 Getting your needs met. Achieving happiness and fulfillment is an art. There is no equation for achieving these—that’s completely up to you. Explore and find out what makes you feel like you’re getting most of your needs met. Look deep inside and be truly honest with yourself. [Read: How to be happy again: 20 ways to draw happiness from within]
#2 Not lying. The hardest thing is to tell the truth when it’s inconvenient. But this is when it’s especially important. Doing this one thing massively improves your life long-term, even if it creates problems short-term.
On the opposite end, lying creates webs of misunderstanding and chaos that become almost impossible to make sense of. [Read: How to stop lying to yourself and everyone around you]
#3 Not being a hater. We live in an age of trolling. When somebody has lots of light on them, attention-seekers may want to bring them down, to make that person feel small or to show them up. Rather than building themselves up, the hater focuses on what others are doing.
#4 Checking arrogance/narcissism at the door. Arrogant or narcissistic people feel like the world revolves around them. Or that they’re just better than everyone else *others seem weak or pathetic*.
Arrogant/narcissistic people may feed on compliments and on being talked about. But without this they feel worthless. Checking this way of thinking, when it pops up, brings you a bit closer to earth. [Read: 23 signs of narcissism people overlook until its too late]
#5 Not caring what others think about you *self-worth*. If you feel you need fame in order to feel like you’re worth a damn, fame actually won’t fix that insecurity.
Entrepreneur Gary V said it best—he simply cares more about what he thinks of himself than what others think of him. Seriously, not BS, he really cares more about his self-opinion than the opinion of others about him and doesn’t give a f*** about how they judge him. Developing this way of thinking does crazy things for you. *As long as you’re not an A-hole about it, needless to say i.e. respect the lives of others*.
#6 Being the private hero of your own story. When you get attention you become the center of everything. Until, like Bella from the Twilight series, you dive from cliffs just to get your ex to come save you. But truth is there are more important personal challenges, such as past traumas or phobias or fears, which you avoid.
The key with facing fears is to start low and with yourself, not with changing others. Gaining these ‘private victories’ over yourself *inner resistance* adds up over time invisibly until they reach a tipping point. And that’s when people say things like ‘she was an overnight success.’ [Read: Be your own hero: What it means and how to take control of life]
#7 Developing intense focus. The opposite of distraction is deep focus. This involves focusing on one thing and cutting off all other distractions for around 90 minutes at a time. This practice builds up the ability to focus on one thing without needing constant novelty. There’s a book about this called Deep Work and another called The Shallows.
#8 Knowing ‘negative’ emotions are addictive. Whether that be a scandal, betrayal, gossip, or something that makes you feel like the victim… drama causes your body to secrete endorphins, which reduces feelings of pain and gives you pleasure. Drama also triggers your body to release dopamine, which makes you feel euphoric.
Rewards, baby. All kinds.
Until you no longer know why you always provoke your partner and get them fired up into a rage with your attention seeking behavior. As much as you moan and complain about drama, it feels addictive, and like winning, to the attention-seeker. [Read: People pleasers and 20 common signs most people don’t see]
#9 Using your neediness to win. This is about playing on your strengths and shoring up your weaknesses. For example, there are tons of successful business people who love attention. But, rather than using that personality trait doing things beneath their full potential, they direct it towards some challenging goal.
While you can’t change your brain-wiring, you can create new habits that deactivate older ones. You can get out of your own way by: taking responsibility, completing difficult projects without giving up, and looking deep into yourself.
#10 Letting your scars complete you. No one’s without insecurities. But we all make a choice to:
#1 Accept our scars and rise with them.
#2 Or let them control and destroy us.
It’s important to dive into your insecurities and to see where feelings of inferiority stem. However you go about dealing with your insecurities, making sense of it gives you unexpected empowerment that makes you more solid and secure. [Read: How to be an adult: 15 mature ways to grow up and behave like one]
#11 Forgiving/moving on. Everyone will have some kind of developmental trauma. It’s a part of becoming socialized. However, one ideal I stick by is that holding onto bitterness and blame poisons me and limits my own growth.
Sometimes forgiveness is really hard to do but going through the process teaches me about who I really am/can be. It also involves becoming more thick-skinned and less of a pushover or separating myself from a person/group of people.
#12 Distancing yourself from drama. Yeah, attention seeking behavior and drama is fun, but it’s the intense-kind-of-fun that self-destructive addicts experience. Sure, you get a high perhaps unlike any other high out there. However, inevitably your life splits apart bit by bit. Until all you’re left with are regrets and a whole lot of undesirable consequences **cough* crazy baby mama/daddy *cough* jail time *cough* friends who get you into trouble*.
With attention-seeking behavior, simply participating in it draws you into its gravity. I actively cut out drama-seeking people from my life. [Read: Superficial person alert: 36 shallow traits they just can’t hide]
#13 Knowing who you truly are *listening to that inner compass*. This one sounds like a cliché. But we all know what it means. In fact, you’ve always known it, but maybe you drown out this wisdom with social media apps, Netflix, YouTube, and online gurus *I know I’ve done this*.
Gaining self-awareness about who you REALLY are, not what sounds cool, what you think might be accepted, what might make you successful, or what you think should be fun. None of that. It’s about that voice that’s truly yours, even when you think it sounds sort of dumb and inferior.
Listen to that voice, especially when it tells you you need to do something difficult or unusual or alien or important or *insert adjective.
[Read: How to be comfortable with yourself: A guide to not giving a f*ck]
Attention seeking behavior is normal and healthy when you understand who you are. The important thing in using this basic human need to make your life more dope. Which takes working hard to know who you are/what you’re capable of.
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