Blog Short #68: How to Stop Seeking Attention and Get the Love You Need
Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!
Photo by bernardbodo, Courtesy of iStock Photo
It’s normal to want to be seen and heard. It’s built into your DNA.
How you accomplish it is the issue.
If you grew up in a family where you felt understood, valued, and loved, you’re likely not driven to seek extra attention more than the norm.
If you didn’t grow up in a family where you felt valued and loved, and felt emotionally neglected, you might find as an adult that you feel compelled to seek attention more than other people, even when you know it’s probably not a good idea.
Attention seekers are not all narcissists trying to outshine everyone. Some are, but more often, they’re people who struggle with feeling unseen, unimportant, and unloved. At its heart, the attention seeker feels different and inferior to others.
Today I’ll briefly go over the twelve most common types of attention-seeking behaviors people use and then give you some strategies to change them.
I’m giving you the extreme example of each, so don’t feel criticized as you read along. It’s essential first to identify what behaviors you engage in most so you can make a plan to work on them.
12 Common Attention-Seeking Behaviors
1. Boasting and one-upping.
You’re uncomfortable with other people’s achievements and need to top them. You boast about your accomplishments or say something you think is more intriguing or exciting. Interactions are competitions, and you need to win.
2. You seek sympathy.
You dominate the conversation with personal stories about being victimized. Your boyfriend cheated on you, your boss fired you because he hates you, you had a terrible upbringing, you’re misunderstood, you don’t have enough money to pay your bills, you have no time for yourself. The goal of telling these stories is to gather sympathy.
3. You take over conversations.
You tend to take over conversations and bring the subject back to you.
4. You try and shock people.
Shocking people makes you stand out. You might wear something, say something, or do something outrageous. You don’t consider whether the behavior paints you in a bad light. The need for attention overrides that consideration.
5. You pick arguments or provoke.
You say things that stir people up and cause controversy. You provoke people to argue with each other or with you.
6. You don’t ask other people about themselves.
You keep the attention on you, your life, your issues, your interests. You don’t ask people about their lives or concerns. You quickly dismiss conversations that lead away from you.
7. You cling to powerful or influential people.
You quickly scan a room to find the most popular or influential person and then make yourself known to them. You use flattery to get their attention, either covertly or overtly.
8. You exaggerate.
When telling stories about yourself, you exaggerate the facts and dramatize. As a child in elementary school, I remember making up crazy dramatic stories during sharing time. The others kids were mesmerized as I spoke. The teacher raised her eyebrows, but I didn’t care. I needed the attention, and I got it until the teacher spoke with my mother about my stories. It always backfires.
9. You love social media and use it.
Social media is the perfect platform to display all these behaviors. You can pick fights, get sympathy, one-up, shock, complain, show off, and dominate conversations.
10. You either pretend you can’t do something or pretend you can do it better.
In the first case, you feign distress so someone will help you, and in the second, you broadcast your success to outdo everyone else.
11. You fish for compliments.
You need approval and confirmation, so you talk about yourself in a way that seeks affirmation and compliments from those listening.
12. You complain.
The content of your conversation focuses on complaints and negativity and holds people captive.
What to Do
That’s a long list, and it certainly paints a negative picture. Truth is, we all engage in some of these behaviors in bits and pieces, and more likely when we’re under stress or feeling low on self-esteem. It’s harmless in small amounts.
The issue arises when attention-seeking behavior is a regular pattern. If you see yourself in any of these behaviors, you’re depriving yourself. Think of it this way:
The approval, security, and love you seek can never be acquired through attention-seeking behavior. In fact, the opposite is true. Attention-seeking pushes people away and robs you of the very thing you need and want. It isolates you.
If you can accept that, you can turn things around to your great advantage.
Here are three things to try.
1) Practice listening.
Next time you’re at a social event, or even in a one-on-one conversation with someone, let go of the desire to impress the other person and turn your attention toward them. Ask questions, show interest, and keep the conversation on them, not you.
You might find this tedious and challenging but do it anyway. And then repeat it over and over until it’s an automatic habit. You can read this article to get specific instructions on how to do it well.
At first, you might feel empty because you don’t feel you get anything from these conversations. But over time, you’ll find that people begin to gravitate toward you naturally without your having to capture them. They’ll seek you out because they feel good when they’re around you. They’ll show more interest in you, and you’ll feel liked, seen, and appreciated. Truth is, everyone likes to talk about themselves, and a good listener is a treasure. It’s the best way to connect.
2) Pick the behaviors on the list above and one at a time delete and replace.
Instead of complaining, talk about positive experiences you’ve had. Things you’re grateful for, things that went well.
Instead of boasting, compliment and appreciate others’ accomplishments. It will feel ingenuine at first, but keep doing it until it’s not.
Instead of exaggerating, work on being accurate when relaying stories or talking about your experiences. Practice verbalizing facts.
The key is to decide what you’re going to do in each case ahead of time. Write it out and be specific, so you know exactly how to act. Then practice until it’s automatic.
3) Explore what feelings are driving you to seek attention.
This is the most important one.
What is it you’re really seeking and why?
Journaling is an excellent method to help you identify the emotional patterns driving your behavior, but that may not be enough. I would also encourage you to seek therapy, so you have some help gaining insight into what’s going on. As an alternative, you can talk to someone you trust who can give you good feedback.
This is an emotional process, and it helps to have some support from someone who can help you explore your thoughts and feelings without judgment. You have to be vulnerable to the painful feelings that drive you to seek attention. You can’t resolve them unless you take that step.
Keep this in mind.
You can change anything you truly wish to, and you’ll be rewarded. The desire to be loved, seen, known, and understood is your right. You just need to go about it the right way. Attention-seeking will only deprive you of it, so now is a great time to turn that around.
That’s all for today. Hope you have a good week.
All my best,
P. S. Suggested reading: Authentic: How to Be Yourself and Why It Matters