The excessive need for attention isn’t an illness but it is something that has to be worked on. At first, as the famous psychologist Maslow explains, it’s natural, but when this becomes too excessive or too troublesome it is hiding something. And it’s understanding the why and how that you can move forward and become stronger.
The origins of needing attention do indeed stem from childhood
As a little child, you used to go and see your parents to seek their company, for hugs and for compliments, and that’s understandable! The observation paid reinforced our need to show off and is used to assert our personality. What’s more, during this stage of learning and building, all positive behaviour that is rewarded will nurture our esteem. When we feel proud of ourselves, and recognise the beauty of this, we are motivated to do our best.
Demanding attention has therefore since become a test to ensure we are not rejected and this allows us to recharge our emotional batteries. Receiving evidence that people care, whether it’s a nice comment about our new haircut or a message sent to check up on us, always feels good, especially if we feel invisible in other areas.
That's all well and good, but at times things get out of hand…
Sometimes, what we receive isn’t enough to satisfy us, and we will beg for validation from our peers. We will go about doing this by having a presence on social media, being the main event at a party or participating in debates for example. When it comes to relationships, this burning inherent need could even lead us to meet toxic partners. As you can probably imagine, the ways in which you can nurture this self-esteem are diverse.
It’s at this point when the situation takes a turn for the worst. Because in order to get someone to look at you, say something nice to you or express any interest in you, some people go too far and behave in an unhealthy manner. Some examples include only playing on physical appearance to feel important, seeing silence as a sign of disinterest, becoming rude, playing the victim, and pretending to be sad or incapable so that others worry about us.
This mechanism is launched because we know that these behaviours work and will force others to show an interest in us. We will therefore reproduce this automatic reflex to get what we want, but why exactly?
What does this need for attention reveal?
Theoretically, everyone appreciates and needs people to take an interest in them by valuing them; this need for attention is like an emotional food. Just like the feeling of hunger, we start to feel in need when we receive a smaller amount of what we desire, and that is where the crisis starts…
Is it related to selfishness?
When someone brings the conversation back on to themselves and needs to be listened to, without necessarily responding to what the person before has said, it is highly likely that they are just selfish. Without meaning any harm, some people are used to living alone or thinking highly of themselves, therefore it is common to hear them talk only about themselves and their fantastic lives. They need to exist through speaking and so don’t pay any attention to other people.
Or even a need to be reassured?
There is also the need to be reassured in times of crisis. Sometimes, we doubt ourselves because of nasty complexes, about our skills at work or the strength of our romantic relationships. This lack of confidence will urge you to beg for awareness. Often, after a long, hard day, we experience the need to feel listened to and understood by our partner, or to make sure our relationship is solid in moments of doubt.
Demanding attention or seeing that we are envied, especially on social media, can create the illusion that our life is great, and some people cling on to that for reassurance. Unfortunately, there are cases where this hides a profound angst.
Are these people in fact wounded souls?
If in practice everything seems to be going well in your life at the moment, you may have to go back further to understand the origin of why you constantly feel like something is lacking. As the author Lise Bourbeau explains, there are 5 wounds of the soul, and they leave many more marks than we think. Some people need displays of emotion to fill the emotional void from their past. A child who has suffered by not feeling supported by a parent of the opposite sex and who hasn’t received loving affection, or someone who has experienced a painful breakup; will have lacked emotional food and will be scared that the situation will happen again, so they go against the feeling of absence.
This feeling and its consequences are often frustrating and produce the opposite of the desired effect. Indeed, those who want to get themselves noticed but aren’t natural should be quiet rather than talking about something which won’t do them any favours. Also, by feeling sorry for ourselves in order to make others feel sorry for us, we end up wearing down their patience and scaring them away. As they say, it is better to be noticed for your absence rather than for your presence. However, how do we do that when (we think) we need other people?
How can you get out of this vicious cycle?
Confronted with this excessive need for awareness preventing us from living, we all want to pull through and feel appeased (and not wear down the patience of those around us!). The good news is that curing this need is very possible, here are our best tips:
1. “Be the master of your destiny, the captain of your ship”
Or simply be a leader! Rather than waiting alone in your room for someone to pay you attention, take the lead and go and see other people, suggest an activity that that you care about.
2. Have fun rather than wanting to be funny
If you enjoy what you do, it will show. It’s by giving out positive vibes that you will attract others’ attention, assume that the party starts where you are.
3. Rediscover a healthy vision of yourself
The real release takes place when we are allowed to express our true personality because we feel comfortable in our environment. Other people often perceive us as we perceive ourselves. So rather than thinking you’re interesting and behaving that way, be natural!
4. Identify what suits us and conversely what will highlight our weaknesses
Stepping out of your comfort zone is fine, but diving head first into the unknown won’t bring you anything positive. Not every situation can suit us, and that’s normal. Don’t go to that karaoke evening if you feel you won’t be comfortable, and avoid icy romantic partners if you need displays of emotion.
5. Tell yourself that everyone has their own way of looking at things
We see everyone from our own perspective, problems, imperfections and shortcomings. While during a party you think you are useless because you don’t have much to say, perhaps the person talking to you is saying to themselves that you are lucky to know how to listen to others, the person whose eye you’ve caught might be thinking that your silence is a sign of disinterest. Basically, nobody is perfect and everybody thinks!
6. Also tell yourself that people are sometimes (if not always) busy
We are the centre of our world, not the world of others, so do the same by finding activities for yourself to have fun and keep busy. You shall soon see, you’ll think a lot less about that need for attention.
7. Everyone has their own degree of shyness
A hug at the wrong moment, from a forced declaration of love, the sought-after attention is sometimes excessive and might look ridiculous if it came from your partner. You simply want to be reassured at the time, but it’s not the long-term solution.
8. Go back to the source of the problem if you have identified it
Whether it’s an absent parent, a negative self-image, your lack of affection definitely comes from somewhere. Working on dialogue and acceptance can be very beneficial and can allow you to move on.
9. Get help from a professional
Finally, if you can’t manage it alone, you can definitely consult a specialist in order to overcome that worry. The incessant need for concern is not an end in itself!