There’s nothing wrong with wanting attention. Most of us do.
For that matter, most of us need attention. That’s why we’re hard-wired to form relationships with other human beings. We need others to pay attention to our needs, to consider them important, to really see us, to really hear and validate us. To consider US important.
Visibility, validation, care…those are all forms of attention. They’re all things we need. They’re all things we seek, in various ways.
All of us. No exceptions.
Peoples’ need for attention takes many forms. My need for attention may look very different from your need for attention.
We’re shaped, from a very early age, by the forms of attention we’re taught it’s “okay” to seek.
We’re shamed, from a very early age, for seeking attention that we supposedly “shouldn’t” seek.
Many of the dysfunctional behaviors of both children and adults are simply manifestations of the need for attention that’s being expressed in not-so-adaptive ways.
When we’re taught that there’s something wrong with the need for attention— that we SHOULDN’T seek validation and visibility and comfort— we develop very conflicted feelings and behaviors around our inherent need for attention.
When we develop the idea that it’s “wrong” to seek or need attention, we begin to question our worth as humans. Because our brains are not dumb; our brains can do the math and figure out that if we were inherently valuable, we would get the kind of attention we need without having to jump through hoops to get it.
It’s okay to want attention.
It’s okay to need attention.
The trick is to find ways to get those wants and needs met that do not isolate us from others, that do not require us to “perform” in ways that feel inauthentic, that do not interfere with our ability to be close to others in functional, reciprocal relationships.
It can be a tricky balancing act. But it can be done.
Seeking healthy forms of attention for ourselves and giving attention to others is not a zero sum game. We CAN do both at the same time.
In fact, in healthy relationships, giving and getting healthy attention are intricately connected.
Black and white thinking can really wear down our ability to relate to others.
When we get bogged down in black and white, zero sum thinking about our relationships, it becomes virtually impossible to be close to others in ways that get both our, and their, needs met.
Getting our own needs met and contributing to others getting their needs met are NOT mutually exclusive projects.
Sometimes when we’ve been starved for attention for years, when we’ve been shamed for wanting and needing and seeking attention the only ways we know how, we get so hungry and thirsty for attention that we lose sight of the fact that relationships are designed to be reciprocal. Healthy relationships are designed for EVERYONE to get their needs met.
Being in relationships in which our need for healthy attention is neglected will narrow our perspective. We’ll begin to form beliefs about relationships that are incredibly one-sided. We begin to believe that relationships really are zero-sum games: that for one person to get their needs met, it means the other person in the relationship must suffer and do without.
Make friends with your need for attention.
Detoxify your need for attention.
Realize that what you’ve been taught and conditioned about your need for attention is probably untrue— and that the shame you’ve probably experienced around your need for attention has probably led you to a negative relationship with the concept that is complicating and polluting your relationships.
What forms of attention do you really want, right now?
What forms of attention have you had to do without?
What forms of attention do you really need?
In order to form healthy self-esteem, our relationship with our need for attention— for visibility, for nurturance, for assurance of our basic importance and worth— needs to be at peace.
You are important.
You are valuable.
You are worthy of healthy attention.
Repeat as necessary.
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