Some people like attention. I like attention. Some people don’t like having attention on them. That’s not me.
I don’t require all the attention and I love giving my attention to others. Probably not so true of my childhood self. Mom said I didn’t play so well by myself. I’d talk non-stop and demand her full engagement. I used to feel embarrassed when I’d hear about that.
I love shared spaces of mutuality where the attention rolls all around us. But I’m more than neutral about attention. I’m far more comfortable taking the lead and being seen than I am waiting quietly.
It seems many people who want attention feel badly about that, like it makes them an egomaniac. I can relate to that… partially. Posting selfies feels utterly self-indulgent and a touch embarrassing. Liking or wanting attention is, like, a bad thing, right? Doesn’t it make you a self-centered narcissist? Doesn’t it mean you think too highly of yourself or don’t care about others, or at the very least makes you desperate?
It doesn’t mean any of those things. In fact, those qualities can exist in someone seeking attention or not.
But those are some of the narratives around being, well, an attention whore aren’t they? What’s the equivalent derogatory assault for someone who prefers not to stand out? Shy? Introvert? I don’t think there is one. I’m pretty sure ‘we’ have foul opinions about those who want attention — or at least the part of ourselves that wants it.
It’s amazing to me the varied impulses and desires we all have. We’re such sweet creatures. And yet, instead of honouring those and pursuing them, lots of folks question them and assume they’re wrong. Let’s see if I can capture some of the hesitations for full expression that I’ve heard hundreds of times:
- I want to be visible — but you know, not in like an ‘it’s all about me kind of way’.
- I love taking the lead and being recognized by others, but that’s just my ego right? How do I get rid of that?
- I feel so embarrassed telling you this, but I think I just want to be admired.
- I want to be seen, I want to share my perspective, but who do I think I am, you know? I don’t want to be arrogant.
Got that going on? I hear these mostly from women, by the way, but some guys too. Here’s the best thing I can come up with to solve this quandary…
Investigate what’s driving this desire. Far too often people are quick to shut down this desire for attention with judgement. And even if you discover that you want attention because you need validation or your mother ignored you or you want to be special because you have residual pain from being ridiculed… who cares? Don’t be so quick to dismiss that as a bad thing. If some part of you wasn’t met or seen in the past, being met or seen or getting the attention you longed for could actually heal that.
Sure, these longings could be hungry ghosts, they could be a vortex that screams more, more, more and are the exact thing we fear or judge as too self-focused. Maybe it’s a need that will never be met and there’s other work to do. Investigating further may help you to uncover that.
But for those of you who want to put yourself out there and are holding back because you don’t want to look self-congratulatory, or proud or pushy or needy or whatever else, do whatever you need to do to get over this. We need you.
If you’re concerned about being an arrogant narcissist, you’re probably not one. This world needs more people to stand out, share their gifts, demand their voice be heard. We need greater diversity in leadership.
But you need to show up. You need to cut through the noise so our attention can land on you.