Let’s face it, the currency of our day and age is attention. Everyone and everything is doing their absolute best to steal even just a tiny bit of your attention, including me.
That old expression “Oh she’s just doing it for attention” is an interesting one to me. I’m not exactly sure when wanting attention became a bad thing, but if you look at children they have absolutely no shame over wanting lots and lots of attention. We are wired for connection, and we were born to vie for attention because the only way to connect is to first gain another human’s attention. In fact, they say loneliness is a bigger threat to your health than smoking or heart disease.
So, here we are feeling less and less connected and all of us are looking for more and more attention. Why?
Why is it that the people who seem to have the most attention feel the least connected and the most lonely?
I think a lot of it comes back to some seriously outdated views about how much attention we should give our children. It’s some Doctor Spock shit. I know attachment parenting is becoming more popular and I think that’s a great thing. However, I think there is still a lot of misunderstanding about attachment, how it develops and what it takes to create secure attachments. My favourite resource for info about this topic is from Gabor Mate and Dr. Gordon Neufeld.
I almost guarantee you that the super famous people who are lonely and depressed didn’t develop secure attachments to any caregivers as children. In fact, I once heard a quote by Marilyn Monroe (who allegedly commit suicide) that went like this:
“I need everyone to love me. I must belong to the whole world because I have never belonged to anyone or anything in my whole life. And I fear that I never ever will.”
I believe the sometimes we believe that if we get attention, we will feel connected but deep connection comes from secure attachments not just attention on its own.
When we feel attached and grounded to loving caregivers, we feel like we have a solid foundation in the world and we feel safe. Then we grow up and we know how to get into secure and healthy relationships. But when we don’t have a model for how that is supposed to look, many of us end up feeling isolated and lonely. I also think its a big reason that so many marriages today fail.
I also think a lot of people who feel lonely and isolated believe that not many people know the “real them”.
So, in comes social media and we all feel that maybe we can have just a piece of the coveted feeling of admiration. We put forward our best selves and we want to feel seen and heard and validated. We all want to feel seen, heard and validated- so we reach for attention.
My question is, why are we shaming people for *trying* (albeit maybe not in the healthiest ways) to meet this essential human need of connection?
I think it’s directly related to the fact that we still don’t view mental health/well-being as a top priority. There is still so much stigma about being “weak” if you share these vulnerable feelings. I am completely guilty of that.
Not so long ago, emotional people made me feel truly uncomfortable. Here’s an example, when I was pregnant with Rosen, George Micheals died around Christmas. My father-in-law and my husband got emotional about it because they had so many fond memories about him and his music. It made me angry. I couldn’t understand why the death of someone they didn’t even know could upset them so much. I chalked it up to them having had too much to drink. Their emotions made me uncomfortable because I didn’t have the coping mechanisms handle my own (working on that, but that’s another story) and there for felt it was weak to show them.
That might not be specifically related to attention and attachment but it just goes to show that from an emotional standpoint, we have a long way to go.
A few weeks ago I was watching The American Meme on Netflix and Kendall Jenner mentioned that people often accuse them of doing what they do solely for attention, and her response really got me. She said “ I just don’t see what’s wrong with that”.
I agree. I don’t see why there is so much shame surrounding wanting attention. Obviously the intentions may not all be the same, but it’s usually coming from the same need- to feel seen, heard, validated, and even loved.
So instead of shaming random people on the internet for wanting attention, why don’t we just focus on giving more attention to those we love and developing those deeper connections that we’re all hoping for in the first place?