Jhalli asks: How can I stop myself from seeking the attention of everyone in my college?
Hi Jhalli –
I like attention.
Or let me rephrase that – I LOVE attention!
I like being noticed by dogs, by other animals, and especially by people. I like people to get as excited to see me as I am to see them, I love strangers petting my head, I love anyone saying “What a beautiful dog!” But what I love most of course is when my special friends, or my most special friend Handsome, give me more attention than I can take! Overwhelmed with love, I just get so excited I can’t take it!
But I also have experienced the problem of wanting it too much. Like when Handsome and a friend are having a really intense conversation, and I’m jumping into their laps. Or when he and a girlfriend are cuddling and smooching and all that stuff and I stick a toy in her lap (what’s the problem? Clearly she likes saliva, right?). Or when he’s sleeping and I think a good loud bark is a fine idea! In each of these cases, my cry-out for attention gets the opposite response from what I wanted – everyone’s peeved at me, and sending me away.
So I’m guessing that’s kind of what’s been happening to you at college. So what to do about it?
Well the answer isn’t about them. Everyone else is just themselves, and you can’t change them. And it’s not that you’re necessarily doing it wrong. The issue is, like me in those examples, that you’re too needy for the attention. And that’s because you’re feeling too insecure.
You see, if I am feeling friendly and secure, and I walk up to Handsome while he’s talking with someone, he’ll reach over and give me a pat. And if I lie down next to him while he’s cuddling with someone, one of them will eventually reach over and give me a hug and a kiss, and even throw a toy for me to chase.
So what you need, Jhalli, is to learn to
relax about it. And that’s not easy.
My best suggestion would be that you try doing some quiet meditation or prayer, just so you get used to sitting in silence, breathing deeply, connecting to yourself. Try that for at least a couple of weeks.
And then, the next time you’re around some other people and feel that need for attention, just breathe in. See what it’s like to be totally silent. Now maybe the others will ignore you, not even notice, and walk on. Okay – though that means they’re kind of rude. But more likely, someone will feel a bit of discomfort and try to bring you into the conversation. “Hey Jhalli, you’re being awfully quiet. What do you think about this?”
And if so, you’ll feel better. You’ll get some attention – not big wild attention, but quiet, respected notice.
And after you practice this for a while, you can start to develop a very special skill – the ability to figure out just the right thing to say to enter a conversation. By reading what people are saying and feeling, and an idea coming into your head, and taking a second to think of how that idea would fit in – and if it feels right, speaking up.
So this is all very good socially. But what if that’s not enough for you? If you get good at this, but still feel needs that aren’t getting met?
Well in that case, I’d suggest you start working on something to get more attention of the other kinds – join a sports team, audition for a play, run for student government, learn an instrument and start playing it… all these are of course just great!
And if those don’t work either? Oh then there’s the most beautiful “last resort” – start a job or some volunteer work with dogs! We LOVE paying attention to the humans we get, and if you walk us, or clean out our cages, or help us at the vets’ office, we will give you more love and notice than you know what to do with!
So at least try that first step, to help you in social situations. But after that, see what works.
And realize – there is NOTHING wrong with wanting, craving, and loving attention. Your job is just to get to where your wish for it stops hurting.
Thanks again – it’s been lovely paying attention to you while writing this!