To All Of The Girls Accused Of Just Wanting Attention

6 May

TW for talk of suicide

Also a note to mention that I recognize that it’s not only women who are accused of being attention-seeking – however, it does seem to be a highly gendered thing

The first thing I need you to know is that there is nothing wrong with wanting attention. Asking people to notice you does not make you needy or pathetic or anything of the other things people have called you when you’ve somehow been too honest about your want. Wanting attention is human nature – we’re social creatures, and it’s perfectly natural to want some kind of social regard from other people.

The second thing that I need you to know is that your feelings – whatever they might be – are valid. If you want attention because you are lonely or sad or scared, you shouldn’t be ashamed of that fact. Those are very good reasons to ask for attention. Try not to let people discredit your feelings because your emotions make them uncomfortable. That is their issue, not yours.

There are so many good reasons for wanting attention. You might want to be complimented, or comforted, or distracted. You might need reassurance that the people around you love you and value your presence in their lives. You might just need that little boost to get you through the rest of the day. There is no wrong reason to want attention. Attention is not a bad thing. In fact, attention is necessary to our survival – we need attention in order to grow and thrive and develop as people. As mammals, we need other members of our species to love and care for us from the moment we’re born. That’s what sets us apart from other animals.

The third thing that I need you to know is that the best way to get what you want is to ask for it. You’ve been taught your whole life not to ask for things, to sit passively and sweetly until they come to you, but try to fight that urge. Be as clear as possible about what kind of support you want – it’s unfair to expect people to guess. If you want a compliment, then say so. If you want cute pictures of animals or funny gifs, then ask for those. If you want a shoulder to cry on or space to vent, then be honest about it. It’s hard for people to give you what you need if all they have to go on are vague suggestions.

The fourth thing that I need you to know is that you have been socialized from a very young age to compete for attention. You’ve been taught that other women are the enemy and men are the prize. You’ve been told in a thousand subtle ways that what’s most important is that you are pretty, charming, and sweet. You’ve learned to cut other girls down in order to make yourself look better. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I need you to know that you can ask for attention in a way that is not at another girl’s expense.

I also need you to know that accusing another girl of just wanting for attention is another way of cutting them down.

The fifth thing that I need you to know is that you are worth so much more than how you look. There’s nothing wrong with wanting compliments on your appearance, but you should know that your value does not depend on how pretty you are. I know that you’ve been taught since day one that beauty trumps everything else, but please, please try your hardest to unlearn that lesson. You are a smart and talented and creative and interesting creature. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough: you are so much more than your looks.

The sixth thing that I need you to know is that not all attention is created equal, and what might feel affirming in the moment might create damaging patterns in the long term. If you cannot feel pretty without having other people confirm your prettiness, asking over and over for that validation will not change your self-perception. And maybe that’s not your goal – maybe you don’t want to change. You’re allowed to not want to change. But you should know that it is dangerous to base any part of your self-esteem on the opinion of other people.

Finally, for anyone who might roll their eyes at someone who just wants attention, I need you to know that sometimes that attention – even if it’s just a hug or a phone call or a quick text message – can make an enormous difference. Sometimes it can even mean the difference between life and death. Studies show that suicide is an impulsive act, and, contrary to popular belief, if someone intervenes most often the survivor will not immediately go find some other way of killing themselves. Your text could be that intervention – you have no way of knowing what type of mental state anyone else is in, and if you sense that they need some kind of help, you should offer them whatever you can.

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25 Responses to “To All Of The Girls Accused Of Just Wanting Attention”

  1. Margy Rydzynski May 6, 2014 at 2:24 am #

    Agreed. Unfortunately, some people who need it the most are the least capable of reaching out for it.

  2. Sahara May 6, 2014 at 2:28 am #

    I am lucky enough to have a husband that, I can say to him, “I need you to pay attention to me.” And he does the same to me. Nice post. Warm and I really like how none of the six things overlapped, know what I mean? They really were distinct points.

  3. V May 6, 2014 at 2:45 am #

    This was very important, especially the last point about suicide. This is personally poignant to me, because I have a relative who was previously a cutter, and people accused her of doing it just to get attention. Sometimes it’s not about wanting attention, but NEEDING it.

  4. Luzbelitx May 6, 2014 at 2:47 am #

    I wish I had this to read 20 years ago… It’s never too soon to pass this knowledge on to other women.

    Thank you for writing it.

  5. NextInLine May 6, 2014 at 2:56 am #

    I honestly love the message here, and it is clearly and beautifully written. Self-esteem, especially for women, is a slippery little sucker, elusive and hard to get any kind of traction. Any advice this sage should really go viral.

  6. shalini393870 May 6, 2014 at 4:17 am #

    no nice

  7. Mardi3 May 6, 2014 at 5:40 am #

    Great piece. Funny, my point-to-ponder for today was a reflection on girls being socialized to not ask for what they want or need and to put others’ feelings ahead, even to our detriment.

  8. Mardi3 May 6, 2014 at 5:40 am #

    Great piece. Funny, my point-to-ponder for today was a reflection on girls being socialized to not ask for what they want or need and to put others’ feelings ahead, even to our detriment.

  9. girlseule May 6, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    Wonderful just wonderful, I work in mental health and there are so many young people I come across that could really get a lot from reading this.

  10. lruthnum May 6, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    Great post. I really hate how true the point is about how we are socialized to compete for attention – it’s so sad how much more extreme it has become in the few short years since I was at school.

  11. Amy peppermintsea.com May 6, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Excellent and important post. Thank you. This need for attention is called “strokes” in Transactional Analysis – have a look at this explanation by Psychology Muffins (there are two parts) but it shows why this attention, giving and receiving is so vital to our existence. http://psychologymuffins.com/strokes-in-transactional-analysis/

  12. Elizabeth Hein May 6, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    Great post. It’s true that someone can quite literally save a life with a well timed hug or kind word.

  13. wemarriage May 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Reblogged this on wemarriage's Blog.

  14. Justine Froelker May 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    Great piece; very true and super important! Thank you!

  15. ceruleanstarshine May 6, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    This post is excellent. Your statement that ” it is dangerous to base any part of your self-esteem on the opinion of other people.” kicked off an entire blog post for me today. Thank you for that! I used the quote, but linked back to your blog and credited it to you.

  16. alitanaka1 May 7, 2014 at 2:57 am #

    I grew up in a bilingual household with parents with conflicting values, and I internalized the message of “Don’t ask for what you want” because I was told that I was being selfish. Thank you for this post. Beautifully written and to the point. Keep doing what you’re doing. Love the blog and your writing!

  17. startledoctopus May 7, 2014 at 6:32 am #

    Reblogged this on Startled Octopus.

  18. themelbournechurchmouse May 7, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Well said.

  19. francislovely May 7, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    i love it :*

  20. Toby May 7, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    Reblogged this on Speaker's Corner.

  21. Uncouth Youth May 14, 2014 at 1:38 am #

    Reblogged this on Uncouth Youth.

  22. sammykur May 18, 2014 at 1:06 am #

    agree with this in spirit read it wouldnt pick these as my personal top of the list atleast not exclusively

  23. sammykur May 19, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    actually rereading this iagree with 123567 but #4 i dont – i dont think this as socialization as much as genetics, we are hard wired to try to reproduce and in order to ensure this we are also hard wired to attract members of the oppposite sex

  24. womanistgadfly June 8, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    This encompasses so many things that I’ve thought about the “just want attention” charge. It’s almost as if some people demonize wanting to be acknowledged by others. Which is so very wrong for the reasons you mentioned here.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Self Esteem is a Tricky, Slippery Slope | It's A Complex - May 6, 2014

    […] “But you should know that it is dangerous to base any part of your self-esteem on the opinion of other people.” -The Belle Jar […]

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