What some people will do to get noticed

Freddy was the classroom clown. Every chance he got, he was doing something crazy, and he seemed to revel in the attention. Classmates were always talking about the latest crazy thing Freddy did.

“Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.”

— Bruce Lee, American martial artist and actor

Freddy was the classroom clown. Every chance he got, he was doing something crazy, and he seemed to revel in the attention. Classmates were always talking about the latest crazy thing Freddy did.

One time, when we were studying geography in middle school, the teacher had told Freddy to go up to the map at the front of the class and point to the continent of Africa.

As I recall, Freddy pointed to Newfoundland and everyone laughed. When he admitted to having no idea where Africa was, the teacher suggested he move his finger down the map and she would say “warmer” as he got closer.

“Hot!” she said when he nearly touched it.

At that, Freddy yelped and jumped around as though he had burned his finger. Everyone laughed and, this time, so did the teacher.

Over time, Freddy’s antics became less entertaining and more annoying.

One time, at a wedding reception, Freddy decided it would be fun to take off his pants — much to the chagrin of the bride and groom. I had noticed that when someone else was vying for attention, Freddy amped up the craziness in an effort to regain the spotlight.

One day someone told Freddy to grow up and get a life.

He seemed shocked at first and then erupted into an all-out rage — yelling obscenities at the person.

It was then I realized that Freddy’s humour had a dark side: it was serving a need greater than simply creating laughter; it was hiding a deep-seated insecurity and sense of inadequacy.

What prompts children to become attention seekers?

One of the obvious reasons is that they don’t receive enough attention from their primary caregivers — mom and dad — so they act up to be noticed and acknowledged. Freddy was the youngest of a large family, and individual attention may have been in short supply.

While some youngsters may try to be funny, others might draw attention by creating drama or being cruel to other children.

Certainly, to some extent, attention-seeking is a natural part of growing up. Children are learning and constantly reassessing — trying to figure out life and find a place in the family hierarchy, pushing the envelope and pushing buttons.

Over time, most children outgrow the inordinate need to be noticed and become less dependent on others for attention and approval.

Sometimes, attention-seeking behaviour develops not from neglect but from over-indulgence. The children are spoiled, treated as though they are superior to others and therefore deserving of the need to have all eyes and ears focused upon them.

It’s an unwarranted sense of entitlement and such individuals may feel slighted if others do not pay close attention to them.

Attention-seeking is related to self-esteem. When people don’t feel good about themselves, they may derive emotional sustenance from acting out.

When noticed by others, they feel validated and significant.

Attention-seeking can also be rooted in ego — an aspect of the psyche that wants to be seen, heard, respected and considered special often at the expense of someone else.

By developing our self-esteem, the attention we once demanded from others can be replaced by a quiet inner confidence which radiates from deep within.

Attention seeking can have its benefits. Many talented performers would never have reached stardom or international fame were it not for the insatiable need to seek attention.

And there are times, of course, when attention-seeking is the result of a psychological disorder. Funny-man Robin Williams suffers from bipolar disorder and claims the disorder drives his need to be the centre of attention.

In fact, Williams has been known to go off his meds before performing in order to reach his manic level of humour and free-wheeling mayhem.

If you’re the one seeking attention – and doing it in an unhealthy manner – you might want to ask yourself why. If it’s always about you, outdoing the other guy and being the centre of attention, it’s probably time for some serious soul-searching. Is there a deep-seated insecurity or ancient childhood hurt that needs to be acknowledged and healed? Are there ghosts from the past that need to be exorcised? Consider your motivation and ask if the need is fear-driven.

Dominating conversations with stories, drama and hijinks is a habit that needs to be broken. When in conversation with others, spend time listening and asking questions. Resist the urge to jump in with your own story and instead re-focus on what the other person is saying.

If you’re with someone who is constantly seeking attention, you’ll need to set some firm boundaries. Remember, if you tolerate poor behaviour, you will simply encourage it to continue. This can be immensely challenging and may require professional intervention.

In the years that followed, Freddy tried to remain the centre of attention at parties and such but few people were willing to tolerate his behaviour. In fact, most people refused to invite him to social gatherings for fear that he might do something crazy or embarrassing. Instead of asking if we had heard about the latest “crazy” thing Freddy had done, friends would often ask, “Did you hear about the sad and pathetic thing Freddy did the other night?”

Whatever the source of the attention-seeking behaviour, with time, effort and self-awareness, most of us can learn how to approve of ourselves, appreciate our good qualities and feel good enough without being the centre of attention.

“Never tell me the sky’s the limit when (I know) there are footprints on the moon.”

– Author Unknown

Murray M. Fuhrer – The Self-Esteem Guy