Why It’s Great To Want Attention | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Why It’s Great To Want Attention


I think we’d all like to believe that we don’t care whether anyone pays attention to us.  We’re heroically forging our own path, and if other people don’t care about what we’re doing or think it’s important, that’s just their loss.  But if we’re honest with ourselves, I think we’ll see that the reality is a little different.

If you’re a blogger, for example, can you truthfully say you don’t care whether anyone reads what you write?  If it didn’t matter whether anyone read your writing, why would you bother blogging at all?  Just to organize your thoughts?  Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

Uh oh, now we’re treading into dangerous territory, aren’t we?  If you admitted you wanted attention from others, wouldn’t that make you a narcissist?  A people-pleaser?  A needy child in a grownup’s body?  There’s nothing good about that, is there?

The Gift of Narcissism

Or is there?  Do you suppose Michelangelo would have spent four years painting the Sistine Chapel if he didn’t care whether anyone saw it?  That Shakespeare would have written all those plays if he didn’t care whether anyone read them?  That Michael Jackson would have recorded Thriller if it didn’t matter whether anyone heard it?

My point is that the human desire for attention has gifted us with a massive amount of brilliant creative output.  If people didn’t care about being noticed by others, the world would be far poorer for it.

And, yes, that same desire has probably produced some horrors in human history.  I’ll grant you that, if Hitler didn’t care about getting attention, he probably wouldn’t have bothered to become chancellor of Germany.  Maybe he would have stayed an unappreciated artist.

But all this means is that our desire for attention, like any other human quality, has light and dark sides.  It isn’t inherently good or bad.  If we consciously harness it, it can help us do incredible things for the world.

Letting Go Of Denial

I think it’s a shame, then, that we often hate and deny our desire for attention.  Instead of acknowledging it in ourselves, we project it onto others.  “They’re the narcissists and people-pleasers,” we tell ourselves.  “I’m just doing my own thing.”  Or maybe we see it in ourselves, but do our best to keep it hidden.

What if, instead of hating it, we accepted — and maybe even appreciated — this part of ourselves?  What if we recognized that, without it, we’d be less able to give our gifts to the world?

I know, the ideal in personal growth is for your work to be an expression of your wholeness, rather than an attempt to become whole.  But there’s a reason we call that an ideal.  It’s something we aspire to, but we don’t usually achieve 100% in practice.

It may sound like a paradox, and in a sense it is, but if you want to be fully okay with yourself, I think you need to accept the part of yourself that doesn’t feel okay unless it’s getting attention.  You can’t have unconditional self-love without loving all of your parts, imperfect as they may seem.

Oh, and thanks for paying attention to me and reading this.

10 thoughts on
Why It’s Great To Want Attention

  1. Mark

    I believe attention is a by-product of our passion. I believe Michelangelo and Michael Jackson created because they loved to create and that the attention was a plus and for some like M. Jackson the attention in many ways became a negative. We create and do what we do because of our passions. We do often enjoy the attention, however if that attention went away many of would still continue to do what we love.

  2. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Mark — it sounds like you would do what you’re doing even if no one noticed, which seems wonderful to me. And, if there’s anyone reading this who occasionally finds themselves wanting attention (I know sometimes I do), I just want to invite them to celebrate that desire, instead of beating themselves up over it.

  3. Sara

    Chris — I think you are right on about accepting our need for attention. When you get down to the basics, we are social creatures and the need for attention comes with this. I agree that it’s not a good or a bad thing, unless it goes to extremes.

    I also agree we should celebrate the things we love to do and invite others to be a part of this. I love blogging not only because I can share my writings with others, but also because bloggers share a mutual “attention” to each other. It’s part of the etiquette of blogging:~)

    BTW: Some time ago on Davina’s site, you mentioned that you were going to start sharing your music on your blog. I would love to give some of my “attention” to your music…hopefully soon:~)

  4. Jannie Funster

    Getting comments and attention on my blog is such icing on the cake when I have put up a post that I felt particularly inspired and creative with. The energy exchange on that is the best feeling! I just love the whole blogging medium, how one can create and express not only with words, but with photos, MP3s, and video too. It really is a limitless canvas. (And I revel in my normalcy for enjoying the attention!)

    And funny with writing songs, if they were just for me, I’d be fine with that forever, the sheer creation and fruition of bringing a song idea full circle. But people are always asking me to share, so I do veer in that direction sometimes! :)

  5. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Jannie — yes, maybe “energy exchange” is a more uplifting term for it than “getting attention.” Also, I revel in your normalcy too. :) And you can definitely count me among the people who would like you to veer in the direction of sharing your songs.

  6. Davina

    Hi Chris.
    For some strange reason this post is not showing in my Reader. The last post of yours that I can see is “Guest Post at Awake Is Good: Clear Mind, Wise Heart”. All this time I’ve been wondering when your next post would be. Thankfully Sara told me about this one. I’m going to delete the old subscription and re-subscribe to this feed.

    Unless I’ve misunderstood… I’m not convinced that wanting attention equates to narcissism. I think it’s a normal human desire. From my perspective, I would feel at some disadvantage if I admitted I needed or wanted attention from someone. And a narcissist wouldn’t, from what I believe, see themselves in that way; that would admit a weakness. Course, I’m no expert on this; these are just my thoughts.

    But I do get what you’re saying about wanting to be noticed; to share what we are good at. Cause usually when we know we are good at something, we want to share it.

  7. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Davina — thanks for the heads up. I agree — I don’t think wanting attention is “narcissistic” either, at least in the negative way that people often use the term. Like you say, I think people tend to feel vulnerable admitting that they want someone else’s attention (which seems to be a necessary part of, say, intimate relationships), and with this post I want to give some encouragement to people who are reluctant to admit it and thus actually end up holding themselves back in life.

  8. Evan

    Well, I’ll own up to sometimes being a needy child in a grown-ups body. And that even when I’m being adult having someone caring for me deeply (which certainly involves them paying attention to me) feels great.

    The good in knowing that I’m a needy child? An end to grandiosity and a dose of humility.

  9. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Evan — I like that way of putting it — that remembering how childlike we remain in some ways keeps us from getting all self-important and status-obsessed as adults.

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