Why people need too much attention and what do I do to manage them?
Or rather how to handle your reaction to them.
Hi everyone, my name is Nancy and I'm a needy co-dependant.
It's true, it's true, once upon a time I was one of 'those' people, that monopolized the conversation, fumed if everyone didn't say 'Hi' to me at a gathering and couldn't figure out why people avoided me since I was so special and totally willing to tell you about it. But at the same time I was humble in my specialness, you couldn't give me a compliment that I would accept but I had to have all of your attention.
But I'm feeling much better now. What happened? I finally got some self-confidence.
All those years of trying to get people notice me, to listen to me, to like me was to validate that I was worthy of notice, that I had something that other people wanted/needed. Because I had no confidence in myself or my abilities. Years of training at the hands of my family and the public school education system beat it into my head that I didn't have anything special, that I was stupid and the only reason anyone would pay attention to me was if they needed to use me for something. To volunteer, to work an extra shift, to do the dirty work while someone else was the social butterfly. And I bought into it, that's all that I knew so I figured that's the way it always worked. But if I was a good girl and did what people asked and just kept taking it then sooner or later it was going to be my turn.
Finally I figured out that it doesn't work that way. Several years back I started reading psychology books and working with the power of the sub-conscious mind to change the programming that had been forced on me. Took quite a bit of time and there were months when I'd take one step forward, two steps back. But it was worth it, once I figured out that the only opinion I really need to care about is my own and was able to integrate that, then my life started changing. One of the things that changed is I got fired from my job. Why? Because I was crocheting a charity blanket in an auditorium meeting. The execs considered this a sign of not being interested in the future of the company. I believe it was a danger signal that they now had a self-confident individual working for them instead of the scared automaton that I'd been for the previous 16 years and they wanted rid of me before it started spreading.
It's been a wild, scary ride since then but it's OK. Now that I have the self-confidence to know I can rely upon myself and I will succeed no matter what, it's more an adventure than a disaster that I was liberated from corporate America. My mother is still scared to death that I don't have a real job and it's a constant struggle not to allow her to talk me back into the old patterns that I fought free of.
So, if you're interacting with someone that constantly seeks attention and it's possible that it's a lack of self-confidence that is the basis of it, here's some pointers from when I was in that spot.
- Encourage them when they do something right. They've been told so often how they've messed up that even a small amount of praise can work wonders.
- If they do mess up, it can be pointed out to them without being derogatory.
- Do NOT repeat your praise to them. If you pay a compliment and the needy person pooh-poohs it, just drop that part of the conversation, do not repeat what you said. They are looking to you to validate them, that will not work, it will only escalate on you.
- Do NOT ignore social blunders. If a needy person lashes out at you for no reason, call them on it. Let them know if that's the way they're going to treat people, people won't hang around.
- Repeat the Henry Ford quote to them "If you think you can or you think you can't, either way you are right."
- Encourage them to read self-help books, watch movies such as 'The Secret' or listen to subliminal CDs to help change their programming.
- Do NOT directly tell them - 'This is what your problem is....' they won't believe you. Well, that's not true, on some level they'll believe you but they won't have the self-confidence to work with it. The result? They'll wind up resenting you for telling them the truth when they weren't brave enough to address it.
Remember that while you may need to interact with these people through your family or your job or other social interactions, it is still not your responsibility to give these people warm fuzzies. Doing so will only encourage them to ask for more from you and it can be a full time job if you get sucked into it. Take it from someone that's still in recovery, you'll be doing them a bigger favor if you don't buy into the game that they are playing.
Just as you take responsibility for yourself and your actions so do they need to take responsibility for themselves. When they are able to validate themselves then they will not need to have it from someone else.