"They're Just Doing It For Attention": So What?

"They're Just Doing It For Attention": So What?

Stop pretending it's so bad or shameful to want to be acknowledged.
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"They're just doing it for attention."

You've heard that, right? And by saying that, the supposed attention-seeker is immediately disregarded, their behavior deemed petty. All of a sudden, because they're perceived to be acting in a way that calls for attention, they don't deserve the attention.

This is a problem. Mocking the needs of a person is a problem. Mocking what could be a cry for help is a problem.

"They're just doing it for attention." So what?

Every living thing needs attention. From birth we need attention from those responsible and able to keep us alive. And we all need help when we become sick and hurt, too. Whether it's a persistent flu, a broken arm or a chronic illness that requires regular supervision.

If it’s socially acceptable for us to receive attention when we’re incapable infants or physically sick, why is it not acceptable then to want attention in less apparent situations? What is so wrong with wanting attention?

Think about it. The inconvenience created by attending to this need for attention varies, but it’s time to stop pretending that it’s such a bad thing to want attention from people. As if it's not something everyone wants to some degree or other. Stop acting as if it is perfectly acceptable to ignore the stigmatized appeal for attention, or otherwise react in a way that discounts the feelings of the person, sending them the message that they’re not worth caring about. That they’re not worth the time it would take to simply listen or respond to in a reassuring way.

What I’d like to specifically refer to here is what some people call attention-seeking in regards to mental health. Attention-seeking can be, and is often, something that can be seen in a person whose mental health is following some sort of declination. Not every person who struggles with ill mental health attempts to seek additional attention in explicit or even implicit ways, but some people do, and they do for a reason.

People in need of help should be commended for reaching out, not admonished. Do you know how hard it can be to actually ask for help, especially when the concept of attention-seeking is already so stigmatized? If you don’t know, then count yourself lucky, but also take into account the message I’m trying to lay out for you here. Someone might argue a distinction between reaching out for help and what we think of when we hear the term "attention-seeking." But maybe not. Maybe what’s really different is the context and the immediacy, or lack of, within it.

So why, when a shake-your-head, roll-your-eyes attention-seeker comes to you, do you react in a way that not only ignores but blatantly opposes the intention of the action?

Playing devil’s advocate here, especially since the negative stigma attached to an attention-seeker is one I used to play into as well, here are my answers to likely complaints:

They’re always looking for attention, and it’s getting annoying.

Oh, wow. Well. If they’re still looking for attention, I would think that means that they didn’t receive the kind of attention they needed the first, second or however many times they’ve either literally, or figuratively, vigorously waved their hand in front of your face.

Or maybe they did receive the attention they needed. But maybe it’s not a one-time sort of deal. People with Borderline Personality Disorder, for instance, often require a great deal of attention to reassure them that they are legitimately cared for and loved. And the term ‘disorder’ should in no way discount the fact that the need for attention is a real need—a need that doesn't just apply to humans either. Dogs will nudge your hand with their little wet noses to try and get some love, and cats cuddle up next to you and look for any excuse to purr every once in a while, right? Just because one person asks for more attention than another doesn’t mean they don’t deserve or really need that additional love and support.

I don’t want to deal with people that needy.

Alright, then recognize that early on in the game and make sure the other person knows that. Save everyone some heartache and frustration. Recognize your emotional capacity and the time you have to give to a person. Other people need to understand that you can't always drop everything going on in your life at the drop of the hat, but let's face it: some people are more willing than others to help a person out. What you can't do, act or speak in a way that sends the message that they’re not worthy of attention. This is true for children—who universally need more guidance than healthy adults because of their underdeveloped brains—but it continues to be true throughout the entire duration of life

I won’t skirt around the fact that some attention-seeking is a cry for help from a person that may be engaging in self-destructive behaviors, or is in danger of doing so. And facing that kind of responsibility can be scary if it’s something you haven’t faced before or otherwise don’t feel like you are qualified to respond to.

But to lessen some of your fears: an acceptable response to someone seeking attention can sometimes be very simple. Simple, yet effective. Simple, yet enough, which is what matters.

What is a simple response? Listening. Sitting down with a person without keeping your phone mere inches away from your face. Even throwing the offer out there that you're willing to talk to them or do what you can to help can speak volumes. Just to know that someone is responding to you and offering a smidgen of compassion creates reassurance.

Helping someone isn’t always so simple though. Sometimes the attention they seek requires the help of someone with skill sets beyond your own, professionals that will help a person get the assistance they need. I’m an English major and uneducated when it comes to medical procedures, so I know I wouldn’t be able to mend a broken leg. When it comes to giving attention to mental health issues, treatment is typically even less-straightforward and therefore even cloudier to resolve.

But that doesn't mean a simply attentive response can't have any benefit. Responding to attention-seeking begins with a simple response. Sometimes it doesn’t necessitate further action. Sometimes a person just needs help with a school assignment, or wants a person to hang out with on a Friday night. Underlying that is a natural need to be acknowledged. Desiring attention is a natural need.

Attention-seekers don’t deserve to be shamed. They don’t deserve to be mocked or laughed at. You're allowed to be annoyed by people who constantly seem to need attention. I can't tell you how to feel. But keep in mind their intentions may not always be as shallow or self-absorbed as you think. We're all human, and we all need attention.

Cover Image Credit: maskyone / Pixabay

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.
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The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:


“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:

“FISH STICK! I NAMED HIM FISH STICK BECAUSE HE'S A FISH STICK, OF COURSE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 59)

When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:


"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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Better Not Bitter

"Let your past make you better, not bitter."

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After completing my junior year at Iowa State, I have found myself reflecting on a lot of the experiences and people who have helped me get to the point I am at today. Family obviously comes to mind, followed by my friends, my sorority sisters, my boyfriend, my professors, and my mentors. I am able to contribute a lot of my success to their support and compassion that they have shown me throughout my past three years. I am also able to contribute my success to the woman I have grown to be and to the woman I have always wanted to be. You see, three years ago, the woman I was was buried in a toxic relationship that didn't allow me to flourish into the woman I was striving to be.

Let me take a step back, this article is not meant to bash the person who it is about. In fact, it's more of a thank you. Because you see, without him letting go of me, I would have never taken the leaps and bounds out of my comfort zone to become the woman I am so damn proud to be today. This is also not meant to say that I am I glad I was in such a toxic relationship, it was honestly so terrible that I wouldn't wish it upon anyone but I am in fact, thankful. I learned more from that relationship that I have in anything else in my life.

First, I learned to be a fighter, and not in a bad way. I learned to stand up for myself and what I believe in. I have become vocal about my passions and stand up for people when they are treated wrong. I no longer let people walk all over me, but rather I stand my ground firmly and confidently. Thank you.

Second, I learned to be fierce. Fierce in love, kindness, compassion, and willpower. I believe in my abilities and the things I am able to accomplish if I set my mind to something. I have learned that in being fierce, there is absolutely no time to doubt myself which has worked greatly in my favor. I learned that demanding respect in all relationships I have formed has been about me making the decision to make myself a priority and learning to never settle for any less than I deserve, ever again. Thank you.

Third, I learned compassion. I learned to be kind to the other woman, and mostly, to the person who chose to hurt me. It took everything in me to remain kind while I was being hurt, but I am so thankful that I stayed true to the values and morals I was raised on. I have carried this with me throughout the past three years by choosing to show compassion to all people around me, and looking deeper into the reasons behind the actions and decisions that people make. Often times there is something going on behind closed doors and because of that, it is important to always, always radiate kindness. Thank you.

I wanted to extend my gratitude to the person who hurt me because if you hadn't, I wouldn't be the badass, boss girl, powerful woman that I am today. I am confident, smart, loving, and fully capable of giving and receiving the kindest, most sincere kind of love. My life has changed for the better, and I wouldn't change a single thing. I wish you the best, because let me tell ya, it feels great.

By the way, if you ever feel like you deserve better than what you're receiving in a relationship, trust your gut & walk the hell away. It's worth it.

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