Monday, 5 February 2018

In the shadows

Unlike so many other people, I'm not an attention-seeker. Or at least, not as an adult. Of course as a child, like most children, I sought attention non-stop. I wanted everyone to look at my new toy or laugh at my hilarious joke or adore my brilliant drawing. But somewhere along the line I began to find the attention annoying rather than enjoyable.

Nowadays I habitually shy away from attention. I don't want people hanging on my every word. I don't want people scrutinising me and judging me. I would rather keep out of the limelight and not be noticed. I find too much attention embarrassing and awkward.

I'm always astonished at those people who have such a craving for attention that they don't care how awful or childish they look, how stupid or rude or insensitive. As long as they're the centre of attention, they're happy.

So why do I avoid attention? What made me want to hide in the shadows? Well, for the reasons given above, for a start. Because sooner or later I'll say something stupid or rude or insensitive and wish I'd never opened my mouth. Because I'm much more likely to say something clueless than something smart. Because someone out there will be forming a negative opinion of me. Because attention-seeking is a competitive sport and I'm not a competitive person.

I suppose it's partly a family thing. Most of my family are and were unassuming attention-avoiders, keeping themselves to themselves, and I must have picked up the habit. The only blatant attention-seeker was my father, who expected an audience at all times and got furious if we ignored him.

Which is one of the drawbacks of attention-seeking of course. If you're not getting enough attention, you're liable to sulk and throw tantrums until you do. Or do something totally crazy just to get everyone's eyes on you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to run away and hide.

25 comments:

helen devries said...

I prefer to let others make a spectacle of themselves....

Bijoux said...

I don't hide, nor do I seek the spotlight. I consider myself fairly normal in that regard.

CheerfulMonk said...

I mostly don't seek the limelight, but I'm not afraid of it. I used to be self-conscious speaking to large groups, but a few years in Toastmasters International cured me of that. One of the best challenges I've ever taken.

CheerfulMonk said...

PS The secret was to stop worrying about what people thought, good or bad, and focusing on them, on sharing something I cared about.

nick said...

Helen: Me too. While I enjoy the entertainment.

Bijoux: That sounds like a good balance.

Jean: I don't think being a Toastmaster is quite my thing. But it looks like a good cure for a shrinking violet. I don't worry much about other people's thoughts, but I'd rather they weren't thinking about me!

kylie said...

Nobody is really so interested, Nick!
I always think it's a bit weird for people to be retiring because they don't like the spotlight. If you stand in front of an audience for more than two minutes you realise most of them are more interested in the fly crawling up the wall or the back of their eyelids

Rummuser said...

I flatter myself that I am just an ordinary bloke who can handle attention when he gets it but does not go looking for it. I am not shy nor am I a narcissist.

nick said...

Kylie: I'm sure you're right, that other people are barely noticing me and are probably miles away. Nevertheless they're potentially scrutinising me and that puts me off. Over-sensitivity no doubt but there it is....

Ramana: You seem to have found a good balance as well.

Polly said...

When I was in a drama group I loved being in the limelight, I wasn't a diva, just enjoyed being on stage. Now, like Cheerful Monk, I don't seek it but wouldn't shy away from it.

nick said...

Polly: I wish I could find that happy medium! It would make life a lot easier....

tammy j said...

I follow a blog that says on her about page that she is a solitary person but is chatty. or something similar to that.
I think I might be like that too. I love solitude and I seldom purposely seek the limelight.
but I do have the habit of talking too much. either in person or virtually.
comments way too long. a habit I vowed to stop. (once again) in 2018.
"so how's it working for you tam?" LOLOL.

CheerfulMonk said...

You could train yourself out of it if you really wanted to, but it would take a lot of commitment and practice. Might not be worth the effort.

nick said...

Tammy: I'm not likely to be accused of talking too much any time soon! Unless it's a subject dear to my heart, in which case you might not be able to shut me up....

Jean: There would be a lot of inhibition to overcome. And a lot of self-consciousness. Or perhaps they're much the same thing?

CheerfulMonk said...

It would no doubt be a lot of work, but it has been done and you would learn a lot in the process. And you would no doubt be proud when you managed it.

joared said...

Your young attention-seeking behaviors made me wonder if you were an only child, or if you had siblings and were trying to compete for attention? Entering puberty with all the insecurity adolescence can bring sometimes lingers on I think, especially if experiences have occurred to alter self-perception. How much genetics enters into it all I don’t know. I don’t recall seeking attention for that purpose alone, though I have pleasant memories of a few stage performances as a young child — piano, dance recitals. I especially enjoyed performing in high school, college, one live TV drama, and amateur theatre productions — playing characters other than myself. As a young adult I was less comfortable speaking as myself before a group unless it was a topic of special interest to me in which I could lose myself.

nick said...

Jean: I will give it some more thought!

Joared: I had a sister two years younger, so I might well have been competing for attention. But I thought it was pretty normal for kids to demand attention.

Four years of being bullied at boarding school might also have contributed to my attention-avoidance. Also, there was no privacy and there were always other boys around, so that might have given me a lingering desire for privacy as an adult.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I don't think I particularly seek out attention but I'm also not avoidant of it. I'm comfortable leading a meeting at work, teaching a class, and (when younger) performing on stage.

CheerfulMonk said...

What do you think of these articles?

https://www.wikihow.com/Stop-Feeling-Self-Conscious

https://www.bustle.com/articles/143401-7-tips-on-how-to-stop-feeling-self-conscious

http://www.peopleskillsdecoded.com/how-to-stop-being-self-conscious/

https://www.shoutmeloud.com/overcome-self-consciousness.html

nick said...

Agent: Another person with a healthy balance. I blame the way I was treated at boarding school! (yes, but that was over 50 years ago - Ed)

Jean: Thanks for the links. I'll have a look at them later on.

CheerfulMonk said...

"(yes, but that was over 50 years ago - Ed)"

Smart editor! I've always figured my genetics and early experiences gave me a rough draft to work on. It was up to me to do the rewriting.

nick said...

Jean: I'm rewriting all the time, but probably rewriting the wrong bits.

Wisewebwoman said...

I don't think "most" people seek attention, as you say at the beginning. If I care passionately about something I do give talks, but it's not for the limelight or attention but a genuine desire to help others, I seek no applause or plaudits.

I've done stage work and folk singing and held community and municipal positions which entailed speech-making but I never did these for limelight or attention but to feel a need or in response to civic responsibility and pulling my weight.

I often wonder who you're hanging with Nick. As you're thinking appears often to be so black and white and the effects of that might blinker you a little to the endless permutations of human existence, none of which can be securely boxed up and labelled as neatly as you wish them to be.

But I do understand childhood insecurity and confusion as to one's place in the world.

I think we need to work through such feelings. I know I have. And no, hell my life is not perfect by a long shot and I have good days and bad days but I'm open to the universe unfolding and giving me delightful surprises.

XO
WWW

nick said...

www: Goodness, I think that's the longest comment you've ever left on my blog! Thank you for that. Yes, perhaps I exaggerate the number of attention-seekers because I spend a lot of time working with politicians! And I'm very aware of the endless permutations of human existence - a lot more aware than when I was a child and people seemed to be much easier to categorise. But perhaps I'm still not aware enough?

I wouldn't say I'm confused about my place in the world. That's pretty straightforward. I'm simply saying that I feel very uncomfortable when I'm getting too much attention from other people. I much prefer one-to-one conversations (like this one).

Everyone has good days and bad days and I'm no exception. But that's not what I'm referring to either. Sometimes I seem to be very inept at getting my point across!

Jenny Woolf said...

I empathise with many of your feelings. Reading your piece I couldn't help thinking you wouldn't fit in very well with some members the current Government!

nick said...

Jenny: Indeed. Most politicians love to be in the spotlight, and they'll mouth the most amazing rubbish in the process!