I love attention. We all do. It makes us feel good. It’s one of the most addictive drugs out there. But what happens when you start to crave that social validation? When you’re desperate for it on a daily basis. How can it impact your life? Today, we’ll be diving deep into why we seek attention and the dangers associated with it. We’ll finish off with 3 quick questions to find out what’s motivating you.
Herd Mentality – Evolutionary perspective
Also known as mob mentality, this phenomenon describes how people can be influenced by their friends, families to change certain behaviours. Let’s look at it from the evolutionary perspective. I’ll tell you a story about two cavemen. Sawney and Bean.
Sawney is your average caveman. Every day, he wakes up bright and early to hunt with his tribe. Together, they track wild boars, eventually killing them for their meat. This is their way of life. Sawney goes to bed fed and perfectly content with his life.
Now, there’s Bean. He is more of the oddball of the group. Instead of going to bed early at night, he skips rocks into the nearby river for hours on end. Now, because of this behaviour, he has been missing out on the hunting party, as he is still asleep. Since he doesn’t participate, he doesn’t get his food.
After a few days of not eating, he is faced with a critical choice. Either change his behaviour and go to bed early like the rest of his hunting party or starve to death. He chooses the rocks and eventually dies a few days after.
You may think of a this as just a silly story, but it shines a light on how humans worked back then. Sawney conformed to the standards set by his society. So, he ended up living long enough to pass on his DNA. Back then, it was genetically advantageous to be accepted by your group. If you were an outcast like Bean, then you’d end up isolated from the group, and dying without passing on your genes. There was no amazon, no grocery stores, you needed people to survive.
Multiple generations later, things are very different. We’re not as reliant on others as before. The human race is becoming incredibly self-sufficient. However, those behaviours are still ingrained in our DNA. We’re all still desperate to be accepted like Sawney. This has led us to become a society run by social validation. It’s not always a bad thing but it can cause a lot of problems.
The danger of social validation
The fundamental issue with craving validation is that as you lose a sense of who you are. You become just like everybody else. Growing up, I internalised this need so much that I became a people pleaser. Always desperate to fit in with the popular group.
Most people go through this phase in their life when they are younger. It’s weirdly expected as we learn from others how to integrate into society. Pretty standard, right? The scary thing is the sheer number of adults who take this to the extreme. I should know, I was one of them. I honestly thought I grew out of it. It wasn’t until I took a hard look at myself recently that I saw my addiction clear as day.
The realisation came one evening as I watched an episode of anime. It was a particularly important episode, and so I was extremely excited. As the episode concluded, I grabbed my phone eager to post about it on Instagram, but then I stopped.
It’s nerdy to post that. No one’s going to understand anyways. People will unfollow me. What’s the point? So, I dropped the phone. Slowly, my happiness faded and gave way to a mellow sadness. I took out my journal, curious as to find the reason why.
After some searching, I noticed that I had been repressing my nerdy side for years. I now recognize that I did this out of fear that people would think badly of me. So, I hid in my room, keeping this major part of me secret from the outside world. It’s incredibly soul-crushing when you realize how unkind you can be to yourself.
So, recently, I’ve started taking the leap. Getting out of my comfort zone. Recommending anime to friends. Being more open about my nerdy side to people. How they receive it is none of my concern. All I can do is be me as much as possible (a maximalist philosophy I have adopted).
3 questions to find your why
So, the next time you want to make an important decision or change in your life, I want you to honestly answer these three questions. Let’s find out the source of your motivation.
What do you want to change?
First of all, you’re going to need to identify the thing that you want to change. Do you want to be more athletic? Are you considering a career change into singing, modelling, whatever? Be as specific as possible. When you’re done with that, I want you to get a journal/notepad/laptop and write it out as clearly as possible. For me it was:
I want to be nerdier.
What event triggered this want?
Secondly, I want you to have a deep think as to what triggered this desire to change. This is a very difficult task, so really take the time to explore your thoughts. Was there a specific event leading up to this desire? Recent breakup? Losing a job? Once you have your answer, note it down in the journal as well. Mine was:
I want to be nerdier because I always feel down when I repress that side of me.
What do you hope will happen as a result of this change
Now, this is the most important step. You have to think about what you want to get out of this change? At this point, it will start becoming clear as to whether you’re doing this for yourself, or whether you’re doing it for others. Are you’re hoping that you’ll be more attractive to others by changing? Let’s be honest, that’s not for you. Hoping that you’ll get more likes on social media? Although it’s tempting to say it’s for you, it’s still not.
Both these things rely on other people to make you feel good. People who are out of your control. It’s time to take back that control and to return the focus to yourself. Once you pick out something that feels right for you, put it all together. I wrote:
I want to be nerdier because I feel down when I repress that side of me. I’m hoping that by doing this, I’ll feel more comfortable in my own skin.
There’s no reason to feel guilty for wanting social validation. We all do it. It’s perfectly normal. However, it can still cause a lot of problems if left unchecked. The main lesson here is that you should never change for anyone but yourself.
What do you think? Do you catch yourself craving attention in your daily life? Are you more of a Sawney or a Bean? Let me know in the comments below, I’m curious.
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