For individuals with self esteem, friends are only needed to offer emotional support, and the fewer but more loyal the number, the better it is for them.
When I speak to individuals needing attention, I try to pinpoint one incident in their lives in which they received subtle, positive, attention. They may have done someone a favor, they may have contributed to a group, or they may have "stood out" in a learning group as the most knowledgeable ones. If I was there at that time, I would have asked them to savor the moment. If not, I would have asked them to reminisce about that time.
My first advice to the parents and friends of those attention seekers is to pinpoint such an incident. If they can't, they should orchestrate an event so that the attention seekers will succeed and they can discuss it with them. If it's repeated several times over a short period of time, it can alter their priorities from wanting a "cheap thrill' to actually having a feeling of accomplishment. This would transform them into confident individuals.
My second advice is that they shouldn't focus on what's causing the feelings of accomplishment. For example, children that have a gift for music should be allowed to promote that talent. The cost of the music lessons and instruments should be considered as more than the chasing of a hobby. These expenses are for a form of therapy; one that prevents instead of repairs.
My third advice is that they should be more available to such children. As with everyone who lacks self esteem, these children will require multiple proofs that they're important to those around them.
Parents will find that when attempting to cultivate an ongoing, healthy, relationship, attention seekers aren't satisfied with subtle, positive, attention, because it has to be waited for, can't be created, and comes in frequently. In addition, subtle acknowledgments don't have the same firework effects as short term attention.
For example, being more knowledgeable then one's peers may not get noticed until it happens several times, and this may span weeks or months. Even when it's noticed, the friends won't "bow down' to the more knowledgeable individuals. The "high" received through the respect they get will be subtle, and will require them to "think" about what others think of them.
What the attention seekers must recognize is that the positive feelings associated with positive attention, last much longer than other attention seeking incidents. They come from positive actions, and will make them appreciate that they're truly good people. This is more than a fleeting feeling, and allows them to build their self esteem.
Another difficulty with achieving real respect is that it must come without trying to attain it. Truly deserved respect comes from one's actions and not from one's desire to be respected. Body language is very powerful, and superficiality shows in it.
Everyone can achieve real respect, however, attention seekers must look downward and not around. They must begin to lead their lives by placing "one foot in front of the other". They must live their lives doing what they're supposed to be doing and without wondering what others will think of them. Over time, this'll get them the respect they deserve. Doing it right will, in most cases, bring them even more respect then they imagined.
Attempting to focus on doing the right thing and not worrying about what others may think, may require an understanding of what the right thing is. They may need to find a Rebbi, Rebbitzen, or other role model, to explain to them how to live a life full of values.
A common setback for those attention seekers trying to change is caused by their trying to undertake difficult projects, that are beyond their abilities to succeed. They need to be patient and pace themselves. More importantly, they need to learn that respect goes more to those who have correct priorities and less to those who actually succeed. This is a mature lesson that requires time. (I've written several articles on my view of correct values by which to live. For copies, please contact the Areivim office.)
In addition to gaining the respect of others (which may take weeks or months), there's an additional advantage for attention seekers to change. They live an intense life. They're always on edge hoping someone will notice them. They hardly ever enjoy themselves. When they're with close friends, they sometimes forget about what others are thinking of them and feel at ease. This uncommon feeling can be theirs most of the time if they're willing to "let go" of their attention seeking lifestyle.
Those individuals who focus on being respected and stop satisfying themselves with looking for attention, will find that the negative attention that used to help them survive is unable to offer them real satisfaction. Having tasted "real life", negative attention won't offer them the 'high' they used to pursue. They'll only be able to enjoy those experiences that present themselves as worthy of respect.
It's difficult to change one's self, but doing it offers them their only chance of escaping their personal jail sentence.
For more information about Areivim please contact us by phone at 845-371-2760 or by e-mail at Areivim@juno.com
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