10 attention-seeking behaviors to avoid if you want to be respected in life

Wanting to feel seen and heard is natural.

We’re hardwired to prioritize connection as part of our survival. So it’s understandable that we want others to take notice of us.

Yet attention-seeking can harm our relationships and lower our self-esteem.

When someone needs to have all eyes on them, it can be a sign of insecurity.

They seek the approval of others to feel worthy. But in doing so, they’re often losing others’ respect.

That’s why if you want to be respected in life it’s best to steer clear of the following attention-seeking behaviors.

1) Oversharing on social media

Many of us log online to get our daily fix of attention.

Social media is designed to keep us hooked by offering a dopamine hit with every validating like and comment that we receive.

You may think, is it really doing any harm?

The answer is, it depends.

These tools purposely tap into the way we’re designed to take pleasure from approval. So there’s often no stopping it.

But we do have to be mindful if we don’t want it it take over. Because we can quickly get addicted to the rush, making us reliant on it for our self-esteem.

When that happens, people increasingly share more and more with the sole intention of getting attention.

It’s always dangerous when you seek most of your approval outside of yourself. It leaves you at the mercy of other people’s fickle behavior.

It’s not always healthy attention that we’re getting back either.

That’s why it can easily lose you respect if you’re oversharing in a desperate plea that screams “Look at me”.  

2) Playing the martyr

Victimhood is usually used to gain sympathy but it steals your power.

Not only in the eyes of others but also in yourself.

Rather than speaking up for your needs and wants you may be tempted to suffer in silence, hoping others feel sorry for you.

It’s not always intentional. In fact, people often don’t see how attention-seeking it truly is.

They may talk endlessly about their hardships or non-stop complain about how everyone takes advantage of their good nature.

But this is usually a way of getting emotional attention.

Hearing “poor you” may make you feel vindicated and better in the moment, but it can keep you stuck.

It also loses you respect because, as pointed out by Psychology Today, “A person who plays the victim actively manipulates others by attention-seeking, inflicting guilt, and evading accountability.”

3) Fishing for compliments

We’re often told how modesty is an admirable quality.

And it is. But don’t mistake the deep-rooted security of genuine humility for attention-seeking fake self-depreciation.

When someone constantly puts themselves down it can come across as fishing for compliments.

Of course, that’s not the same as negative self-talk born out of genuinely low self-esteem.

But if we want to win respect, it’s never a good idea to gently coax compliments out of people.

Chances are it’s not as subtle as you think and so has the opposite effect of making you look quite big-headed.

4) Showing off

Showing off encompasses quite a wide range of behaviors.

It’s things like:

  • Acing the fool just to be noticed
  • Being overly loud to steel the limelight
  • Constantly flaunting your abilities
  • Non-stop self-promotion
  • Being a know-it-all who has to be right
  • Being overly competitive to prove how great you are

I think there is a strong chance that most of us have tried to show off at some point or another. I know I have.

But the more emotional maturity we gain, the more we can see that it usually doesn’t have the desired effect.

We hope it will make us seem stronger in other people’s eyes, but we actually end up looking weaker.

That’s because it’s always born out of insecurity.

5) Humble bragging

Similarly to showing off, rather than leaving people impressed, subtle boasting smacks of desperation.

It happens when we want to boost our status in someone else’s eyes, but try not to be obvious about it.

We want to prove to them that we are worthy. So we present certain accomplishments or achievements to do so.

But even when you try to disguise this with the so-called humble brag, it isn’t working in the way you may think.

In fact, studies have shown that it can make you even less likable than being upfront about it.

It’s something that led researchers to conclude:

 “The proliferation of humblebragging in social media and everyday life suggests that people believe it an effective self-promotional strategy. Yet, our results show, people readily denigrate humblebraggers. Faced with the choice to (honestly) brag or (deceptively) humblebrag, would-be self-promoters should choose the former.”

6) Lying to make yourself look better

We all know a bullsh*tter.

That’s effectively what you are when you consistently stretch the truth for the sake of your image.

Rather than leave everyone impressed by your tall tales, you just paint yourself as untrustworthy.

If others start to realize that we don’t tell the truth, it’s hard for them to respect us.

But if you’ve ever embellished the truth slightly for the sake of good storytelling, then you may be relieved to hear it can be effective in helping us to connect with others.

Research found that shared stories can warm listeners to you, even when there is reason to think an account is a little embellished.

But as pointed out by the study’s author, psychologist Holly Cole, it all rests on when exaggeration becomes clear dishonesty:

“The function of autobiographical memory is to share who you are as a person, and exaggeration can help with that (but) lying could make listeners feel less close to the storyteller.”

That means telling some serious fibs for self-interest is likely to end up backfiring.

7) Pretending to be helpless

When I was a teenager, I confess that I thought this was a good strategy to get guys to notice you.

It went like this:

Let them feel like your hero by playing down your own strengths.

Somewhere along the line, I realized what a disservice this was to not only me but them too.

In order to have self-respect, we should feel comfortable with letting our abilities shine, rather than feeling the need to cover them up.

It may not seem like it at first, but minimizing our ability in an attempt to be more appealing is actually a form of attention-seeking.

If we are to be valued for who we are, we shouldn’t have to try to lower our status to get people to take notice of us.

8) Having tantrums

Whilst this may be a common behavior in toddlers, it should have no place in the life of any self-respecting adult.

It applies to any form of emotional volatility as an attempt to get your own way.

Even if it feels like it works because others end up backing down, it’s likely going to damage their levels of respect for you.

If we’re to be taken seriously, we need to cultivate the self-awareness to see how our emotions affect us and those around us.

That way it’s easier to self-regulate them rather than be tempted to fly off the handle every time we aren’t happy with something.

9) Sulking

Using the silent treatment is a surprisingly effective way of making a point without saying a word.

Yet it’s also passive-aggressive and emotionally immature.

In some cases, stonewalling is not only attention-seeking, it’s deeply manipulative.  

It’s about withholding from someone with the intention of making a point.

Let’s be honest, it can be commonplace in relationships after an argument leaves tension in the air.

But we should be mindful of finding healthier ways to communicate.

10) Trying to be someone you’re not

I think of all the behaviors on our list, this is perhaps the one that can so easily creep in without us realizing.

We are forever being told to “just be yourself” but that can feel easier said than done sometimes.

When we really want to make a good impression we can overthink things. Whenever we try too hard, there is room for inauthenticity to crop up.

It can come from our natural human aversion to feeling socially rejected. We all want to be liked.

But we need to keep an eye out for instances when we pretend to be something we’re not.

Because it can actually be the thing that gets in the way of making the best impression.

That’s because we like sincerity in others, and we’re pretty good at spotting it.

Instead, we must find the strength to be vulnerable enough to let people see the real us.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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