Look At Me, Look At Me!

February 07, 2014

handstand

Remember the lengths you'd go to to get your mom's attention? When you were doing a cartwheel, gave the dog a faux-hawk or just wanted to tear her away from her phone call? Most of us haven't outgrown that need for attention or validation.

We see it everywhere. And while it's easy to point our finger at social networks like Facebook or Twitter and the people who overshare, humblebrag and not-so-humblebrag (c'mon, we've all done it), judgment aside, we all have this need for validation and attention. We're human, for better or worse.

megaphone

And according to famed American psychologist Abraham Maslow, all of us mere mortals share a hierarchy or ladder of basic human needs. Since 1943, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs said that before we were able to pay attention to our health or security, we needed to have our basic needs for food, water and sleep met. And that once we felt that our basic biological and safety needs were met, we would be free to seek friendship, love and a sense of belonging. Makes sense. We're much happier and easier to be around when we're safe, sound and satisfied, too (BBQ Ridgies anyone?).

hands

When these human needs to be recognized and feel validated are fulfilled, we feel a sense of belonging. And when we belong and create our community, it protects us, just like it did from physical harm in the earliest days and just like it does physically and mentally today.

"Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our health. People who have satisfying relationships have been shown to be happier, have fewer health problems and live longer. In contrast, having few social ties is associated with depression, cognitive decline and premature death."

Read more at Harvard's Womens Health Watch.

But aren't we missing the point if we put self-promotion and our own need for attention ahead of connection? Is this the best path toward being understood and loved, this sometimes incessant focus on ourselves? Aren't we drowning out some of the quieter, more personal appeals at getting to know each other, understanding each other and being real when we're yelling Look At Me!?

minds

After we've had our dinner and our eight hours of sleep and we aren't in harm's way, maybe it's time to put down the megaphone and listen. We're looking for Likes and Shares and all 332 friends to nod collectively in agreement at what we say (because it feels good), but deep down we all really just yearn to belong, to be understood and loved. Wired or not, this is what we need to survive and thrive.

So here's what we're advocating in honor of Valentine's Day: a little less Look At Me! and a little more Look At You! Because really attention is a gift and you know what they say about gift giving. It's better to give than to receive.

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