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6 Good Reasons to Stop Being The Center of Attention

6 Good Reasons to Stop Being The Center of Attention

Americans are bombarded with manipulative signals from the media on a daily basis. It started generations ago with sexy billboard models, magazines and ad campaigns playing on our insecurities. With the recent rise of reality television, talent-less pop stars, cosplay and the instant gratification of social media, attention seeking behavior has become disturbingly common. Even if you were sheltered from such influences as a child, you probably grew up with a long list of insecurities. This is what the economy and society is built on. The source may be outside of your control, but you still get to decide how actively you want to participate. Attention seeking behavior is unhealthy and it might be destroying your relationships as we speak. Here are a few pointers on how to stop being the center of attention.

Admit Your Problem

The first step to any big behavioral change is to address the problem. Attention seeking behavior is often a source of gratification and positive reinforcement. This means it is unlikely you will modify these behaviors before they have resulted in a level of misfortune to equal or outnumber your positive experiences. Some people never get to this point. If you know yourself well enough to be reading this, you are on the right track. Here are a few questions you should ask before you decide to make a change:

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  • Do you feel threatened when other people are in the spotlight instead of you?
  • Do a lot of people seem to dislike you for unknown reasons?
  • Do you have trouble working with others without being in a position of authority?
  • Do you respond negatively to the success of others?
  • Do you interrupt or talk over people in conversations?
  • How often do you feel jealous? Be honest.
  • Do you require photos to be displayed of everything you do?
  • Would you describe yourself as an exhibitionist?
  • Have you ever been called things like dominant, alpha, or diva?

In answering these questions with unabashed honesty, you should be able to determine if your attention seeking behavior has reached problematic levels. Most people will answer yes to a few of these. If you answer yes to more than half, you might want to keep reading.

Take Inventory of Your Insecurities

Attention seeking behavior is quite often indicative of deep seated insecurities. Start by making a list of the things you are insecure about. Think about where these insecurities came from and why you feel this way. From there, list all the ways in which you are acting out to overcompensate for these supposed shortcomings. Ask yourself whether or not the attention you get from acting out is really doing anything to make you feel more secure or confident in yourself. Then try to think of other, more effective ways you might be able to work on these insecurities. It helps to keep a daily journal of reflections and general observations throughout this process.

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center of attention

    Observe Your Behavior

    Once you have done some writing and meditated from a distance, try to catch yourself acting out in real time. You will find your motivations are a bit easier to pinpoint from inside the moment. Don’t try to stop yourself at first, just pay attention to what is happening and where it is coming from. Note how the attention makes you feel and what drives you to seek it out. Then, pay attention to the consequences. Did you step on anyone’s toes on your way to the spotlight? Did people praise your performance? How did this praise make you feel? Did anyone seem to be put off by your actions? Why do you think that might be? You should write about these observations in detail to allow for thorough analysis. If you are having trouble getting started, try thinking back every evening to a time when you actively sought out rewards or attention that day. Then write about it in retrospect. If you do this every day for a while, it should get easier for you to catch yourself and think about things in the moment. Try to maintain this mindful presence as constantly as possible once you get the hang of it.

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    Stop Trying to Influence Others

    Many people who seek attention on a grand scale have issues related to control. They have a hard time controlling themselves, yet they are highly motivated to control others. Since others are more heavily influenced by example than intentions, attention seekers spend a lot of time getting frustrated when things do not go according to their plans or wishes. News flash: you cannot expect other people to do what you want them to. You cannot control anyone else, and the more you expect from others the more you will be disappointed. Turn your energy inward and make yourself into a better example of what you want to see in others. Even if nobody else follows suit, at least you will know you are doing your part to make things happen the way you want them to. When you focus on controlling the only thing you truly can – which is yourself – you will be surprised at how much more correctly things get done. In doing this, you are creating a sustainable source of the validation you have always sought from others, and I promise, you will find that it is the real way to increase confidence and eliminate insecurities.

    Understand That Progress Will Take Time

    Once you have addressed a problem like this and made a commitment to working on it, the most important part is following through. This means changing a lot of really bad habits. It is going to be difficult since you are not going to see the changes you are shooting for overnight. Epiphanies take time to sink in. Compulsive behavior often takes years to fully change. While there are many milestones of progress along the way, also know there will be a lot of failure. It is important to take accountability for your foul-ups without punishing yourself too hard or giving up the fight. This is extremely difficult but totally worth it.

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    Seek Therapy

    Only you can trace all the connections between your deepest motivations and the resulting behaviors; however, it helps to have guidance from someone who has studied psychology and is experienced at helping others through such things. There is no way to predict what epiphanies will lead to or result from our most important psychological progress. For you, addressing a compulsive need for attention might only be scratching the surface of much deeper issues. Such is the journey of lifelong learning and self-improvement. Fortunately you do not have to do this alone. Many types of counseling and therapy are available to people who are committed to changing their behavior. The more honest you are with yourself and the more you are able to take criticism constructively, the more effective therapy will be.

    I should conclude by saying that not all attention seeking behavior is negative. It can be very destructive to progress and relationships if it becomes a compulsive obsession, but nobody should seek to do all work from behind the scenes with no recognition. You deserve to see the benefits of your labors. Like with so many other things there is a balance to be sought here. Sometimes you have to experience both extremes before you can find middle ground. Just keep in mind that a confident and secure person isn’t focused on credit or recognition for what he does. He has motivations related to the welfare of others and will give his all with or without getting a medal for it. He is easier for others to relate to because he does not seek constant validation for his accomplishments. In choosing to be less demanding of attention and control, you are increasing your capacity for cooperation with others.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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