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Why I Was Addicted to Attention, Lies, and Drama

I’ve done a lot of things for attention that I’m not proud of. I’ve created drama. I’ve bragged. I’ve exaggerated. I’ve hurt people. I’ve hurt myself. I’ve lied and lied and lied.

No one wants to be labeled as an “attention seeker.” When people say, “She’s just doing it for attention,” they don’t mean it as a compliment. I knew this. And I knew that people said these things about me.

And still, I couldn’t stop.

I spend a lot of time around animals, especially cats. It’s easy to see which ones have experienced starvation. They have constant anxiety about food. They meow and meow when it’s feeding time. They scarf their portions down without breathing. If the bowl is left full, they’ll eat whatever’s there—even if it’s a week’s worth of food!

I was that cat with attention. I could never get enough.

But compulsive behaviors aren’t about what we’re consuming. Attention seeking isn’t about attention. Food addiction isn’t about food. Really, it’s about control.

When you’ve been starved of something, you develop a fear of losing it. You begin to cling to every morsel of what you’re desperately afraid to live without. Survival mode.

That’s what it was like for me: constant survival mode. I felt like, at any moment, I was going to be abandoned, left alone, forgotten. I fought to be noticed. Fought to be heard. Fought to be “loved.”

But despite my constant attention-seeking efforts, I never got what I truly wanted. I never felt loved for exactly who I was because I never showed her to anyone! I showed the world the person I thought it wanted to see, and I used other people as characters in my personal drama.

So that is the biggest irony: because I was so desperately hungry for love, I couldn’t have it. Because I so deeply craved attention, I repelled people away from me. Then, these experiences reaffirmed my biggest fear: there wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. So I’d grasp more, cling more, lie more.

Too often, people talk about attention seeking like it’s a character flaw. I see it as an addiction.

When we’re trying to fill a love-sized hole, it doesn’t matter what we’re trying to stuff into it: drugs, money, alcohol, approval, sex. If it’s not love, it won’t truly satisfy us. We’ll keep wanting more and more.

My journey of healing my attention-seeking patterns has been long and painful. One of the most painful things has been realizing that most people weren’t reacting to me the way I thought they were.

I used to brag loudly in public, imagining people around me admiring and envying me. Now, I realize that most of them were either ignoring me or annoyed by my antics.

I used to stretch every accomplishment, imagining people respecting me. If it was two, I’d say five. If it was 100, I’d say 300. If it was one minute, I’d say an hour. Now, I realize that most people either didn’t believe me or used my lies to reinforce their own insecurities.

I used to make a tragedy out of every pain and a drama out of every inconvenience, imagining people pitying me. Now, I know that most people either felt stuck in the cloud of toxicity that surrounded me (because of their own unhealed traumas), or they avoided that cloud like the plague.

The world, I’ve discovered, isn’t quite the place I thought it was.

I was so busy talking and talking, lying and lying, that I never sat down just to listen. And that is what helped me heal: looking within myself, looking around me, and embracing reality.

Attention seeking, for me, was a kind of self-protection. On my journey of healing myself, I’ve found that self-love and self-protection aren’t the same thing. I had to remove my armor and my mask. I had to face the truth.

Beneath my defense mechanisms, I found a fragile, wounded part of me that was traumatized by childhood experiences—by emotional starvation. But this part of me wasn’t fragile because of the wounds I incurred as a kid. It was fragile because I tried to protect it.

After I got hurt, I tried to hide myself away. I tried to create an elaborate fantasy world to protect myself from rejection and abandonment. I piled layers and layers of bandages on top of my wounds, but wounds need air to heal. I tried to keep myself safe, but I ended up suffocating myself instead.

I wasn’t lying and creating drama “just for attention.” I was doing it to survive. I was grasping for scraps of approval to replace my desperate hunger for real love, for authenticity, for happiness.

On the outside, it seemed like I wanted other people’s attention. That’s what I thought I needed too. But what I really needed was to pay attention—to be able to just exist in each moment without struggling. To be able to look at myself without running away. To look at people without being afraid of them. To have peace of mind.

Maybe you know someone who’s stuck in these patterns. Maybe that someone is you. However this applies to you, I hope to communicate one important thing: attention seeking is a symptom of a bigger cause.

It’s not something to be dismissed. It’s also not something to be judged and criticized. It’s something to be accepted, understood, unraveled, and forgiven.

Healing these patterns takes time. Every step along the way, it’s been difficult for me to invite reality to replace my delusions. It’s been hard to allow myself to be raw and open instead of trying to protect myself from pain.

But this healing journey has also allowed me to enjoy real affection: from myself and from others. And that has been worth all the hard work.

About Vironika Tugaleva

Like every human being, Vironika Tugaleva is an ever-changing mystery. At the time of writing this, she was a life coach, digital nomad, and award-winning author of two books (The Love Mindset and The Art of Talking to Yourself). She spent her days writing, dancing, singing, running, doing yoga, going on adventures, and having long conversations. But that was then. Who knows what she’s doing now? Keep up at www.vironika.org.

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  • Cate

    Thank you for the candor, vulnerability and wisdom of this post!

  • Thanks for reading!

  • Wow! I was reading this article and I almost skipped to the end to see if it was wrote by a longtime friend of mine – because you described her EXACTLY. For years, I have struggled with our friendship (and spent long periods of avoiding her) because of her lies, her glaringly obvious need to be the center of attention and always telling me what I wanted to hear – not the truth. Her worst trait is suggesting we do this or that, insisting she can’t wait and then bailing at the last minute. She exaggerates things to the point you know they aren’t true and she’s almost embarrassing to have around others because you just are never quite sure what she will say (and loudly). Not to suggest your situation was the same but there are so many similarities that I was amazed. I guess my question is, how would I, as a friend, deal with this person? It doesn’t seem to matter what I do because things always get to a point where I need to avoid her. In fact, we always go through periods where we don’t talk, then I run into her and feel bad for her, we go through a ‘honeymoon’ period where she is the best friend ever….and then everything goes back to the usual insanity. ha….if you can make some suggestions on how to deal with her, I would really appreciate it. Also, thanks for sharing your story. I think we all have some variations of this problem during periods of our lives, that’s for sure, so you certainly aren’t alone.

  • Dipanjan Biswas

    I’m currently dealing with this for many years and want to get rid of it badly.Any suggestions will be appreciated.

  • ccrgirl

    I was crying every second while reading these words. Thank you.

  • Amy

    I’m glad that your realisation has made you change your ways! This means that you won’t totally traumatise and scar people who will deal with the affects of your actions for the rest of their lives. Maybe now your presence may be a contribution to the human race. Great!!!

  • Hey Michelle! I can definitely relate to your friend, and I can also relate to your feelings about her. To be honest with you: when I acted that way, nothing anyone did helped. Being abandoned by one person who had tolerated my antics for years was, I believe, essential to the downward spiral that led to my breakdown and, eventually, my awakening and healing. With people around enabling me, I think I would have just kept doing what I was doing. On some level, I think I had to get left alone. But this could just be something I tell myself. And everyone’s different. The most important thing is for you to take care of yourself and come from a place of love and compassion for this person as well as yourself.

  • I think the most important thing is to honour your need for attention, and then learn to meet that need in healthier ways. It takes time. It takes self-awareness. It takes patience. Start the journey, and you will learn.

  • You’re so welcome.

  • Thank you! I actually have abandoned her on many occasions but then she seems to return to my life. Perhaps a bit more compassion might be in order but even that, I’ve tried before…it’s definitely a difficult situation. Thank you for your reply!

  • I think compassion is often mistaken as something we must do through our actions to the other person, but compassion can be something from a distance. Preserving a loving awareness of some people is only possible when you’re not in a relationship with them. If love for her and other people comes first, then choices about whether to stay or go can become a lot easier. At least, that’s how it’s been for me! Thanks for all your honesty and openness.

  • DeltaA

    Based on this article, it looks like you still have a long way to go. It is a long drawn out dramatic self-centered missive, attempting to draw attention to yourself and make excuses for the very behavior you are claiming to want to leave behind. Just a harshly realistic observation. You seem like a good, but somewhat delusional person who has begun to intellectualize your issues after they caused you to hit an emotional rock bottom. Kudos. But you still have root issues of narcissism and warped perspective of what you deserve from others. Your current “About Vironika” section at the end f the article reads just like everything you spent a lengthy essay claiming to have left behind. If you are content with the real version of who you are, then simple normal imperfect love that others can offer you would be more than enough to satisfy you. The problem is not your attention seeking in itself, but that you are still seeking a type of attention that does not exist. This will leave you forever toxic and unsatisfied. If you come down to earth, accept yourself for who you are, and accept the (imperfect) love others have to offer you for what it is, voila, your cup suddenly runneth over. Just like that.

  • Diane

    Great article! Can you suggest what healthier ways can be?

  • Foam

    Is it possible she’s trying to bring awareness of this and HELP others?

  • I think it really depends on the person, Diane. I can really only speak from my experience. I wrote this article. I’ve written two books. I coach people. Those are ways to get attention. But they’re also ways of PAYING attention. I find that attending to others fully, just being present with them, fulfills me in ways I never knew possible. While coaching, for example, I’m in that moment with the person, and we are BOTH important. When I was attention-seeking, I wanted to be The Important One. I suppose I’ve realized that I can matter WITH others. I pay attention to people. They pay attention to me. But really, I’m only where I am because I’m on a certain journey and people are walking it with me. And all along the way, I’ve got one loving, supportive person who always pays attention to me and loves me: myself. Building up that relationship has been crucial for me.

  • I am not sure what’s given you that impression, Delta, but you’re entitled to your interpretations. It’s not my place to convince you out of them. If you wanted to try to understand me, where I’ve been, and where I’m going, you’re welcome to. Otherwise, I’ve learned on my journey of self-discovery to stay out of confrontations like this one. So as respectfully as I can, I’ll just allow you to have your opinion.

  • Thanks for the vote of confidence. 🙂 I’m still a human being who needs attention–like anyone else! My point was really about getting attention in healthy ways that serve us as well as the world. What I was doing before destroyed my mental health. And now, I’m happy. I am sure that can be misunderstood by many. But that’s okay 🙂 Misunderstanding is a fact of life. I do appreciate your coming to my side here!