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My need to be admired is preventing me from participating in groups - how can I get rid of this need to be admired?

heart to heart The questioner's philosophy
I am atheistic but very interested in spirituality and philosophy.
The questioner's hopes and aspirations
I would like to be much more connected to myself and to the world. I try to understand myself and to find out the meaning of life.
I always had problems in my relationships with other boys when I was a child. I never felt integrated into the group and always had the feeling that I was rejected. I always felt people didn't like me. Today I'm very individualistic, and I still feel ill-at-ease when I am in a group. Moreover, I have recently rejected all that groups of people like to do (or what normal people do, like sport, partying, etc...). I always compare myself with others and have problems finding out what I really like.

My understanding is that I was in conflict with groups because I had a strong need to be admired - I was lacking self-confidence because people don't admire me. This makes me very fragile; moreover, I feel that this need for admiration prevents me from engaging in true relationships.

Wallace's reply
Wallace I have the feeling from your question that you are quite a sensitive person but that that side of your character is hidden behind a protective shell. I say this as someone who was very similar when I was younger. The breakthrough for me came when I was required by my architecture school to work in a team of designers to do a major project. Through that life challenge I discovered my connection to other people and was able to get in touch with and express my sensitivity. After this experience I felt a connectedness and degree of peace I had never known. It was an extraordinary turning point in my life.

In your life you have developed habits that are isolating. Such habits include:

  1. Comparing yourself to others.
  2. Needing confirmation that you are good enough by people other than yourself.
  3. Taking an overly serious attitude and finding it difficult to be lighthearted and have fun.
I want you to learn to watch your own mind working (watch your mind as if it belongs to someone else) and, as you observe, see how your mind compares, looks for admiration and adopts a serious posture. By seeing your mind do these things you will begin to dissolve these habits. This means keeping alert and awake to how you mind is working. If you stay alert these habits will gradually be replaced by the following:
  1. Accepting yourself as you are.
  2. Valuing your own worth and deciding for yourself when what you have done is good enough.
  3. Inviting fun and games into your life.
It can be quite common for people, perhaps men especially, to hide their sensitivity behind a protective shell. Such men often develop the rational left brain side of their character, and become very logical, like an engineer, but neglect to develop the right brain creative and intuitive side of their character and in doing so become unbalanced. Maybe this protective shell developed when you were bullied at school, or when you experienced some other trauma when young, or maybe you carried it over with you from a former life. You formed the shell because you were badly hurt. You decided that the world was an unsafe place and you retreated into your shell relating to other people in a logical and rational way only - the "softer" intuitive right brain skills becoming dormant. I see your lack of confidence, desire to compare yourself with others and your need to be admired, as symptoms of this character imbalance.

You have problems knowing what you like because you are out of touch with your intuitive right brain nature. It is this more playful side your character that can sense your life path and connect you to other people and the world. In Further Help and Resources below I am suggesting ways for you to become much more connected to yourself and the world.

Further Help and Resources
I strongly suggest you find a group near where you live that engages in a non competitive, creative, group activity. My wife belongs to such a group locally - a drama class where participants improvise short dramatic incidents. In the class each person makes up their own lines in response to what others are saying. In her case it's a women only group and it meets once a week in the local library. She really enjoys it and finds the class a great way to connect with others, be creative and have lots of fun.

Choose a class that you feel will be a challenge but a challenge you can accept. If you are feeling very scared at this prospect, search for a creative group activity run by a trained therapist - someone who will consciously be creating a safe and supportive environment for participants.

I suggest you get very clear as to what the goals of the group are. Ask for clarification of the goals from the team leader if necessary. Then during your class I want you to watch your own mind, as well as consciously focusing outward on others and the contribution they are making. Notice how everyone's contribution is valuable and needed for the group to progress toward its goals. Catch your mind if it begins to compare yourself with others and, if comparisons come, say to yourself - I am comparing - and let it go.

Notice how some people make more contributions in certain areas than others, then notice how every contribution is needed for the class to progress toward its goals. Notice how even the smallest contribution is valuable. Use this awareness of how the group as a whole is performing to appreciate and value the members of the group and to help discern what you, in turn, can best contribute and the optimum time for you to make this contribution. By these means express yourself with sensitivity to other members of the group. Your own contribution is valuable but so is everyone else's - all contributions are needed. Let the warmth of this group experience penetrate to your heart and soul. You need never feel isolated again.

You may find the thoughts of joining such a class very threatening, but it's not you that's being threatened, it's your protective shell. At one time you needed this shell because it was the only way you could cope with the trauma you suffered. However today that trauma has long since passed and I feel you are ready to begin to let it dissolve. As your protective shell dissolves your need to be admired will dissolve with it and you will feel more connected to yourself and to other people. You will also be a lot more light hearted and be able to have more fun!

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