Does Your Urgent Need for Junk Attention Make You a Sitting Duck?

by Coach Ellie

 Birds attract other birds. Early colonists learned this from Native Americans. That’s where the tradition of creating wooden ducks out of pine and cedar originates. Hunters used phony ducks to attract real ones.

Love addiction causes you to do something similar, when hunting for attention. Love addiction causes you to both send out and fall for fakes. Because you have relatively little experience with real, healthy attention, you default to a beautiful, buoyant decoy. Something I call, junk attention.

Let’s look at three things to understand junk attention and how to combat your cravings for it.

  1. What is junk attention?
  2. Why do you crave it?
  3. What is healthy attention, and how do you get it?

What is Junk Attention?

In short, it’s external validation. It’s something you seek, unconsciously, to help replace feelings of inferiority, worthlessness, and boredom. Junk attention is about avoiding that soul-sucking, I’m-about-to-come-out-of-my-skin feeling.

The obvious metaphor is junk food. Yes it’s food, in that you can eat it, and you won’t die on contact but, overtime is not good for you. It spikes your blood sugar and gives you a thrill. But after you ball up the M&M bag, drain the beer glass, shove the last pizza slice down you feel full, but your body is still lacking nutrition.

Junk attention is empty calories.

It’s attention for attention’s sake. It’s to get a little high. A bit exhilarated. It’s where you are not looking to connect with someone, but rather to use them to feel better.

Let me not shame you, though. This is another one of those unconscious coping methods. Deep down, you are not really this shallow. You are just trying to self-sooth.

Image by Cottonbro Studio on Pexels.

Why do you crave it?

Well, why do you have a yen for junk food? It’s tasty!

Junk attention stimulates your least evolved part of the brain, the amygdala. It’s also that part in charge of our fight or flight response. It’s the same section of your mind that keeps us trapped in terrible relationships. In other words, it’s simply part of addiction.

Addictions are distractions from pain.

So yes, when you get into petty arguments with people or get deeply offended by others, you are actually just getting high. Wasted. Blotto. You are getting emotionally hammered. Also see: triggered.

We like getting triggeredsort of

When triggered, your brain is flooded with negativity. As much as negativity and hurt feelings are a bummer, it still beats complexity. To slow down and understand all the component parts of your reactivity would interrupt the high. To acknowledge that most situations are complex and multifaceted is such a buzzkill.

Subconsciously, You don’t know any better

You might be shocked to realize how much of your day is spent running from intense thoughts. You may be drowning in self-rejection. But you may feel triggered so frequently that you don’t even notice anymore. Those thoughts just fade into the background, like a cream couch blends into off-white walls. It’s just your normal blah feeling.

Until you grasp how sick this is and how it impacts your life, you will not stop. Because why bother with grilled salmon and steamed broccoli when Mountain Dew and Hot Cheetos are fast and easy?

  1. What is healthy attention, and how do you get it?

It’s what you give yourself

Healthy attention is rooted in what you give yourself first. Yes, you can give yourself attention. It may seem like the very last thing that you want. After all, you want to be with someone. You want a break from your own company, that’s why you are seeking attention.

And that’s the problem. You need to be secure in yourself before involving yourself with others. You need to build yourself up, give yourself a good listening to and figure out what you need. Get to the bottom of things with yourself. Understand yourself. Soothe yourself in a way that is healthy, first.

If you feel uneasy, sit with it a bit.

Maybe you feel lonely. But what is your loneliness about, specifically? Loneliness has different dimensions. Sometimes you feel “lonely” when maybe you are avoiding feeling shame or embarrassment. Or maybe you feel humiliated and/or resentful because of a conversation that happened 20 minutes or 20 hours ago. Take a pause and investigate what you are feeling, and then ask yourself what you are needing.

Image by Hassan Ouajbir on Pexels.

Be Your own Best friend

You might be pleasantly surprised how much relief you can get just by checking in with yourself and then talking to yourself with compassion. Did you know that this is even an option?

Have an intimate parent-teacher conference with yourself. Hide nothing but, commit to being fair with yourself. Get clear on what is nagging at you. Come to some kind of acceptance about it, and then start dreaming up ways to lighten the intensity.

This is also one of the highlights of coaching.

Being coached gives you a safe place to spit out what is really bothering you. The coach provides structure for you to come up with a plan for how to handle it. Of course, you could do with a pen and paper or just staring out the window for a while. However, having a human whose attention is entirely focused on you and your every word, helps you to stay on topic and get clarity faster.

Is this a bunch of fearmongering?

After all, attention seeking is just a normal fact of life. What’s the big deal? Should we all just sit quietly, meditating, never leaning on other humans for encouragement and praise?

Of course not.

The key is being aware of your motivation

Junk attention seeking is different from connection seeking. One is about distracting from pain and unresolved issues, the other is about sharing vulnerability and seeking to understand both the self and others.

Image by Adrienn on Pexels.

There is nothing wrong with needing attention

We all need it. The problem is when you are just looking for basically any attention to distract from your own cruel thoughts. We connect best with one another when we are coming from our own vulnerability and owning our needs, rather than manipulating others into giving us what we need to give ourselves.


Social media (Use Responsibly)

Social media is ground zero for junk attention. You know these platforms were built to keep you there 24/7, like a retiree at a Vegas slot machine. So take deep breaths as you review your feed, and certainly take it easy when you post.

Get real about why you are commenting online. Are you trying to connect or impress? Are you being vulnerable, or are you fishing for conflict? How much do you need to be “liked”? When you have conversations on social media, are you open to learning something new, or are you only pressing your point?

If you find it hard to stop scrolling, don’t worry. You are not alone. No need to bully yourself about it, but, don’t just let yourself get sucked in. Watch your emotions fluctuate. Pinpoint what the reward is for you? Is it avoiding your life? Is it feeling superior to others? Does it soften the loneliness for a bit?

And then there are IRL Conversations

Junk attention seeking doesn’t just happen online. You may find yourself eliciting junk attention when talking to people without even realizing it. Examples of this include: giving unsolicited advice, catastrophizing and forcing intimacy by oversharing shocking details about your life to acquaintances.

Doing any of the above three relies on others to give you an “appropriate” response. The recipient of the not-asked-for-advice should be grateful or at least heavily interested in your wisdom. When you voice your extreme views about the future, you are asking people to either agree with you or provide you with consolation.

The concept of oversharing is a bit complicated. Don’t confuse oversharing with being vulnerable. In both instances, you are revealing something personal about yourself, but oversharing means you are not showing enough care for the context or how well you know the people to whom you are revealing yourself.


— Junk attention is about external validation and reaction seeking. It’s a form of distraction, which is a key aspect of addiction.

— The desire for junk attention is subconscious. It’s an ineffective way to self-soothe from feelings of worthlessness, boredom, and shame.

— Social media doesn’t have to be your downfall. Be honest with yourself about your motivations for posting. Are you trying to connect, inform and/or entertain? Or are you trying to, show off, provoke conflict or play victim?

— Healthy attention is what you give yourself and what comes as a by-product of seeking sincere connection and sharing experiences.

— There is nothing wrong with seeking attention as long as your motivation is about connecting with, sharing with or empowering others.

— You can inadvertently seek junk attention online as well as in person. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just be rigorously honest with yourself about your needs and work to get them actually met, rather than torturing yourself and your followers with junk attention seeking.

Get real. 

You don’t really want the decoy. You want the real thing. So don’t be a sitting duck, at the mercy of your addict brain. Instead, identify your real needs and get them met. Don’t just settle for junk attention.

Suffer with love addiction? Looking for clarity on your relationship issues? Schedule a conversation with me to see if coaching, with me, is right for you.

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