“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Psychologist William James
Our needs for attention and appreciation may be basic, and grounded in survival as a child, but for some people, those needs are especially potent.
In a recent article, Ben Kingsley commented about being a performer as a child, like so many other gifted actors, and some hurtful responses from his parents.
“I had always been the song-and-dance man of the family,” he says. “I remember my father referring to me as ‘our little Danny Kaye’ when I was about seven. That was the only remotely positive comment I remember from them. They never praised me or acknowledged a gram of talent in me.
“Their way was to mock – ‘when are you going to finish with this acting lark’, that sort of thing. My mother, far from being proud, was very jealous of my success.”
[She was an actress, with only a few small roles, according to Kingsley.]
His interviewer notes that mention of being knighted, in 2002, “seems to make Kingsley glow.”
“I told you about my parents, and the fact that any kind of embrace was totally absent from my life,” he says. “So to be embraced by Her Majesty… I felt like stopping people in the street, saying my mum loves me, you know. Because that’s what it felt like, to me. The filling of a vacuum in the universe.”
[From Sir Ben Kingsley: ‘Without a mask, I haven’t got a clue’ By Stuart Husband, The Telegraph 24 Apr 2013.
Author, speaker, coach and interfaith minister Laura Berman Fortgang talks about this very human need:
“There is pain in not feeling valuable or knowing how we are to leave our mark. We want to know we matter. We struggle when we are not recognized or we feel there is nothing particularly outstanding about us. We have egos and we need validation. We need to be witnessed.
“Like the little kid about to jump off the diving board at the pool saying: ‘Mom, look at me, look at me!’ we never quite outgrow that. We demand evidence of our existence and feel better when we have it.”
Kingsley’s comments about his childhood remind me of the kinds of experiences most people have to some degree – perhaps it is the impossibly rare person who doesn’t.
But some of these are rightfully considered traumatic, and can deeply affect our self esteem and identity, and confidence to be creative. See my article Creative People and Trauma, with quotes by and about Sarah Polley, Halle Berry, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonathan Safran Foer and many others