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Having Needs Doesn’t Make You Needy

Having NeedsHello out there!  Thank you for stopping by and taking the time from your busy day to explore some new ways of looking at life and of being in the world.

One of the themes that comes up every day in my work with clients is needs.  Okay, okay, to be honest, it’s usually me bringing it up…..but there’s a really good reason for that. Having needs doesn’t make you needy, it makes you normal.

You see, if you’re overeating, restricting, binging and purging, dieting, drinking, smoking, toking, shopping, gambling, procrastinating, isolating or ruminating on relationships more than you’d like, you’re using a coping strategy. And the only reason any human being ever uses a coping strategy is because they have needs that aren’t being met in some (or many) area(s) of their lives.The definition of a coping strategy is this: Any thought, feeling or behaviour that allows you to remain in an uncomfortable situation without being aware of how uncomfortable you are.

In other words, you’re trying to numb out because you’ve told yourself you have to stay in that situation or that there’s nothing you can do to change it and you’re not a big fan of the situation. Another way of saying that: it applies not just to you but to every human being on the planet. You are using a coping strategy because you have needs that aren’t being met.

Needs are natural, everyone has them. We all have needs for food, air and water, rest, fun and play. We have needs for physical safety, including a consistent roof over our heads where there is no threat of harm emotionally or physically. We have needs for closeness and acceptance from others. We have needs for positive self-regard aka high self-esteem. And we have needs for purpose, significance, contribution, and validation, to name just a few.

We all have needs. There is nothing “right” or “wrong” about them. They just are. How you go about meeting them may or may not honor your values or the values of the people around you, but the needs themselves are not good or bad, right or wrong, they just are.

If you’re caught up in any of the harmful coping strategies I mentioned above you can know, without a doubt, that you have needs that aren’t being met in key areas of your life and you are trying to avoid being conscious of them.

The only reason to try and avoid awareness of your needs is that at some point in your life you were shamed or ridiculed or ostracized or harmed physically when you tried your best to meet them. The pain of that experience was so great, and your sense of self so uncertain that instead of telling those people where to stick it, you told yourself that you were bad, wrong, and too needy and that you had better not try to get that need met again.

But, you see, needs are there for a reason, as are your feelings. They don’t go away when you ignore them. They get louder. And that means, if you’re still telling yourself you’re bad for having them and that bad things will happen if your try to meet them, you have to numb out to yourself more and more each day. You have to eat more, restrict more, purge more. You have to drink more, shop more, obsess about that guy more. You have to exercise more, focus on those flabby thighs more. But every time you stop for a breather those feelings arise and those needs come bubbling up to the surface.  Why do you think it is that night time is the hardest time of the day to “stick” to your diet? Why is it that you want to use your harmful coping strategies as soon as you sit still? It’s not because you’re lazy or undeserving of a rest. It’s because as soon as you stop moving and using your coping strategies the needs and feelings that you’ve been seeking to avoid (because you believe they’re bad and that you’re bad for having them) start coming up and you immediately feel anxious and unsettled. This anxious, unsettled feeling by the way is the healthiest, most natural feeling in the world (aside from peaceful) as it is your inner voice saying to you, in the best way it knows how, “I need your attention here for a moment, something isn’t working in our lives, something is making me feel unsafe and insecure and I can’t truly rest and be peaceful and happy until it is attended to.”

That is what anxiety means. That is what depression means. That is what anger and hurt and sadness and impatience means. You have needs that aren’t being met. You and everyone else in the world have the same reaction to unmet needs: You feel anxious, sad, angry, frustrated, depressed, etc.

Your feelings are not there to embarrass you or humiliate you or to expose you or to annoy you. They are appropriately and naturally occurring indicators that you have needs that aren’t being met. And once you stop telling yourself that old harmful story that you’re bad for having needs and that no one will love you or want to be around you if you have needs, you will actually be able to set about the work of identifying what it is you need and start to create a life where your needs are met, by yourself and by others with increasing ease and frequency. Once you stop ignoring and judging yourself for having needs, your use of harmful coping strategies like overeating and purging and restriction will fall away and you will be free to live the most wonderful life you can possibly imagine.

I have lived this journey and I have supported hundreds of men and women worldwide to do so as well. The only thing standing in your way is that old story that needs are bad and that you’re bad for having them. What if you just stopped for one minute and asked yourself how well that story is serving you? And what if you asked yourself to imagine what it might be like to actually respect yourself and what you feel? It might feel scary to imagine or seem to hard to create, but the truth is, it’s a fairly speedy and simple trip once you take the first step.

I’m here to walk with you.

Love Michelle

Posted in: CEDRIC Centre, Relationship with Others, Relationship with Self

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5 Comments

  1. Sarah October 23, 2009

    Another very timely article. I need to figure out exactly what my needs are… ~wanders off pondering~

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  2. Audra October 24, 2009

    Quote: The only reason to try and avoid awareness of your needs is that at some point in your life you were shamed or ridiculed or ostracized or harmed physically when you tried your best to meet them.

    WOW! This really spoke to me, and like Sarah mentioned above, such a timely article as I was having a ‘needs’ discussion with myself just yesterday. 🙂

    What this says to me is that I am STILL living in the past; that I have not fully released all of those nasty things people did to me years ago. They are still lurking in my subconscious and shaping my actions to this very day – how annoying.

    I have come to realize that I expect others to meet my needs; that they should instinctively know what I need and just do it. No wonder I feel so let down when my needs aren’t met. Instead, I think a more logical approach would be to work on being my own best friend first and stop expecting others to fulfill me. After all, I am the best judge of what I need.

    Joining Sarah as she wanders off pondering her needs and how best to meet them….

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  3. T.S October 27, 2009

    I have been expressing my needs a lot more these days and guess what…my people still love me. I dont even remember the last time I needed to use food to cope!!!

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  4. "Anna" November 13, 2010

    Oh to figure out what those need are. Any ideas?

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  5. Kristen November 16, 2010

    This article definitely speaks to me as well. I didn’t realize until reading it that part of the reason i have such difficulty getting my needs met, especially when it involves confronting others, is because of how my parents reacted to me when I was a child. I can still remember my father ridiculing and mocking me and my mother yelling at me in extreme annoyance because I was inconveniencing her. It was humiliating, painful, and unsettling. I felt stupid and like a a burden and a bad person for having needs and feelings. It made me feel like a nuisance and unworthy/unimportant so eventually I learned to shut my feelings off and do everything for myself on my own. Asking for help was not an option. What a relief it is to know that it’s okay to have needs and feelings and I can let others know and ask for help. The tough part is letting go of those old beliefs and taking action. Thanks for the great article. And thanks everyone for sharing your stories. It really helps:)

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