Not long ago that headline would have been so uncomfortable to write. In fact I wouldn't have been able to write it. Just the word needyheld such a strong charge for me, covering over my biggest fear; that of coming across as too needy. Weak. Vulnerable. Maybe getting hurt or rejected and not being able to play it cool.
It was especially present for me in the context of dating and intimate relationships. I could probably go on and trace it back to stuff from my childhood and later from my young adulthood. But I’ll spare you that personal story.
Instead, I want to share with you how everything shifted for me.
My story involves three steps.
The first major shift came as I dove into Sufism with teacher and business coach Mark Silver.
He started one of his classes by stating that we as humans all have needs; that we’re incredibly needy and that’s fine. What might seem like a normal and obvious statement felt transformative to me.
I realized how there was a big sense of shame connected to being needy for me, but the fact that someone else acknowledged the neediness of humans and made it be ok was instrumental in my own shift.
So if you in any way have felt like I did. I want to pass on the good news:
Having needs is completely and absolutely normal.
We are social beings.
From the time we’re born we need others to stay alive. As we grow up, modern life creates the illusion that we’re completely independent and that we need no one or nothing to live, survive, and thrive. That it’s all up to us. When in fact we’re so dependent on others, on our ecosystem, and on the earth that we live on.
The second powerful insight came from going through shadow work as Debbie Ford teaches it.
She teaches an integrative method, where we look at ourselves as inherent whole beings containing all qualities. What brings us suffering is when we over-identify with certain qualities and at the same time reject/ repress others.
Whenever we find a quality that carries a big charge for us, it can be an indication that we’re trying to suppress or disown a part of ourselves. One of the ways to turn this around is by actually embracing that part of us by claiming the word.
In my own case I did this by saying out loud for countless times ‘I’m needy, I’m needy, I’m needy’. You might be thinking; that sounds overly simple and kind of weird (to be honest many tools for personal development and psychological change sound weird when described, and the effect comes from the practice and not from thinking about them). What this exercise does is that it shifts your relation to the quality by embracing it verbally.
It’s the exact opposite of working with positive affirmations. In my experience affirmations can be beautiful and uplifting – but they don’t go deep enough, they seem kind of like frosting on a cake; they will make the cake look pretty, but not change the substance or the dough.
I’ve found several of Debbie Ford’s exercises to be transformative for my own personal development and in my work with clients.
The third insight came when I understood why it’s so hard to talk about our neediness.
First of all, we need to build a relationship with ourselves to be able to identify our needs. It requires self-connection and listening. Working with our inner child is extremely potent in that regard.
The more we start listening to ourselves and to explore our inner world we can learn to recognize our needs and eventually express them in order to have them met.
This is where it gets hard: being open about one’s needs equals being vulnerable because we might not have the needs met.
For example; I can recognize that I have a need for connection, I need to feel connected with other people, and in this case, I especially have a need for an intimate connection, so I’ll try to get it met by someoneI’m dating, but I can’t control that. It’s not certain that the person will want that himself, or even be able to, for all kinds of reasons.
And here comes the uncomfortable part; I can share what I feel, but then it’s out of my control.
I’ll have to be ok with being vulnerable and stepping into uncertainty to express my needs.
Sometimes my needs will not be met the way I want them to. It can feel painful. However the more I get comfortable with experiencing all emotions on the spectrum, the less suffering it involves. Yes, I might feel sad or experience disappointment, but emotions are fluid experiences that don’t stay full of charge if we allow them to be and move through us. What causes the blockage and eventually suffering is if we try to block out emotions by resisting them. And then it can get really painful. Unnecessarily painful.
If you want to get better at naming your needs, I highly recommend using this list of needs from The Center for Nonviolent Communication. They also have a list of feelings that can support you.
Also, if you have a charge around something in your life, and you’d like to dive deeper into it, I’m here to support you. Read more about my offerings and get in touch here.