The Reason You Are Needy

Why having needs is important to your success

Posted Nov 14, 2015

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Source: luxorphoto/DollarPhotoClub

I laugh to myself whenever I hear someone say, “I don’t like needy people.” As a social animal, you have needs. The reason you are needy is because social needs fuel your drive to connect with others and succeed. When you are annoyed with someone’s apparent neediness, it’s likely you don’t like that you yearn for this need to be met yourself.

On the positive side, your needs are the drivers of your success.  My need for attention helps me to succeed as a writer, teacher and public speaker. My need for recognition drives my desire to do good work. My need for control helps me take charge of projects and run a successful business.

Your needs emerge from your ego identity, which was formed based on what you discovered would help you survive and thrive. You found what might help you be seen and recognized, or what would keep you from standing out if that felt unsafe. You learned what you could be good at that made you feel worthwhile.  You identified what limits you could push, what brought you joy, and what lines you would or would not cross.

Your identity is who you think you are today, and what you think you need from other people such as respect, recognition, a sense of value, control, predictability, being liked, or independence.

On the shadow side, the rejection or violation of your need may trigger a range of emotions including fear, anger, vengefulness, disappointment, frustration, sadness and possibly determination.

Emotions are triggered when you want something different from what you perceived you got from a person or group, or you fear that what you want won’t materialize. You instantly react by saying, “I don’t like this. I don’t want it.” Or, “I want this. I am going to find a way to get it. “

Your mind is always plotting to get what you need or protecting you from someone who wants to take your need away. It is also busy concocting rationalizations to explain your reactions to your unmet needs.

Therefore, you are needy. I am needy. Everyone you know is needy. We all want to be seen, understood, feel cared for, and feel valued for what we offer.  Yet this reality doesn’t have to control your feelings, thoughts and behavior. You can become the master of your needs instead of letting them control you.

The first step is to notice your reactions as soon as you can. Can you feel the lurch in your stomach, when your chest and breathing contract, and your urge to defend or shut down? Catch yourself judging and criticizing others, or feeling shame or even gloating in reaction to what is occurring.

Your comparative judgment blocks you from seeing what you can learn from a situation. It keeps you from having conversations that could improve your life. Reactions to unmet needs stop you from feeling content.

As if you were watching a movie, notice your reactions with curiosity, respect, and compassion. Hear the noise in your head. The noise is your teacher to help you grow.

Just as you would notice, “I’m hungry,” “I’m sleepy,” or “I’m bored,” you can also notice, “I’m hurt,” “I’m angry” and “I feel betrayed.” Don’t try to suppress your feelings and thoughts; suppression only prompts you to act in ways that could hurt even more. Be with your emotions so you can understand the unfulfilled need that triggered them.

Once you notice your reaction, you might discern what you thought you needed that you didn’t get, or what you fear you won’t receive. When you discover the unmet or desired needs, you can choose what to do next. Here are the steps:

  1. Notice your emotion (such as jealousy/envy, anger, fear, frustration, disappointment, sadness, vengeful)
  2. Discover the source (the unmet or desired need)
  3. Choose:
  • Ask for what you need (i.e. ask to be heard, for a little recognition, or to be included in a decision),
  • Get your need met elsewhere, or
  • Learn from the experience so you can grow (what do you want to develop or accept? What is based on an old story you no longer need to tell? Or just let it be - awareness alone might dissolve the reaction).

No human is free of these reactions. When something arises, just be with it. Notice it. Learn from it. Determine what you think you didn’t or won’t get, and then find a way to get your need met or let the reaction melt away. 

If you don’t add fuel to your agitation, it will weaken. Awareness can lead to peace of mind.

A.H Almas says in his book, The Unfolding Now,1 “As we become more attuned to what is happening in our experience, our capacity to understand ourselves at increasingly subtler levels continues to develop.” You learn from your unmet needs instead of reacting to the violation.

Finally, you might find someone else, a good friend or coach, to start this work with you. Your ego often blocks self-exploration. To shake up your brain, share this post with someone else you can be honest, vulnerable, and open with.

Your needs fill your life with good things. Because of them, you feel joy and passion. Honor both your needs and your reactions when they are threatened as a part of being human. In time, you will come to accept, amuse and appreciate yourself better.

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1 A.H. Almas, The Unfolding Now: Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence. Shambhala, Boston, 2008. Page 187.

Read more about discovering your triggers in Outsmart Your Brain by Marcia Reynolds. You can download the first chapter of the book on this page.