“I don’t want to be too needy.”

I hear this all the time. Sometimes it comes up when I suggest a client ask for something mundane, but it’s especially common when I’m helping clients get in touch with what they really want most in love or sex. Before we even talk about what asking might look like, those two words pop out.

“Too needy.”

But what does being “too needy” really about?

Think about it. We’re only needy when our needs aren’t being met. And needs shift constantly, so it’s an ongoing practice to learn to identify them and meet them. Frankly, I think “being needy” gets a bad rap. There’s a world of difference between having needs and doing your best to meet them (maybe with mixed results), and expecting the world to cater to your needs and being resentful that it doesn’t.

In my experience the fastest way to become needy is, ironically, to try to not be needy.

Needs always exist in relation to some desired outcome. Even the so-called basic needs exist to perpetuate survival. If you don’t care about living, breathing is sort of irrelevant, eh? It can be helpful to identify what the desired outcome is that is tied to the need. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is helpful here — It’s good to know what kind of need you’re trying to meet: physical, safety, love/belonging, esteem and respect, or self-actualization.

We’re all trying to meet a whole bunch of needs all the time. The more you practice meeting your needs, the less “needy” you become. But, to do that, you have to actually admit you have needs. There’s no shortcut around this.

In a couple, if one person is struggling to meet lower level needs (as per Maslow’s hierarchy), and the other is trying to meet mid- or high-level needs, there can be conflict. The good news is that you when you can identify where the struggle is at, it can be easier to understand the conflict and find ways to meet those needs.

I should point out that “higher” isn’t necessarily better, nor is it static… every freakin’ day we have to stop to meet bottom level needs, multiple times. (Think about that next time you’re on the john, or scarfing down a sandwich between meetings.)

Someone who isn’t getting enough sleep, or is worried about their job security, is not going to be self-actualized anytime soon. That’s not a moral failing; it’s simply a function of needs being a hierarchy. You just cannot operate in the higher levels when the foundation isn’t there. So, building the foundation is important! That’s why self-care and taking your time to “be where you’re at” are crucial to not just the health of your relationship, but to your overall well-being.

What’s your relationship to “being needy”? How do you figure out what you’re needing in a given moment? 

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