We are born asking for what we need.
As tiny humans we cry or coo or look really cute in order to get our basic needs met. We are totally reliant upon others for survival and so out of instinct we ask for what we need.
Over time, most of us acquire skills to survive on our own. We learn to cook (or at least find ways to feed ourselves), we manage our own health, emotions and sleep; later, we develop skills to earn money, build relationships and keep ourselves safe. Whether consciously or not, these are all ways that even as adults we spend much of our time trying to get our needs met.
In this process, self-sufficiency becomes critical and at some point most of us learn that we are ultimately responsible for meeting many of our own needs.
At the same time, we are social beings. We seek support and love in all of its forms; we feel the drive towards building a network of fellow humans. It becomes clear that getting some needs satisfied requires our fellow creatures.*
It is a balance: finding ways to meet our own needs and/or asking for what we need from others. And that’s where it starts to get interesting.
We don’t want to seem needy, but we can’t actually meet all of our own needs…and we also often lack the tools or have lost the ability to know and name our unmet needs.
This is why it can be so enlightening to learn the language of unmet needs.
By knowing and naming what we really need, it is easier to determine whether we can meet that need ourselves or should seek to get it met by others (or, as is likely, some combination of the two).
If, once identified, you realize you can meet it yourself, you’ll likely feel a sense of comfort and ease. If it turns out it is a need that requires another human, it is a heck of a lot likelier to be met if you know what you’re really asking for.
So get curious: what do you really need?
*Intentionally using “creatures” here for those of us who know our pets can and do fill some of these needs.
If you are new to getting clarity about your needs—or even acknowledging that you have them—this exercise (rooted in the practices of Nonviolent Communication) may be helpful.
Print the “Wheel of Needs”
Put a check next to the needs that are being met
Put a star next to the unmet needs
With self compassion, consider: is this something I can meet myself or would reaching out to someone else be the way to go? If the former, how can I make space? If the latter, what would that request look like?
(other) Smart People
“Most of us grew up speaking a language that encourages us to label, compare, demand, and pronounce judgments rather than to be aware of what we are feeling and needing.”-Marshall Rosenberg
Receive the “Slice of Sunshine” in your inbox by subscribing to the Department of Practical Sunshine newsletter.