I didn’t learn about needs (or boundaries for that matter– and they linked) until into my late twenties.
Prior to that, I was constantly putting the needs of others before myself because I truly believed their needs were more important than mine.
At the same time, I was incredibly emotionally selfish, but it was very unconscious. I was constantly getting caught up in my own emotions and they’d out stage the emotions of everyone else around me at all times. And yet, I thought I was the most self-less person around.
I didn’t know it, but I was going about getting my needs met in a very messy way that looked something like this:
I made everyone else’s needs more important than mine so that when it came to my emotions, I could claim them as ‘the one place where I was more important.’
This all likely arose from a fear of my emotions being made unimportant in the first place, which I’m sure I can trace back to my childhood.
So my need was that my emotions were made important, and I was going about getting that need met by being a total martyr. And on the surface, I didn’t even realise I had needs!
So let me cut out a lot of wasted time and just say this:
Whether we know it or not, we all have needs. And every day we either consciously or unconsciously go about getting them met.
It’s much better to build consciousness and awareness around this process than to have it be unconscious. When the idea of needs was finally introduced to me, I felt guilty at the thought of asking for what I wanted from another person. It was uncomfortable, it seemed so selfish.
Was I even worthy of having needs? What was I allowed to need? What if they said no?
I had some work to do, and I did it.
The first step is to get clear on what you need.
It takes time to unravel our psyche. The easiest place to start is with sensations in the body. If you’re around a certain person and your heart beats fast, what is it trying to tell you about your needs? If you feel anger rising in your chest, what is it trying to tell you?
You know you’re on the money when it hurts the most. It will be the thing that gives you a lump in your throat when you speak it out loud, the thing makes your eyes well with tears, the thing you could never even imagine expressing to another human being.
The second step is to ask for it.
Ah, vulnerability, the hardest part. Asking another person for something that soothes your deepest fear, that is living on the edge.
They could say no. And let me tell you, that should be something you prepare for. Because people aren’t put on this earth to fulfil your needs, but if they love you, they would be jerk’s if they didn’t at least try.
It’s a simple recipe, but it’s actually very hard to do. It takes strength to vulnerably ask for what you need, fully knowning the other person could say no. But living on that edge is the only way you’ll find know the truth.