Every human on this earth has needs. Maslow developed a whole hierarchy of them. We have a need for a certain amount of space in relationships, for emotional validation, for how we want to be treated and loved. We have a need to feel expressed, heard, understood by another and physically and emotionally free.
Empaths are great at taking care of the needs of others, but they’re usually not so great at taking care of their own. “What do you need?” Is a common question we ask the ones we love, but rarely do we ask ourselves, “what do I need?”
If you’re anything like me, the following will resonate:
- You feel guilty setting boundaries.
- You didn’t even know you were ‘allowed’ to have needs.
- You find it difficult to identify what your needs are.
I didn’t learn about my own needs until into my late twenties. Prior to that, I had needs and I was unconsciously going about getting them met in a very dark way—I just wasn’t aware of it. I would put the needs of others before mine to the point of martyrdom, but at the same time, turn it around and become a giant victim when I didn’t get what I wanted, without being consciously aware I was doing any of it!
When the idea of needs was finally introduced to me, I became aware of what I was doing and began to unravel it.
And it came down to two simple things—getting clear on what I needed, and asking for it.
How to get clear on what your needs are:
You have needs, trust me. It may take some time to figure them out, but you have them. My coach says that underneath every complaint is a desire, so notice when you’re complaining about someone or something, and ask yourself what your desire is. Then, notice sensations in your body, if you’re around a certain person and your heart beats fast or you get angry, what is it trying to tell you about what you need?
You know you’re on the money if you get a lump in your throat when you say it out loud, or your eyes well with tears—it’s usually the thing you could never even imagine expressing to another human being.
How to ask for what you need:
The vulnerability that comes with asking someone for something you need—that is the hardest part. It feels like living on the edge—they could say no and that should be something you prepare for. People aren’t put on this earth to fulfill our needs, but if they love us, they would be jerk’s if they didn’t at least try.
Then follow this structure:
- Let them know how difficult it is to even reveal that you have a need, and ask them to be gentle with their response.
- Tell them about it with as much vulnerability as you can (it’s hard, but it will be easier for them to digest if they can see how much it means to you) and don’t use blame language. Own it entirely—it is your need after all. Say things like “I’ve realized I need something and I’ve felt afraid to express it, and I was wondering if it would be possible for you to X.”
- Know that they aren’t responsible for meeting your need and if they let you know they can’t, allow it to happen. Give them some space and know that they have an awareness now of what you need, which is the first step.
It’s a simple recipe, but it’s actually very hard to do. It takes strength to vulnerably ask for what you need, fully knowing the other person could say no. But living on that edge is the only way you’ll honor your truth, and fully offer yourself to the world.