My last post was supposed to be the final one in my blog series on the difficulties we experience when asking for help. But after posting it, I attended a class on neediness for a course I am taking and was struck by a link between neediness and asking for help. So this post is now the final one. Links to the previous three posts are highlighted throughout.
You know deep down that since your health changed, you can’t do things like you used to. Yet you want to. So you keep going, doing most things on your own rather than asking for help. It is all for good reasons explained in previous posts: not wanting to impose on others and wanting to maintain our sense of self-worth.
Feeling ‘needy’ and being perceived as such can also stop us from asking for help. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘I don’t need (help with) X. I’m not a needy person. It’s almost as if needing help with something means we may be perceived as needy, and that is somehow not good.
So I picked neediness apart, thought about the cultural assumptions around it in the context of asking for help, and came to a realisation. I want to share all this with you to demystify why asking for help can be hard, thereby enabling you to make conscious choices when it is appropriate for you to ask for help.
Picking ‘need’ apart
Let’s pick apart need, needy and neediness (Free Dictionary, 2016). Definitions can give clues as to why society laces words and phrases with sometimes unhelpful assumptions and stigmas.
- Something required or wanted to maintain something or achieve a desired state: people in need of water and food; your need for affection, validation
- Necessity; obligation
- To be under the necessity of or the obligation to a person or situation: They need to attend the meeting. You needn’t be concerned.
- To have an obligation (to do something): You need to clean your room.
- A condition of poverty or misfortune
- Being in need; impoverished
- Wanting or needing affection, attention, or reassurance, especially to an excessive degree.
- The state of being needy; poverty
You read the above and you see how aspects of need are a necessary and an accepted part of life. For example, we need food and water to survive. This is when a need is acceptable.
Need can also be a necessity or obligation to someone or a situation. This is where ‘need’ can sometimes rub people up the wrong way, i.e. when they don’t want that sense of obligation because it creates an inter-dependence as described previously (hence why people say no to giving help when asked).
The definitions of needy and neediness can have negative connotations for some people in our culture. It’s a very real issue when your health has changed and you need more help than you did previously. People who used to know what you were like now see you asking for help and stating what you need more often. It is no wonder you may worry about coming across as ‘needy’ and fear people responding negatively.
I don’t have the answer to make things suddenly better or different as what works for one person may not work for another and everyone has a different perception of how much need is too much. But I have a realisation to share, and an exercise which can help reduce worry and help you find a way forward in relation to what you need.
We are all needy. Every day.
If I help you, I am fulfilling a need in myself, whether it is to reaffirm to myself that I am a good person, to meet a value that being in service to others is good, to use my strengths which gives me joy, whatever.
If you receive help, you are getting a need met.
And help is given to us every day in ways we do not readily see. For example, our need of food: there are people who farm the food, get it to the supermarkets, stock the shelves and sell us the food. Every day the majority of us, often unknowingly, seek to meet our needs to be loved and to belong. We are networked and interdependent to such an extent it is difficult to not give or receive in some way.
So I invite you to do something different
Given we are all needy every day, I invite you to connect with your neediness.
Your ‘woo woo’ or ‘psycho babble’ alarm may have just gone off. That’s alright. It sometimes does because it may not be something we normally do so it feels alien. I am asking you to trust me, continue reading and have a go.
The reason I am asking you to do this is many times our neediness is a part of ourselves calling out for something it needs. When we sit with our neediness, we learn what we need to give ourselves. And this can enable us to identify the action we can take in the external world to meet our needs.
- Think about something you need, whatever it is.
- Notice how you feel about needing it. Check how you feel in your body below the neck.
- Spend a bit of time with these feelings even if some feel non-descript, uncomfortable or unsettling. If you aren’t feeling anything, that is ok. Feeling nothing is something.
- Acknowledge that these feelings are present for you.
- Ask yourself if these feelings represent anything you else you may have been wanting (but were not quite aware of). This could be anything like support, security, love, recognition, affirmation, reassurance, certainty, trust, anything really. They are often intangible qualities and many times sit below unseen and unacknowledged underneath our needs.
- Whatever qualities come up for you, acknowledge them and spend some time with what they feel like.
- Ask yourself what your life is like as these qualities filter into how you are as a person and what you do, including in relation to the need you thought of at the start.
- With these qualities a part of your life, ask yourself what actions can you take in relation to the need you have. Look for small actions, they do not need to be big, grand or revolutionary. Baby steps are ok. Note any actions you can take.
- Thank yourself.
What’s it like for you?
What do you think about us being needy every day? If you tried the exercise above, what was connecting with your neediness like for you? Feel free to share below.
Pass it forward
Although these blogs are written in the context of living with serious illness or a chronic condition, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. So if you think a friend or family member would benefit from reading it, or you just want to share it with the world, share this post using the icons below.
I have started to research the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of long-term conditions and serious illness/injury. If you or a loved one experienced the onset of a long-term condition or serious illness/injury in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering with what acceptance means for you, I would love to speak with you. Click here to find out more.
I’ll be back in April after Easter. In the meantime, enjoy the onset of Spring and the Easter holidays.
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016
Definition of need, Available from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/need, Downloaded 15 March 2016
Definition of needy and neediness, available from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/neediness, Downloaded 15 March 2016