Some people are a pleasure to be with. You feel a warm glow after leaving them. In contrast, there are people who drain you; after spending time with them, you feel exhausted. They’re angry, defensive or self-absorbed. One way or another, they’re needy. We’ve probably all had both of these experiences. When someone is wrapped up in themselves and completely absorbed in their own needs, there is little room for actually relating as two individuals coming together to exchange and support each other.
Obviously, we are not all islands. We need each other to survive, but what is the nature of needs that bring us fulfillment, and how are they different from the neediness that drains relationships?
Certainly, we all require things like food, shelter, company, and touch, and we rely on each other for those, but we’re talking about a sense of emptiness, of incompleteness, that cannot be supplied by other people, because if you feel needy, you feel needy.
Being told that there is more satisfaction in giving than receiving doesn’t make that sense of neediness go away. It is something that you have to fill yourself; other people don’t suffice. They can tell you you’re handsome or smart or witty or loved, but if you don’t believe that, it won’t stick. These beliefs are based on how you feel about yourself, not on what other people tell you. The words and feelings are intertwined; they need to match each other.
This requires changing both how you feel about yourself and how you think about yourself, and the only way to do that is through introspection. Physically, it’s really difficult to look at certain parts of yourself without a mirror, and for your self-image, a mirror is another person reflecting back who you are. But that’s precisely where you get all those messages about handsome, smart, etc., and just like fun-house mirrors, the reflection is distorted because it is changed by the other person’s own biases, needs, desires, etc. So how can you trust it? That’s the benefit of talking with a therapist because their view is less distorted by their own prejudices.
Neediness is something that you have to fill yourself; your partner can’t do it for you #quote Click To TweetYou need to work on those feelings to change your self-image, not the other way round. Here are two ways to do that. One is historical, looking for the origins, digging them out, and discarding them. The other is present-oriented, looking at how your feelings don’t fit the reality in front of you and letting go of them.
The reason for a lack of self-worth is often because we’ve taken the childhood messages about us and internalized them. We have to look at ourselves anew. And of course, that’s a slow and difficult process.
When people enter or maintain a relationship to fill a sense of lack about themselves, it creates an imbalance, and continues the sense of that very lack they seek to fill. That kind of uneven exchange isn’t sustainable and does not benefit either partner.
To have a relationship that brings the kind of visceral experience of peace that we describe, it is necessary to have both partners fully present and able to recognize themselves as separate individuals. Each must be actively working on themselves, getting to know themselves, and learning to recognize self-generated concerns. Our true sense of self-worth comes from learning to accept ourselves through the work we do, and not viewing ourselves through someone else’s lens.
If you are feeling unloved or unappreciated, ask yourself if that is coming from within the relationship, or within you. Honestly realizing the source of this feeling will put you on the road to healing this sense of lack. Either way, you can deal directly with what is.
When a person carries a neediness within themselves, it is like a sinkhole that wants ever more filling. When you are thus busy with yourself, you are not really present to be a true partner, to see the other, appreciate and acknowledge them, or offer them support.
Take the time to find your center and sit within it. Find that place that is you, that place that is not conditioned by the approval of others; it is beyond looks, competence, or intelligence. This type of reflection is not the same as the self-absorption arising from a feeling of neediness. Make a dedication to grow, find, and fulfill your own unique potential. This type of work produces healthier individuals and concomitantly, healthier relationships. With the full acceptance of yourself, your progressing self, you will also find a greater ability to accept your partner.
In our relationship, we both feel enriched by the other; we are whole within ourselves, yet added to by the other. Neither of us is assuaging a sense of need through our relationship. Two individuals supporting each other’s further progress, while sharing the free exchange of love and acceptance that grows from this kind of mutual togetherness, create a fulcrum for spreading peace one relationship at a time. Won’t you join us?!