How many times a day, week or year do you override your own needs in favour of group harmony?
And, are you even aware you do this?
Most of us (especially, but not only, women) learn that we should put the needs of others first. That doing what we want is selfish and 'unholy'.
But how is being kind to others at the expense of our own needs really being kind? Isn't it a form of self abandonment? And isn't that just as unkind as selfishly choosing to say no when we mean no?
These are big questions.
Socialisation teaches us to keep the peace. And it's true, there is great value in allowing others to be who they are and to let some of our thoughts linger 'inside our heads' rather than be spoken out loud.
But what is more true is learning to take a Both/And approach.
As in, both our needs and those of the group are valid.
For anyone who missed that … We Have Needs.
Interestingly, it is the very idea of us having our own needs that has been most overlooked and that gets lost in our gallant attempts to create group harmony.
Can you even name one of your needs? Here are some of mine…
I have a need to feel appreciated
I have a need to be seen as a good person
I have a need to question things deeply
These are just a few examples of my needs. When I was first introduced to the idea of having them I was at a complete loss.
Needs? What, you mean something beyond eating, breathing and sleeping? What the hell else could I possibly need?
I, like many of you was taught to have no needs. Having needs meant I was 'needy'. And the world told me that was something nobody liked. So I learned to swallow my needs and become overly solicitous to the needs of others.
Disclaimer: Some who know me well would argue that I have always been outspoken and bullish about my needs.
However, I would counter that what was happening in those circumstances was that the part of me that had been disavowed, (the part that has needs that are valid) was Acting Out, not speaking up.
In other words, my needs were leaking from the shadows in an attempt to be seen and heard.
Unfortunately, that is not the same as having needs and being able to speak them cleanly into the world.
Having needs – like being seen as a good person – come with a side salad of shame. Who am I to need to be seen as a good person! How very dare I suggest that others must see me this way!
The point of needs therefore needs to be teased out a little further before we can fully appreciate what they mean.
Our needs are not dependent upon being fulfilled. They are simply needs.
Our needs are not something we need to demand. They are a recognition of what we need to feel whole.
If others cannot meet them, let alone even tolerate them, that does not mean we should hide them away and pretend they don't exist.
Our needs are our own precious barometer for a world that feels most true to us.
Left in the hands of others, my need to be seen as a good person will very quickly be thrown back in my face the moment I use profanity in a situation where others deem it inappropriate.
It will equally land me in a ditch of despair if I am beholding my need to feel appreciated when I am in the presence of someone who doesn't care for my unsolicited advice.
My needs therefore have nothing to do with others and everything to do with myself.
Our needs are a form of internal values system that indicate when our inner world is out of alignment with the external happenings of life.
Understanding the difference between our own needs and the needs of the group does not mean we have to separate ourselves. Nor does it mean we park one at the expense of the other.
Knowing we have needs and recognising that whatever they are is valid, brings us to a deeper place of awareness.
If the group requires me to be a certain way – let's say, to remain topically superficial – and that is outside of my personal need to question things deeply, then I needn't remove myself from the group entirely.
Rather, the Both/And approach tells me I have the right to question things and that maybe this is not the time to do so. In which case I have some choices…
Remove myself with the understanding that that particular group is not for me.
Ask a question to the group that levels itself slightly below the surface but not so deep that people might feel at the risk of drowning
Stay connected to the group with an open and compassionate heart. Remember that every single person in the group has needs and that some of them may not even realise that (just like me, we're all the same). Then when I am back in my own space I might choose to deeply connect with my own aloneness – that incredibly rich and oceanic place where I feel so at home.
You see, it is possible to meet our own needs and remain connected to the group. And there are limitless ways to do that.
However, until we recognise that we have needs and have realised what they are (and, have processed the initial shame or self-ridicule that they are unworthy or invalid), then we have little chance of feeling whole.
Needs do not make us needy.
They are a composite part of what makes us human.
I encourage you to consider what your needs are. Spend some time in deep reflection. Allow your needs to reveal themselves. And do your best not to judge them.
If we're lucky, you'll discover some hidden gems and over time maybe even learn how to speak them out loud and maybe even start asking for them to be met, preferably without the need for that to happen (yes, it's convoluted, as always…).
Until next time, may your day be filled with heart and soul and an ever increasing sense of aliveness.
You've got this.