“ I don’t want to be that needy person”, my friend said to me when I offered her some help on a big project she’s undertaken. I instantly agreed with her – oh yeah, I get it, I feel the same way, etc. Then as I drove off, I started thinking about it.
I started recalling other ‘don’t be needy’ incidents. Like when I was describing someone as really outgoing, and someone else said (disparagingly) “…or needy.” Or the entrepreneurial women’s group member who wanted to pretend she didn’t know others in her group if she should meet them at a separate event, just in case people got the idea that she couldn’t be successful all by herself. Or the many incidences of my own stubborn independence in the face of obvious need.
Why do we isolate ourselves like that?
We’re collective, tribal creatures, yet we’ve cultivated this ideal of self-sufficiency that leaves us emotionally stranded. I got on that bus way early and it’s only hitting me in the face now, decades later, that maybe I should question where it’s been taking me.
I’ve always taken great pride in my own self-sufficiency. It’s been incredibly useful to me countless times.
It’s also been incredibly limiting.
I’m only starting to realize that now as I spend more time with women. All the people who have helped me with the gumption project, with my personal transition from married to single, with my move from Toronto to Nova Scotia – well, clearly, I couldn’t have done any of it without them. Confessing my need to them resulted in support that didn’t just get me through, it made great stuff happen.
And yet, here I was the other day confirming my old knee-jerk reaction: it’s not good to be needy.
If you look up ‘needy’ online, the search results give you pages of articles on how to avoid being that, or avoid people who are that. And yes, there are versions of needy that are exhausting and destructive. But in our desire to avoid those extremes, we run the risk of killing something that actually builds connection and community among us.
I don’t want to be that needy person. Agreed. But a different kind of needy person might be OK.
Vulnerability has a lot to do with it. If I expose my need to someone, they now know something about a physical or (scarier) emotional weakness I have. It takes trust to confess need. Paradoxically, trust builds connection. And people feel good when they help others to make positive things happen. See where this is going?
As with many things, I’m now trying to work towards a balance that’s good for me and good for the people around me. Here’s my action plan:
• Express gratitude for those who help me – to them and to myself
• Be part of groups who help one another, so I get lots of practice
• Tune my ears to what people aren’t telling me; hearing through the silence when they actually want help
• Offering it, regardless, while accepting that no is as good an answer as yes
• Checking myself the next time I say no, I can do it myself, thanks, to see if that’s really the best answer.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about neediness, so please shoot me some comments.
Dare I say I need them?