As a teenager, I lacked confidence and was often unsure of myself. I quickly learned that this was not a good look, so I pretended to the world that I had it all together. I bluffed my way through my teenage years and early twenties, pretending to myself and others I was on top of life even though I often felt inadequate and needy.
I was afraid that I’d be out the door if my friends knew what I was really like. After all, everyone knows that ‘being needy’ is only one step up from being a failure. I became very adept at hiding my fears and inadequacies from myself as well as from others. I developed a two-pronged strategy for ignoring my real feelings: to focus on the positive in my life and make sure everyone else was just fine.
Over the years, I’ve gained confidence and learned to trust myself. But this past week I’ve felt like a teenager again as I try to work out how to fit into the small town I’ve recently moved to. I feel alone and unsure of myself. Perhaps I won’t fit in or make friends. Perhaps everyone will think I’m a loser. I don’t like feeling like this so I’ve told myself to buck up and I’ve tried listing all the things I have to be thankful for. But this time my sense of loneliness is refusing to be banished. My old strategies for ignoring my needs aren’t working – what am I going to do?
In a moment of insight I realized feeling ‘needy’ makes me uncomfortable. It’s much easier to pretend my neediness doesn’t exist by focusing on others and on the good things in my life. But perhaps it’s time to stop pretending everything is fine and allow myself a few minutes to feel lonely, needy and lost.
As I allow myself to be honest and feel those uncomfortable emotions, they slowly begin to subside and the crazy thoughts that I’m a loser are replaced with ideas around how I can move forwards. I could join local interest groups to meet new people and I could reach out to those I’ve already met and see what friendships will grow.
Now that I’ve acknowledged and felt my pain instead of trying to pretend it doesn’t exist, I begin to feel optimistic about being here. A sense of thankfulness floods through me again.
I realize I’ve just been given a big lesson in the benefits of being honest with myself. Focusing on other people or trying to be positive without acknowledging what I really feel only buries my needs, it doesn’t meet them.
I begin to understand that feeling needy does not make me a failure. We are all hard-wired with a need to be loved, to belong, to feel safe and secure, to feel fulfilled and to make a difference in the world. If you cannot allow yourself to feel your needs, you’ll never be able to meet them. Feeling needy is the first step towards working out how to meet your needs. Feeling needy is a good place to be in….
Image by Sheila Sund