We sometimes hear people being judged for being “too needy”; “clingy” or “dependent”. We don’t like these traits in others and it’s even harder to accept that we might have needy tendencies ourselves.
Is it possible to turn this around a little, though? What’s wrong with being “needy”? Don’t we all need love, affection, attention, time spent on us, understanding and so on?
If we’re fortunate, we will have learnt some self-reliance from having had a healthy, loving childhood and we will feel generally OK about ourselves (although, even then, the needs I referred to persist into adulthood in a more muted way). We are able to meet some of our own needs and don’t have to look to others (taking the place of our parents) for every emotional requirement.
Those of us who missed out on getting the attention and affection we needed as children, however, will be engaged in a constant search for it throughout life and will not have had the opportunity to become confident and self-reliant adults. There’s a gap. So, we look for something to fill that gap, feeling secretly unlovable and in need. And we display this need by demanding attention, affection etc from others. Are we to be condemned, then (by ourselves and others), for simply trying to get what we’ve always needed? Neediness can seem irrational, irritating and off-putting – it can drive people away (quite the reverse of what the person in need needs!). But if that person can be encouraged to understand what’s missing and what drives their behaviour, they can start to repair the damage done and to fill in the gaps in their self-confidence. And they can stop quietly condemning themselves for their pain as they become more kindly-disposed to these traits and are released from their shame.
Even if you feel that your childhood was quite good enough, you probably have times when you feel vulnerable and needy. But we tend to hide these feelings for fear of being seen as weak and overly-dependent. If we are all able to be more honest about how we feel, we can start to live more freely and authentically. Isn’t there a tiny bit of you right now wishing you could be more openly needy sometimes?
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