May 12, 2021

Knowing Your Needs

Mental Health & Wellbeing

Feeling “needy” is my worst nightmare — I fear being “too much” or too dependent. Somewhere along the line, I started believing this faulty narrative that being “needy” is a bad thing. It’s been a pretty ingrained narrative for the better part of my life, and it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve started to reframe that I’m a human being who has needs.

I was on a walk with my husband a few weeks ago, and was experiencing all the feels. You know those days, right? I felt like I was failing in every area of my life–as a wife, as a mom, as an employee, as a friend. My husband graciously asked what I needed from him.

I racked my brain for what might be helpful. I finally realized that I needed to be acknowledged and encouraged in my role as a mom. I was needing to know that I wasn’t screwing up our kid and that I have what it takes to raise our son.

After fighting the, “I don’t want to be needy,” narrative, I decided to courageously share. It felt really vulnerable. And it was. He could have told me to stop being ridiculous or that I, in fact, was being “too needy.”

But guess what?! He didn’t!

He responded with empathy and compassion. He said he could imagine how hard it would be to not feel seen or encouraged in my role. Right then, he affirmed what I was feeling insecure about, and a weight was lifted. It didn’t fix my deep rooted insecurity (that’s something for me to sort through), but it helped fill an emotional need.


I would have loved if my husband would have just said all of those things on his own without prompting. However, it’s not fair to expect him to read my mind and to know exactly what I need (half the time, I don’t even know what I need…). When we share our most vulnerable selves with someone else, we are setting them up for success. They get to help ease our burdens and meet our expressed needs.

We do need to be careful with how much we are relying on someone else to meet our needs though. There can be a level of unhealthiness in expecting that someone can and will be able to meet all of our needs. Unrealistic expectations set us up for disappointment and the other person up for failure. We are all finite beings and were never designed to meet all of someone’s physical and emotional needs. We may express a need and find that someone isn’t able to deliver. That may feel disappointing, and it is, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t want to or don’t love you. They may just not have the capacity right now due to a number of reasons.

Determining needs

Knowing what you need is an important skill that takes practice. Being able to tune in to ourselves is a way to care for our emotional and physical beings. Having our needs met allows us to function to our full potential. Just like hunger pains tell us that we need food, or exhaustion reminds us that we need rest, we can tune into what additional emotional and physical needs we have. Start noticing what feels good or helpful to you. Needs are situational–they won’t always look the same in every circumstance, but the process of tuning into ourselves will allow for us to articulate what feels helpful in a particular situation.

Here are some things to think through as you consider your needs:

  • How do I prefer to be loved: Through words? Through acts of service? Through gifts? Through physical touch? Through spending quality time with someone?
  • When do I feel most insecure? What affirmation do you need in those moments?
  • Would I prefer someone to just listen or am I needing them to help problem-solve?
  • Do I need a creative outlet?
  • Do I need to rest or do something active?
  • Do I need time alone or time with someone else?
  • Do I need a hug or do I need space?
  • Do I need a meal or errands run?

How do I share my needs?

Being able to articulate our needs is another important skill. It requires courage and vulnerability, but I would suggest it’s worth it. You are creating an environment where others (hopefully) feel comfortable sharing their needs as well. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in person, via text, or via email. I think the most important thing is that it gets said (and said in a way that doesn’t demand or expect it, but calmly suggests that something would be helpful for you).

Here are some examples of how you can share your needs:

  • “I so appreciate you reaching out, but I’m needing some time to myself–I’ll talk to you in a bit”
  • “I’m needing some more validation when I share my feelings with you. Can you help do that for me?”
  • “I’m bummed to miss the party, but I’m needing some downtime this weekend. I hope to join next time!”

Let’s set others up for success! When we share what we need, everyone wins. The other person feels like they’ve been able to help and you get cared for.

Next steps

Being able to identify and share our needs with others is an important part of being in a relationship with others. It can be hard to know what we need or how to communicate them to others. One of the therapists here at Optimum Joy would love to help talk through those things with you. Don’t hesitate to reach out today!

Written by therapist Natalie Hu

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