Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Having Needs is Not "Being Needy"

Everyone has needs. Mine revolve around fresh air, salted margaritas, stinky cheese*, and self-respect.

One of the hardest lessons of adulthood is finding the line between having needs and being needy. However, if you have any desire to be involved in healthy relationships, it's worth it.

Having needs is a legitimate statement of self-esteem. We all need to be respected, treated compassionately, and liked for who we are. Needs are manifested by clearly stating fair and reasonable expectations for others. It drives the bad, selfish people away from you, because they're too self-involved to meet your standards.

Neediness is born of low self-esteem. It's a constant barrage of loyalty tests, anxiety, and desperation for approval. Neediness is no way to live, and it drives good, healthy people away from you because they get sick of your drama.

You need for your significant other to meet up and play nice with your friends. It is needy to expect your friends to emphatically approve of your significant other, especially if he's not that nice/doesn't treat you well/is married (and not to you).

You need your friends to RSVP to a dinner party in a reasonable amount of time so you can plan a menu. It is needy to hound them weeks in advance for a response, because you're anxious to see how much they like you.

You need for your significant other to make an effort, so you know you are valued. It is needy to expect a thousand yellow daisies because you saw it in a TV show once.

You need for your significant other to make specific plans with you, in advance, so you are not stuck waiting by the phone, or dropping everything and running like a puppy the second he whistles for you. It is needy to actually wait by the phone or act like a puppy. Make plans with your friends instead.

You need your significant other to notice when you've gone all-out to look your best. It is needy to expect your significant other to notice a microchange in your hairstyle, or that your socks match (even if that's a rare thing).

You need for your significant other to care about your birthday. It is needy to schedule your birthday party on a date that poses a big conflict, just because you want to stage a manipulative loyalty test.

In the comments, tell me your line between "needs" and "needy."

*However, may I suggest never eating blue cheese while lounging barefoot? It's hard to tell where the smell is coming from.


Just A Girl said...

Everything you said is so right on. I can't really think of any better examples right now, but if I do, I'll be sure to come back. I cannot stand when people are needy (even if I'm the one who is).

Zipcode said...

This is really good!

Megan said...

You need your boss to provide feedback on your performance throughout the year so you know how you are doing. It is needy to ask your boss for feedback every day or on an hourly basis, and to constantly go by her office seeking feedback. You need assistance from your boss occasionally with more difficult items or things that are outside normal SOP's. It is needy to run to your boss' office 10 times a day because you need help. An e-mail will suffice unless it's urgent. While I'm at it, it also drives your boss crazy when everytime they need to meet with you, you act like you're about to cry before you even know what it's about. Your boss is not your mom, the principal, and most bosses are actually nice normal people.

Shannon said...

JAG - You mean insecurity isn't attractive?

Zip - Thanks!

Megan - Work and dating have a lot of interesting parallels, don't they?

Brando said...

Sounds like it's got to be pretty subjective--one person's needs might be considered "needy" to another.

Shannon said...

Brando - It's less about the specific requests, and more about what emotional place the requests come from.

If I asked to go to a different restaurant because noisy restaurants make me stressed, it's a reasonable need to have a quiet dinner. If I asked to go to a different restaurant because I wanted to be difficult and see how much the other person could put up with, that's neediness.

If someone writes off a legitimate, respectfully requested need as "neediness", then you're better off without them.

Brando said...

I'd say if someone did that just to see what you could put up with, that's a test that's grounds for immediate termination of any relationship or friendship.

But at what point is a request "reasonable"? It is surely reasonable to refuse to eat at a restaurant because of a food allergy. It is probably also reasonable to refuse to eat at a restaurant because of vegetarianism. But it's probably unreasonable to refuse to eat at a restaurant because they dont' have unionized wait staff. Where is the line drawn? Seems subjective.

Shannon said...

Brando - Your specific example comes down to compatibility. Someone who believes in something as random as a union waitstaff is probably better off dating another union-waitstaffer.

People can have incompatible/competing needs, which isn't necessarily neediness - it's just not something meant for the long haul.

Amy said...

Excellent post. Youre a fantastic writer. This a nice reminder too, that it's okay for me to want my needs met. My ex tended to neglect mine in favour of his own. Part of the reason why he is now an ex. It's so frustrating to try and communicate over and over what they need to be doing and they continue to ignore it. Particularly the "make plans with me and don't leave me waiting around" one. That was so frustrating. And then he'd get hurt if I did something else with my friends.

Ugh, sorry! /rant

Lemon Gloria said...

This was excellent, as all others have noted.

I used to reject all need as needy. I didn't want to need, and I couldn't handle being needed. It took me a long time to figure out the difference.

My only point of dissent is the stinky cheese. I put it in the same category as stinky feet. To be avoided whenever possible!

Mr. J said...

In relationships where one's needs are seen as needy to the other, they're better off not being together. In past ones, my need to have a phone call returned (or answered!) was seen as neediness by her. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and I recognize that towards the end of that relationship, I truly was acting needy. Now, not so much. My only need is for her to answer a phone call so I know when to start dinner!

Tiff + Albert said...

I agree. In some of my past relationships my needs became needy when they weren't being met. I felt desperate and that is an awful feeling. It really does a number to your self-esteem. There may be a cycle in there somewhere...needs not met = neediness = more distance = needs not met...

I'm so glad that I'm in a relationship where both of us seek to fulfill the other's needs while at the same time we aren't afraid to express our own needs. I appreciate it so much, having not had that in the past.

After reading your description, I realized that my friend is needy. I'm sure it's because she's had a really hard time with her baby daddy being a loser.

I liked this paragraph in particular, "Neediness is born of low self-esteem. It's a constant barrage of loyalty tests, anxiety, and desperation for approval. Neediness is no way to live, and it drives good, healthy people away from you because they get sick of your drama."