Be needy, please.
I’m willing to bet there’s a big missing piece in your personal growth toolbox.
How often do you think about your needs? I’m not talking about bio needs though I hope you give those plenty of attention. I’m also not talking basic survival needs although I trust you’re physically safe, sheltered and resourced.
The needs I’m curious about are of the interpersonal kind, of the emotional variety, the heart needs as I call them. They’re the third tier in Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs which he called “love and belonging.”
If you’re like most of us, I’m guessing your ‘love and belonging’ needs are something of an afterthought. Sure, you know you need love and you want it and you’re grateful for the love you have. And, yes, you know it’s important to belong, to be a part of, etc, etc. But your deeper attention to these needs probably stops about there.
We can trace the roots of this inattention to our heart needs back to childhood. We either learned that our needs for love and belonging, intimate connection, attachment, and friendships were healthy and important and a good thing. In that case, we got our needs met – yay!
Or, and this is sadly more common, our heart needs got diminished, unrecognized, neglected, or outright rejected. In that case, of course, our needs didn’t get met.
The double whammy of the latter is not only did our love and belonging needs not get met but we learned – as children do – to devalue, diminish, neglect, and reject our needs.
Then as adults, we end up subsisting on less than we want, than we deserve and certainly less than we’re worth. We end up feasting on emotional crumbs, thinking that’s all we get.
As a counselor and coach, I see the impact of this all the time. It’s more prominent in therapy, showing up as mostly as depression. But it shows up with coaching clients too – both life and executive coaching. In fact, the unmet needs of my executive coaching clients in their workplace borders on neglect in many cases but that’s another journal entry.
Unmet heart needs and your vision
As your guide, I’m interested in, fascinated by and deeply attentive to all of you. Your wants, desires, goals, visions, fantasies, all of it. And I’m curious about your thoughts, emotions, your body, and even your spirit.
It’s all welcome in coaching with me. You are welcome. Your needs too. Especially your heart needs.
I don’t think needs get enough airtime in coaching. We’re often so focused on your wants, desires, outcomes, and action plans that we make limited assumptions that most of your needs are met.
Of course, you and I know that’s not true because even a desire to live your best life is a need, according to Maslow. The need for self-actualization, specifically.
So we’re certainly looking at needs in your personal growth plan, but we’re often zero’ing in on the top tier, assuming all the ones before have been satisfied. You’re good there or you wouldn’t be here, so the thinking goes.
And that’s where I see so many clients (and coaches) getting stuck. They’re – you’re – we’re - after best self-living, freedom, high self-esteem and worth, and maybe recognition for your contributions and making your mark. A big hell yes to all of this!
But if underneath all of this is your half-empty heart, your hunger for more connection, and your unmet needs for love and intimacy, then achieving at your highest level is a big leap. Not impossible but a stretch. And also likely unfulfilling without your heart needs met.
I’m sorry if this ruins it for you. Maybe you’re thinking you could live your best life without all of your heart needs being met. Perhaps you’re believing professional achievement or self-actualization can actually sidestep your relationship & love needs. You might also be thinking you’re getting enough in that department. And maybe you are.
And maybe you’re not.
If you’re not, this is for you. Here’s the big missing piece in your growth, your evolution and your path to personal freedom. If you’re struggling to realize your vision and have everything you want in a life that fulfills you, there’s a good chance your love and belonging needs aren’t being met. At least not met enough.
First things first, you’ve got to learn how to get those needs met. And not just learn how to but actually get them met. You’ve got to begin feeling what ‘needs met’ feels like. That feeling of being fully emotionally supported, loved, a part of, and valued must become a part of your conscious, daily life. And your unconscious one too, in fact.
As pre-eminent relationship therapist Stan Tatkin says, you must become “wired for love.”
You can’t skip over these needs, even if they’re a challenge for you. Especially if they’re a challenge.
Getting your love and belonging needs met is like striking gold. Unblocked energy, calm mind and body, open heart, generous spirit, and a free-flowing mind where thoughts and beliefs are generative and useful vs sabotaging and back-holding.
Getting your heart needs met is like pressing the gas pedal on your dreams. And hitting the brake on people, places and things that no longer do it for you.
Fear not, you don’t need to spend years in therapy (unless you’re into that) or order every self- help book on Amazon (unless that’s your thing) to meet your heart needs. Those are both effective strategies, but let’s keep it simple to start. The path to heart needs met starts with paying attention to them, noticing them, saying “oh hello there, I see you there, heart.”
Start with self love. Begin with honoring your needs and honoring whatever feelings you have about your needs that aren’t met. That weren’t met. Feel the grief, feel the sad, get mad. Do what you need to do.
You may decide you need a therapist. Or a coach. But you also may need to reach out to a friend to say “hey, I’d like to spend some QT with you. Our friendship is important to me, and I get a lot from our time together.” That’s a step to needs met!
Other ways to begin feeding yourself and satisfying your need for more love and belonging…
Join a coaching, therapy or support group
Go to 12-step meetings (if you’re in recovery)
Find a spiritual community if you’re so inclined (I’m well aware this is a hard no for some of you)
Consider volunteering for a cause that’s near and dear to your heart (nonprofits often lead with love and belonging)
If family is safe, reach out
Make amends or reconnect with someone from your past
Deepen your intimacy with colleagues (there’s a lot of untapped love and belonging at work)
I guarantee you’ll feel some shifts when you start tuning into your heart needs. This isn’t always easy – hello, vulnerability – but it’s a helluva a lot better than staying stuck and not knowing why.
Getting you to needs met,