Solid relationships are built on reciprocity. Think of a healthy relationship as a see sawing or an open exchange of feelings, thoughts and experiences. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, sometimes you’re both in the middle. But, you’re consistently there for one another, being a counterbalance, and considering each other’s best interests.
Things can go astray in a relationship when that see-sawing starts to lean exclusively in one direction. Here’s a little what that feels like.
Remember what it was like as a kid when you were on a see saw with someone who would not let you down after they stubbornly planted themselves on the ground? You were left just floating in the air, fearful that you would never get down. That’s what neediness feels like. It feels like someone who is so weighted down by life that you can never get the see back in the saw of your relationship.
In those relationship dynamics there is a lack of healthy exchange of emotional energy between two people. Things flow one way. There is no authentic relationship because two people are not relating to each other.
Here are some signs that you might be overly needy:
- You feel uncomfortable with yourself and always need someone around you to feel okay
- You complain a lot even when there is nothing to complain about
- You need to be the center of attention and when you’re not you withdraw
- You project or deflect your feelings on to others
- You blame others for what happens to you
- You constantly seek the approval of others
- You struggle with making your own decisions
- You need to be right all the time
- You are consistently jealous of others
Here are some ways people react to neediness:
- They withdraw from you
- They stop responding to you
- They ignore you
- They give you feedback that you are needy
- Flip side: They dote over you endlessly (which fuels more neediness)
Here are some reasons why people withdraw when they feel someone is being overly needy:
- It’s exhausting. Endlessly giving to someone is an energy drain. When you’re with someone who cannot give back, you find yourself always trying to fill their cup – listening, placating, supporting, caring – it can become emotionally exhausting to always be there for someone else.
- It’s scary. Feeling like someone can’t be there for you makes you feel uncomfortable and nurtures an untrusting vibe. People want to know that they can lean on someone for support.
- We value empathy. We associate empathy with emotional maturity and intelligence. When we look for friends or partners in life, we are looking for someone who is showing signs that they can self-regulate, cultivate insight, and be available for us emotionally. People need you to be able to meet your own needs as well.
- We seek in others things we value in our selves. Needy people tend to attract people pleasers, or other needy people, because those emotional pieces fit together. Someone who feels grounded in their emotional experience will seek out someone who is also showing signs of emotional independence and maturity.
- They feel their space is being invaded. Needy people struggle with boundaries because they feel that everything should center around them. To the other person, this can feel like being with someone who is both the center and the periphery of their world. There’s no room for anyone else because the person is so self-consumed. There is only me, myself and I. No room for “US”.
How do you move forward when you start to realize you are a needy person? Here are some strategies to activate a process of self-expansion:
- Become aware. Seeing your thinking, feeling and behavior patterns is the baseline for any growth experience. You have to honor the fact that you are spiraling on yourself in order to slow down the process, shift your self-centered axis, and move life in a new direction.
- Listen. Only the truly independent minded person can really listen; not listening with bias or prejudgment or with a response in tow, but really learning to listen to the experience of others in a way that services others. Listening is one of those skills that can help expand our awareness of the world around us and nurture openness. Listening is learning.
- Acknowledge that you are afraid. Neediness is its own kind of self-protection and a response to feeling afraid. We get stuck in a fear loop where we believe that only “I” am dependable and safe. Any kind of disappointment and we revert back to that self-ish belief. The world is a scary place. We get it. It’s also a place of inspiration and hope. Avoidance is the surest way to keep building walls around yourself. Walls isolate and reinforce feelings of fear and insecurity. The higher they get, the smaller you feel. Feeling small can manifest as neediness.
- Constructively explore your needs. Needs are not the same as neediness.We all have needs. We all want to be loved, respected and cared for. Neediness is our inability to self soothe or extend self-care. Cultivate habits in your life that make you feel full and joyful. Maybe it’s a morning walk, or journaling, or taking up a new hobby – whatever it is, it should leave you feeling a sense of abundance and gratitude.
- Shift your perspective. You are not responsible for how people behave, or every worldly happening. You are responsible for how you react to those experiences. Take yourself out of the center of every equation and learn to cultivate a broader view of your experience. Believing that every little thing is a reflection of you means you’re living a very narrow life that is lacking perspective. When your thoughts start to contract around “poor me”, go the route of radical empathy and try to look at the entirety of the experience through the eyes of those around you. This will help you unhook from self-centered thought and feeling patterns. For example: if someone you know walks by you and they don’t say hello, rather than reacting with “what’s wrong with me” or with anger, you could consider that they may just be having a bad day and not feeling well. In that context, is doesn’t matter which though is right, it matters which thought it helpful. Expand yourself by focusing on helpful thoughts.
Achieving balance in life means finding that sweet spot between give and take. If your yin is out of sync with your yang, your bound to find yourself wandering alone in the playground of life and wondering why no one came out to play.