I am beginning to learn that there is a very important distinction between having a need, and getting that need met.
It has taken a long time for me to see this, because part of me thinks that if I have a need that goes unmet, I must not be not as strong or assertive as "I ought to be," that someone else should be figuring this out for me, or that I am just overly needy. Basically, this is how it goes:
I have an unmet need = I am doing something wrong.
I’m starting to think that this just isn’t true. And worse, this belief can lead me to feel a sense of injustice or unfair expectations of the very people I love most.
In many ways, this feels like a lesson for a three year old. But it's also more nuanced than that. I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with this. I think, in part, it is a cultural thing.
My old model of operating would look a little something like this:
1) I need something.
2) I devalue my own needs in a mistaken effort to keep someone else happy with me, or because I genuinely believe I am unworthy of satisfaction.
3) I get mad at this someone for not figuring out and meeting my needs because I am setting aside all my concerns in order to figure out and meet theirs!
4) I sit on my resentment in silence until it is compacted and numb.
Needless to say, this model does not lead to much personal or relational happiness. I’m living a shit-storm inside my own head, and no one even knows it. (Cue me, sitting alone in a dark kitchen, eating straight out of the gallon size vat of vanilla Häagen-Dazs.)
I meet your needs --> You meet mine.
While this may seem like a good equation...the math doesn't really add up.
Because unless I spend my days listening to my own inner well, you are left guessing as to what I want or need from you – all of the time.
And all of that guesswork is exhausting, and you never fully know if my needs are actually being met, and I never fully know if you’re happy with me, so it just leads to more guesswork on both parts.
This is crazy making.
What then, is the other option?
It's difficult, but way more rewarding:
You must be the one to take the huge risk of taking care of yourself.
(And if you’re anything like me, this can feel unthinkable sometimes.)
It may feel really uncomfortable, especially at first. It may feel as if you are neglecting others, and you may, for good reason, worry that someone else’s needs will go unmet if you're not there to take care of them. (Of course, this is a different discussion than if we're talking about adults caring for children, I'm talking adult to adult here.)
It's okay if it feels really uncomfortable, scary even.
It IS a huge risk.
So...breath into that discomfort, find a quiet space to sit for a few minutes, and you ask yourself:
"What is my body telling me?...
......what’s happening in my mind?...
.............where is my heart right now?"
These few questions change everything.
Because the more you are able to do this, the more you fill up your inner well-spring of love. That way, the care you give to others is given with joy and freedom and an authentic desire to give.
When you give from this place, people can feel the difference.
It is uplifting and renewing to them as well.
It is not marked by the clouds of resentment and questions and doubts that attend gifts given out of depletion.
Your joy will spread and light others up as well.
And then, you just keep doing this, day after day, for the rest of your life;)
Self-care doesn't end.
And why would it? You are the one person you will ALWAYS be with, every minute of every day, for the rest of your life.
Doesn't it seem, then, that you are the one person who is most qualified to measure and take care of your own wellness?
When a group of individuals is focused on each person primarily caring for themselves, the entire group becomes healthier. There is a balance to this of course, a certain amount of give or take, but it starts with personal responsibility.
Bring grace and patience to the process, but keep trying to attend to your own inner voice as much as possible.
Everyone will benefit in the long run.
So nowadays, instead of sitting around silently wishing someone else would magically guess what I'm thinking and fix everything for me, I am trying this new model:
1) I need something.
2) I listen closely to myself and get to know the shape of my ever-changing experience and needs.
3) If I feel like it, I communicate my needs to others, either with or without a request for their help.
4) I fulfill my own need, allow someone else to help me, or, if neither of these is possible, try to accept that I will have an unfulfilled need for a period of time.
Quite often, this results in a very happy me, and much happier relationships. (There may still be some Häagen-Dazs in there, but more for fun and comfort than for a feeling burial;)
Identifying*, communicating**, and fulfilling*** my needs are three very different processes that are each ultimately my own responsibility.
(* No one can guess my need when I do not take the time and effort to know it first.)
(** No one can hear it if I do not say it.)
(*** No one, including me, can truly satisfy a need I have unless I allow them the freedom to give or not to give.)
Now, I know that not everyone struggles with this kind of thing. But to those who, like me, do need to learn this the hard way, I would have this to offer this:
We must calm the forces within us demanding that our unmet needs are evidence that someone does not love us.
We must own responsibility for our own wellness,
because --> no one else can create that for us.
When we feel unsatisfied, unappreciated, depleted, exhausted, riddled with anxiety, etc., it is up to each one of us to sit down, breath deep and respectfully ask ourselves:
"Sweetheart...what's going on?"
The best way to get our needs met is not to assume that someone else will do it for us.
The best way to get our needs met is to listen carefully, and then go meet them.
May you find everything you most dearly need in this world,
Whitney Rhiannon Till