I laugh to myself whenever I hear myself say, “I don’t like needy people.”

As social animals, we all have needs. The reason we are needy is that social needs fuel our drive to connect with others and succeed. When I am annoyed with someone’s apparent neediness, it’s likely I don’t like that I yearn for this need to be met in myself.

We post stuff on social media – we want likes and shares. Yes, we are needy.

On the positive side, our needs are the drivers of our success… 

I get this right. My need for attention helps me to succeed as a writer, speaker-mentor and public speaker. And my need for recognition drives my desire to do good work. My need for control helps me take charge of projects and run a successful business.

I know my identity is who I think I am today, and what I think I need from other people such as respect, recognition, a sense of value, control, predictability, being liked, or independence?

On the shadow side…

If there is rejection or violation of my need this may trigger a range of emotions including fear, anger, vengefulness, disappointment, frustration and sadness.

Our needs emerge from our ego identity, which was formed in childhood based on what we discovered would help us survive and thrive.

Here’s the rub. A lot of us still hold onto the ego. Or indeed are driven by it. In it’s simplest form the need for external recognition. Childhood stuff. I had fallen into a trap of being driven by what others think of me. But the question is; to what degree are we driven by this need?

I have spent most of my life wanting to fit in. Dealing with sexuality. Being white South African and rebelling against the system. And then realising it was easier to go along with the system – the shame and guilt. Wanting to be a part of something. What I describe as being needy.

But being needy is part of being human…

Tom Marshall describes desire or neediness as the spiritual dimension of leadership. That leaders must understand people’s longing for a sense of self-worth. People wanting to see a value from their contribution. And leaders must tap into this desire to drive improved performance.

But when this self-worth stems purely from external reference points; the ego. I do not believe it is healthy. It wasn’t for me.

Leaders must notice that our mind plots to get what we need or is protecting us from someone who wants to take our need away. It is also busy concocting rationalisations to explain our reactions to our unmet needs. The Holy Grail is using this awareness to fashion a style of leadership that engenders trust.

But as a leader myself, I am conscious when I am driven by my values – my “inner reference points”, I am less inclined (never fully) to attach myself to others’ perception. I’m “less Needy”.

We are all emotional beings…

When we want something different from what we perceive we will get from a person or group, or we fear that what we want won’t materialise. We instantly react. Our internal dialogue might say things like, “I don’t like this. I don’t want it.” Or, “I want this. I am going to find a way to get it.” Or “I wasn’t really committed to that anyway.”

Yet this reality doesn’t have to control our feelings, thoughts and behaviour. We can become the master of our needs instead of letting them control us.

What’s the solution?

  1. Simply, notice your reactions. Breathe. See if you can create space between the stimulus you are experiencing and your response. In this space use value-based decision-making to drive what you say and do.
  2. Catching the self-judgment and criticising, and letting this go. Focus your attention on breathing and your intent.
  3. Noticing your attachment to the outcome, and whether you can release your desire for things to be a particular way.

My daily practice of meditation keeps me sane, from the internal conversations with myself; my ego. I liken all of this stuff to watching a movie of my life moment to moment. Noticing my reactions with curiosity, respect, and compassion.

I hear the noise in my head. Seeing it as helpful and supportive – my teacher to help me grow. What do you hear?

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