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 because 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. We are needy.
Writing and meditation helps…
I’ve been immersed in writing a book since January 2017. Sorry I’m not one of those who can bang it out in 2 weeks. Oh the irony, there’s a need. A need to be as good as others. My perception that others have achieved something I haven’t.
Since writing I have meditated regularly too. Every morning for about 20 minutes. One of the meditations helps me focus my attention inwardly. Driving my sense of self-worth from my own point of reference, as opposed to what others think. Or more importantly, away from my perception of what others think.
I’m somewhat more detached from the outcome. I seem to have a greater sense of belief in my writing. I still have a focus on my intention, my mission – to write a best seller. I’m just less concerned about what this looks like.
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. 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, sadness and possibly determination.
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. What I believe (rightly or wrongly) helped me survive and thrive was mainly external recognition. Childhood stuff, right. I had fallen into a trap of being driven by what others think of me.
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.
There’s leadership in being needy…
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 to tap into this desire to drive improved performance.
But when this self-worth stems purely from external reference points, 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 (even more so now because of writing and meditating daily) if I place my attention on my intention to be present. And focus on this inner reference point, I am less inclined (never fully) to attach myself to others’ perception. I’m “less needy”.
Emotions are triggered…
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. We 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. “
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?
Simply, it’s noticing our reactions as soon as we can. Feeling the lurch in your stomach, when your chest and breathing contract, and your urge to defend or shut down.
For me it has been about catching myself judging and criticizing my writing, or feeling shame or even gloating in reaction to what is occurring.
For leaders, speaking your truth in front of 100s of people it must be about noticing, when your comparative judgment blocks you from seeing what you are capably of or can learn.
Noticing you attachment to the outcome, and whether you can release your desire for things to be a particular way.
My daily practice of meditation and writing is keeping me from having conversations about any dissatisfaction – conversations that “could improve my life”. Reactions to unmet needs stop me from feeling content.
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?