The Power of Needs

I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to write on this week. I half-wrote two other blogs but felt that they were not what I was supposed to post. Today, however, I realized what was really on my heart.


If you pay any attention to humanistic psychology, you’ll probably recognize Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If not, here is a visual:


Essentially Maslow was making the point that everyone has needs, and if basic needs aren’t met then higher needs cannot be met. If someone is starving, odds are they are not particularly concerned with relationships (belonging needs). When belonging needs are not being met then odds are our self-esteem needs will not be met. In a lot of ways this holds true to my own life, and I’m sure this will resonate with some of you.

Due to my upbringing and other circumstances in my life, I became self-sufficient very early on. To me, needs indicated weakness and I did everything in my power not to appear weak. I ignored my needs to feel safe and stable, to be cared for and in relationship with others, and to feel respected or seen. Instead I tried my best to stay out of the limelight, to stay detached from people (therefore keeping myself safe), and focused on my basic needs which were more acceptable. After all, everyone needed food, water, and shelter.

Of course it was not all bad and please don’t take this as the situation always. The hierarchy is meant to be a fluid and dynamic thing. We move through the layers and sometimes we face relapse and fall back to a lower one, but we’re always changing and shifting. There were times where relationships were important and where I wanted to be known for my achievements. However, my fear of being needy still carries over into my life today and when I find myself irritable or upset, I just have to look at the pyramid and it can usually help my figure out why.

Typically I get stuck in the “belonging needs.” I have a very difficult time reaching out to people to fulfill my need for community and love. Even when I do reach out, I have trouble when it comes to voicing my needs, so I walk away feeling frustrated because a need was not met. Yet I have learned something from all this and it is as follows: If I am not willing to be my own advocate, people are not going to be able to read my mind and fulfill my needs.

In other words, I need to learn to voice my needs because that is going to be the only way they get met. If I keep waiting around for people to read my mind, my mood, or my actions and figure out from there how to fulfill my needs then I am going to be waiting a very long time to feel loved. Instead, I am learning that I have to reach out and make requests and let people know that I need them. Then my needs are fulfilled and I’m able to ascend the hierarchy and continue toward realization of the bigger picture.

Don’t wait around for people to become mind readers. It is okay to need things.  


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