As far as I’m concerned, neediness is a curse. I used to be one of the neediest women you could imagine. The lack of attention and love in my childhood made me a nightmare as a partner and if I didn’t get enough attention (and believe me, it was never enough), I found a way to blame my partner for my unhappiness.
Neediness doesn’t serve anyone but it can ruin the day instantly. Like this morning. I was on my way to work in London, I was sleepy, grumpy from having to walk in the rain for 40 minutes, of course annoyed and cursing anyone in my way (after all, this is London, move you idiots! What the hell are tourists doing this early here anyway?!). Then on the last stretch to the office, at the entrance to the Piccadilly tube station, a black man was handing out Time Out. At first I wasn’t interested but then I suddenly changed my mind because I wanted to look up how to contact the paper since I wanna put my own article in there. Instead of turning around and take a magazine from the guy, I took one from the pile lying just behind him which I prefer doing since I am a bit of a germophobe and when I can, I try to avoid taking a magazine which has already been touched by others. London is nasty and perfect for spreading bugs and I can’t afford to become ill, especially not when I’m temping as a secretary and am being paid by the hour and only if I’m actually in the office. All these decisions have passed through my mind within a second.
And what happened in that moment? The man handing out the magazine scowled, trying to sound cute and vulnerable: ”Oh, but you don’t want it from me?” Bloody freaking stupid neediness. Was he genuinely vulnerable or was this his go-to move of emotional blackmail to get attention from a woman? I’m sure he would have never said that to a man.
Of course I felt bad, I’m a nice person, I don’t go out of my way to hurt people. On a better day or moment I would turn around and explain and make him feel better. After all, I do understand what it means to be needy. But this time I was angry at him for making me feel bad. He took my gesture personally and there was absolutely no need for it. He was being paid one way or another, it didn’t matter if I took it out of his hands or the pile. But no, he HAD to make me feel bad because he was needy. We are all sensitive and NOT taking things personally is a skill. It’s just as much a skill as it is to be happy.
Oh, you don’t think being happy is a skill? Of course it is! All these stupid emotions we depend on so much because they momentarily feel good, depend on your philosophical point of view on life. The moment you agree that staying in the moment and accepting, even loving any moment you’re in, no matter if fantastic or just mundane or even cruel, is an option, you can be happy. After that it’s just a matter of practicing to stay in the moment, bring yourself back from planning a future and worrying into NOW, again and again. That’s happiness.
Neediness works in a similar way. You need to practice to focus on yourself, on the things that bring you joy, on something productive where you feel useful, on your family and planning your day and enjoying the rain on your face and perhaps on the fact that you are earning money by handing out a magazine which pays the bills or the tab in your favourite pub. All that matters is that people like the magazine and if they do, that they get a copy of it, be it from my hands or from the pile next to me. Every copy which gets taken means perhaps more money for me and more interaction for the city.
And then comes one more mean factor, the oversensitive topic of race. Even though I don’t see colours, only people, I am aware of people experiencing micro-aggressions on a daily basis if they’re not white. It’s just a fact. So of course I was worried he took my gesture as a micro aggression even though it had absolutely nothing to do with who he was or how he looked. (Or was this a reverse micro-aggression, not really feeling much but knowing I might take the colour of skin into consideration and possible office to him?) But what should I do now? Go back and explain, dude, my partner is black, relax? But that wasn’t his issue, I could sense that. He just made it MY issue. He didn’t have to go down that road, he could have just said thank you, have a great morning. But no, he chose to feel bad about it and make me feel bad about it.
And that’s the point. Everything is a decision. Learning to communicate better, is a decision. Who to love, is a decision. Feeling sorry for ourselves or braving this life and embracing the ‘Fuck It’ rule, is a decision. Spreading joy or making others feel guilty, is a decision.
I keep thinking of this little story. There was a binman, all chirpy every morning, doing a heavy and dirty job yet anyone who met him on the street had to smile when he greeted them. One day one of the neighbours had to ask, why on earth are you always in such a good mood? He said, why wouldn’t I be? I might be only a binman but I can still influence this world by making people happy around me. What have I got to lose?
And that’s exactly my point. A little bird sitting in the cold rain on a branch doesn’t feel sorry for itself, does it? So there is no need that we do. I know a dog licks his balls just because he can. But just because we have the capacity of feeling sorry for ourselves, it doesn’t mean we should go down that route. My father did and he not only ruined his own life but the life of everyone who dared to love him. We think neediness and all other petty notions are just part of life, harmless more or less. Well, they’re not. They’re not harmless and such notions or feelings need some proper attention in order to get rid of them. Yes, empathy from your partner and friends can work for a moment but long term it needs professional help or a decision to look at stoicism. I’m not saying one should suffer in silence, that’s not the point. I’m saying, often we make ourselves suffer because we want to suffer. Everyone can cut out that kind of indulgence in suffering with a simple decision not to be petty any longer.
Real emotional scars need attention of course. Real pain needs the opportunity to be let out and felt in order to get rid of.
So how to stop being needy if the neediness comes from a real place of neglect in our younger years? The trick is the same as with happiness. You stop making your happiness depending on external factors. And when we have the need to feel appreciated, loved, you need to stop trying to get the attention from others in order to fill that need. How?
Well, you don’t wanna know, I’m sure. It’s boring. It’s too easy almost. OK, fine, I’ll tell you. But before I do, remember – as an ex-love addict myself, I understand how much easier it is to focus on the drama with other people in order to get some satisfaction out of it, be it a real cuddle or a real fight, it almost didn’t matter which one I could get out of my partner. So my prediction is, you WANT to stay in your drama, hide behind it, stay in the cosy shadow of your own laziness. I know I did. It was easier to help my ex with his studies and then blame him for my misery, having to work in the office ‘for him’, than to be brave and do something for myself. But then one day I did. I booked a course to become a Swedish Massage Therapist. It cost me 2000 pounds and it took a year to do it but I did. But only after another 5 years, as we were splitting up, did I ask the right question – when was I happy last? When I moved to London and I didn’t know if I’ll make it. I had to find a job within a month or go back home to Slovenia, humiliated because I didn’t manage to finish my studies in Germany and didn’t amount to anything. But I did it, I made it! 7 years later I was still in the office, not happy any longer. I needed a challenge. So I asked myself, what made me happy? Something that challenges me. What challenges me? Something I was afraid of. What was that? The answer was, shooting weddings. I made a decision and shot 8 weddings in the next 2 years. It was also what got me through the period of my break-up. The more I focused on myself, ignoring my fears as much as I could, the more I healed.
No one else can fix you. No amount of hugs and kisses can brush away the harm done in the past. No amount of sex can quiet down the screeching pain of emptiness. The only one who can fix you…is you. One day you simply decide – I will live my life and let others be. I will write down a list of things I’ve always wanted to do and start doing them and start ticking off all the activities on the way of becoming an amazing person. I will be supportive to others. I will not expect any attention from anyone. If I get it though, I will cherish every kind word or caress. I will look at my pain, lying down on my bed at home, and feel it and let the tears run down my cheeks and wash away the past.
That’s how you heal. That’s how you start fixing yourself. If you want more recommendations on established experts and authors on how to work through yourself, then look out for my book in October or come to one of my communication games and I’ll be happy to tell you more.
Just go to my website for more info on www.daretellidareyou.com
As for my morning, walking in the rain for 40 minutes – I actually wasn’t grumpy at all. It wasn’t ideal but I had a change of clothes at work and I was ready for such an occasion. I made the decision to brave the rain in order not to spend money for the crowded tube and I was happy with that. And I was so proud of myself for not moaning about it that I resented the guy with Time Out ruining the moment. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to fix his morning, otherwise I probably would tell him what I told you. Heck, I’m going to print this article and put it in his hands the next time I see him.