Knowing Your Needs: The Key to Wellbeing
Learn how to feel healthier, more vibrant, and more whole by identifying your needs, prioritizing them, and meeting them as well as you can. This blog post will teach you how.
The Importance of Knowing Our Needs
Our “needs” are the basic things we require in order to survive and thrive. When our needs are met, we tend to feel well, whole, energetic, and vibrant. When our needs are not met, our energy feels low and we struggle to show up fully in our lives and relationships.
In our modern society, many people struggle to meet their needs. One reason is that it is common to place the needs of others above our own. For example, mothers are taught to be “selfless.” Or we may not voice our needs in romantic relationships in order to not “rock the boat.” Additionally, we are taught to neglect our own needs for the sake of achievement, rules, or the group.
For example, when we are children in school, we cannot even go to the bathroom or eat unless we ask permission or it is scheduled! And as adults, our bosses may ask us to work overtime, or it may be company culture to skip our lunch break or not take any time to rest. This may benefit the company but it takes a toll on us as individuals.
Chronic neglect of our needs leads to stress and burnout, and can contribute to mental and emotional health issues or even cause them in the first place! Many of us don’t even know what our needs are, much less how to meet them. Therefore, it can be transformational to identify your needs, prioritize them, and meet them as well as you can.
Misconceptions About Needs
You might wonder, “isn’t prioritizing my needs selfish?” The answer is an unequivocal “no!” You cannot give from an empty tank. If you consistently neglect your needs to perform for your job or for other people, you will end up burned out and unable to give in the long run. Self-care is actually an act of love for yourself and others, because it helps you maintain your energy sustainably. You can then feel good, and act from a place of wholeness and abundance. This also models health for others. This can be inspirational for people who have never been given permission to attend to their own needs.
Before you start reflecting on your needs, take some time to consider common misconceptions about needs. One is mistaking wants for needs, or substituting our needs with other things in an attempt to indirectly meet them. For example, you may want a $200,000 salary, a romantic relationship, lots of validation, and 3 cups of coffee every morning. But are these needs? Not exactly.
Money may help you meet your needs for food or shelter. A romantic relationship may help meet your need for connection, but is not a need in itself. Validation from others is an indirect attempt to meet your need for self-confidence. And while coffee is nice, it may actually be suppressing a true authentic need for rest, rejuvenation, and nutrition. Coffee may even be covering up these genuine needs and causing you to neglect them!
Another misconception people have about needs is that we need other people to meet them for us. We may be thinking, “I need my partner to be compassionate and connected to me all the time and they’re not. They’re the source of my unhappiness!” However, we are most fulfilled when we aim to do our best to meet our own needs first, so that we can show up to relationships from a whole, integrated, and healthy space. You cannot rely only on others to meet your needs for you. Relationships are healthiest when we are being compassionate and connected to ourselves first and foremost.
Needs Reflection Exercise
To begin reflecting on your needs, I recommend splitting them up into 4 different categories: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Get out a piece of paper and split it up into 4 boxes. Start off by writing down approximately 5 needs in each category.
Examples of physical needs: nourishing food, sleep, movement, and water
Examples of emotional needs: self-compassion, connection, boundaries
Examples of mental needs: a space to process, learning, self-confidence, play
Examples of spiritual needs: a sense of belonging, a feeling of connection to the universe
After you’ve written down approximately 5 needs in each category, consider how well you’re meeting your needs from a place of self-compassion. You may want to give yourself a score in each category out of 10. Recognize the needs you meet consistently and give yourself a pat on the back! Also recognize the needs you are neglecting, and consider what you can do to help yourself meet these needs. Make a plan of action for how you will meet them in the future.
One important thing to note is that meeting your own needs may feel difficult due to patterns you struggle to get out of, such as anxiety, depression or trauma. Individual therapy sessions can help you address and change these patterns so that meeting your needs becomes easier.
Another important thing to consider is the importance of self-compassion when doing this exercise, or any other self-reflective exercise. You are often doing your best. Be mindful not to allow this to be yet another thing your inner critic beats you up over because you're not doing it "perfectly." Think of your needs as more like "true north" on a compass. They will point you in the right direction.
I recommend returning to your needs periodically, perhaps monthly. Recognize any steps you’ve made in the right direction and make a plan to continue taking care of your needs on a daily basis. If you do this consistently over time, you will likely find your sense of self-confidence, wholeness, and wellbeing increasing substantially!
**I could not have written this blog post without the teachings of Isa Gucchiardi and the Sacred Stream. This blog post was inspired by her teachings about our 4 categories of needs, and is written from my own perspective.