First, I think there is a huge difference between having needs and being needy. Having needs, emotional needs that is, happens to be a normal part of being a human. It can be seen in a special bond between two friends, it can be seen between a parent and child, or it is demonstrated by the intimate interaction between two loving, caring people, where they look out for each other as life companions, and are aware of each other’s struggles and need for affirmation and support.
Being needy, on the other hand, conjures up in my mind a person whose needs are so all-encompassing that he becomes selfish, where he is less aware of the needs of others and withdraws into a world where he feels entitled, and blames others for all the ills in the world. In this world of his making, he is not taking responsibility for his own sabotaging behaviors and attitudes that drives people away. Instead, he simply reacts to what he sees as rejection and as affirmation that the world is an up hill struggle,
However, a person with needs can sometimes visit the fringes of that needy world if he allows himself to get too comfortable, maybe even lazy. You see, our self-esteem is fragile. The very heart of one’s self-esteem depends on one’s perception of his personal worth and value, his purpose and meaning in life. If he is not actively creating personal goals, and attaining those goals, he can become more dependent on his affirmations coming more heavily from others instead of from what he is doing with his life. THAT is risky !
Dependency on others for feedback as to our worth and value is a typical part of many of our lives. There are those who are much less dependent, to be sure. There are personality types that truly derive the bulk of their esteem from what they do like some logical, analytic personality types.
However, the vast majority of my clients are adapting, approval seeking caregivers, perfectionists, peacekeepers or conformers. Understandably, since I specialize in working with individuals experiencing panic attacks, agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am almost always working with adapting and approval seeking personalities. NOW, let me make myself clear. My clients are not weak. They are caring and sensitive personalities who often allow their want for approval and acceptance from others to dominate their lives instead of focusing on their own needs for personal growth. These people are the ones you want around when you are in a jam, and they are the ones you can depend on, but, they can at times put too much energy into taking care of others, fixing another person’s pain, or conforming to please and make everyone feel better that they forget to realize and take care of their own needs to achieve and grow their own self-esteeming behaviors that are less dependent on affirmations from others.
That dependency on others for their self-esteem rather than focusing a portion of their emotional energy on doing things in their life that build their self-esteem causes them to be more vulnerable to feeling rejection when certain persons do not respond to their often silent cries for affirmation.
I was reminded of this issue when a client of mine realized that he was feeling more needy lately. Then he realized that he had been more focused on his relationship with his girlfriend and had settled into a entry level job and had become lax in thinking of his career goals. He was feeling comfortable, yet uncomfortable because he was finding himself too dependent on that relationship for his self-esteem and because he had temporarily stopped focusing on his career. Dependency breeds a sense of vulnerability, and that leads to inner conflicts that lead to anxiety symptoms.
Take a hard look at your life, and assess whether their is a balance between the the esteem you derive through the affirmations of others as opposed to affirmations that come from within as you see yourself accomplishing goals, stretching to challenge your fears and not allowing yourself to become TOO comfortable with the status quo.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist