How To Overcome Neediness
Maybe you’ve experienced this before…
Every time her phone screen flashes you check to see who’s messaged her. Is it a guy? Is he better looking than you? Does he have better game?
Every time she goes out with her friends you imagine hoards of successful guys hitting on her, making her smile, maybe even taking her back to their place. Hell, you even suspect she secretly wants to be taken home by some new guy.
Every time she hasn’t text back, you tell yourself that she’s bored with you, that she wishes you were funnier, more entertaining, or more interesting. You imagine that other guys are texting her who she responds to immediately.
This is what it’s like to be wrapped up in feelings of neediness.
And it’s fun for no one.
For those experiencing it, and those on the receiving end, it’s a living hell.
Before we jump into neediness, we need to understand where it is born. And to do that, we need to take a quick look at a little thing called attachment theory.
Attachment theory is the roadmap for figuring out why all your relationships end up in screaming fights, coldness, rejection, and pain.
It helps you explain her behavior, but even more importantly, it helps you explain yours.
Attachment theory posits that we all have needs for connectedness, needs that are innate and experienced from childhood. Depending on how those needs are met, we learn different forms of attachment, which become our normal. One is healthy, the rest are not.
While I encourage you to do a deep dive into this by yourself, I’m going to focus on two types of attachment now. Because, when it comes to neediness, these two bad boys lie at its heart.
These are anxious attachment and avoidant attachment.
People with anxious attachment will feel fearful about any relationship they’re in. They’ll easily succumb to feelings of fear that it will end, that their partner isn’t into them, and that they need to do something about this ASAP.
To quell these frightening feelings, they will accept abusive relationships, stop their partners speaking to the opposite sex, and call them 100 times on a night out. This is where neediness comes from a place of gnawing, permanent suspicion that your ability to get your need for connectedness is going to blow up in your face at any moment.
In other words, instead of relationships being fun and loving, relationships become like staring at a lit, ever-shortening fuse.
People with avoidant attachment have a habit of pretending to themselves that they don’t need connection at all. They’ll be able to come up with all manner of arguments as to why they don’t need it and will act in ways that line up with this world view. They’ll work enormous hours, get annoyed that their partner wants to spend time with them, and construct an extreme form of independent life that makes it impossible for them to form lasting connections (or commitment). In truth, they’ve learned to be so afraid that their need for connectedness won’t be met that they shut themselves off to it completely.
In other words, these people are internally screaming “nobody will ever hurt me again” while emptying their life of anything meaningful.
The reason I mention both of these is that they have an innate connection to neediness.
That connection is fear.
It’s not a “need” for connection that causes us to feel neediness, it’s a fear that our needs for connection will never be met.
Whether we’re “shut down” to that need out of fear, or constantly seeking it out – it’s fear that drives us all the same.
And that fear is a breeding ground for neediness.
Now while I’ve ragged on neediness quite a bit, there’s something important you need to understand.
Neediness is completely normal.
And because it’s normal, one of the most important things you can do is accept it.
Everyone -and I mean everyone- is going to experience neediness. Just in the same way they’d experience happiness, anger, sadness or any other emotion.
One of the worst things you can do is say “I’m not needy.” In fact, it’s one of the neediest things you can say.
You want to instead understand what your neediness is so that you can manage and accept it.
Neediness comes from having excessive or unmet needs. Like connection, it sits on the scale of dependency.
Everyone has a need to depend on other people. Typically this is on the healthy end of the spectrum as a need for connectedness. However, it can also be at the unhealthy end in the form of neediness.
While the two may seem different, they are simply opposite ends of the same needs. A perspective that can help us understand them.
If connectedness is a direct, healthy, open, and clear version of dependency, then neediness is unclear, vague, concealed and unhealthy.
Connected people are open about what they want from a relationship. If they feel their needs aren’t getting met, they acknowledge this and discuss it.
This is the difference that marks neediness out in particular.
Research shows that needy people aren’t clear with themselves. They don’t know when they aren’t getting their needs met because more often than not it isn’t an unmet need that’s triggering their neediness.
It’s fear. Specifically fear of never being able to get their needs met.
This is why feelings of neediness can never be solved the same way a healthy desire for connection can.
Where a healthy desire for connection is one where needs can be discussed and met – a needy desire is one that can only be dealt with by acknowledging and confronting that innate fear.
Because of its strange relationship to fear, neediness can feel insurmountable and all-consuming. But it is far from it.
Like any fear, you can develop a relationship with it and begin to interact with it in a way that lessens its influence on you.
Here are a few steps you can take:
The very first thing you have to do is understand neediness. You want to know what it is, what it looks like, and how it influences people’s thoughts and behavior.
This will help you start identifying which thoughts and behaviors you have that are unhealthy. The more you learn, the easier this becomes.
People who can’t do this remain trapped in their patterns and typically end up reinforcing them.
The above information is designed to help you start this process of identification, but is by no means exhaustive.
You want to develop an ability to detach yourself from needy thoughts and feelings. So long as you can’t, you will continue to fall victim to their influence.
Meditation is the best way to do this. It helps you gain distance from your thoughts and feelings, and view them as separate to your identity and actions.
This helps you to break the cycle of unhealthy behavior that neediness gets you stuck it. It also helps you challenge your identity as someone who thinks and feels in this way.
An understanding of neediness combined with a regular meditation practice allows you to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. This means you can bring more attention to how you interact with others, particularly the ones which trigger your neediness.
When looking at the actions you’re compelled to take, ask yourself:
“Am I trying to get my needs met in an unhealthy way that is motivated by anxiety and fear?”
If you are, do not take that action. Instead, take a moment and breathe. It’s just fear, it will pass.
You need to challenge your fears surrounding your ability to get your need for connection met. To do this, you want to build deeper connections by making yourself more vulnerable.
This is the opposite of what your fear wants you to do. Your fear wants to prevent you from making yourself vulnerable, as doing so exposes you to rejection.
If you are afraid of never getting your needs met, then you will avoid rejection at all costs, as it feels like a confirmation that everything you’re afraid of is true.
However, allowing yourself to expose your emotions, express more of your personality, all at the risk of rejection, will slowly expose yourself to the reality that people will be happy to connect with that.
Will you get rejected? Sure. Everyone does.
But you will experience a connection far more often.
More than anything else, this will help you manage your feelings of neediness, and move up the scale of dependency towards a more healthy, honest connectedness.
Not only will this make you happier, but being able to do this as a man is a rare and incredibly attractive trait. It demonstrates confidence not just in yourself, but in your resilience towards how others will treat you.
About John Matich John is a writer from the UK who splits his time between travelling the world and trying to find unconventional solutions to dating and personal development. You can find more from him at www.lifeuncivilized.com.