How do we determine our needs?
The first step is to gift yourself this question: “What do I need?”
The second step is: Listen to yourself.
If this seems novel for you, it might be challenging at first. However, you might be surprised at the outcome. One way to listen to yourself is to pay attention to your body.
What do you notice in yourself?
When you’re feeling disconnected, stressed, overwhelmed, or empty, one thing you can do is check in with your body. It might be giving you some important information. You might notice muscle tension, knots in your stomach, or frantic energy in your extremities.
Take a scan of your body and notice which parts feel tense. What is your body telling you? Perhaps you are thirsty or hungry. Perhaps you need to stretch or walk around for a few minutes. Maybe your breathing is shallow and you need to take in some deep breaths.
Next, take stock of your emotions. What do you feel inside? Are you antsy, calm, inspired, in love? Confused? Feeling pulled in two directions? Is how you’re feeling inside matching what you’re portraying outside, or are you wearing a mask? Do you like how you feel, or are you judging yourself for it?
Give yourself the time and space to check in. Most of us have very busy lives and we have to fight hard to check in with ourselves amidst lifes’s demands. Whether it’s that split second between when you awake and arise from the bed, in the car, waiting for your coffee order to be made, or walking the dog in the morning, you can develop a routine of checking in with yourself to assess your needs.
Listen to what you’ve ignored
This might sound paradoxical. However, most of us have needs we ignore for one reason or another. Ask yourself what they are. They could be as simple as physical needs. You might be hungry, thirsty, or tired and you may feel disconnected from what your body is telling you.
Your need might be more complicated such as, “I should let go of that toxic friendship, but I like being needed by my friend” or “I know I should have quit my job years ago.” You may wish to ask yourself what made you decide to ignore your intuition about the friendship or job. We all have our reasons for ignoring what otherwise might be a healthy or meaningful choice, even if we don’t yet understand what they are.
Listening to yourself can be a vulnerable process. It takes time and patience to let yourself connect with potential doubts. Perhaps there was a faint voice of doubt in your mind before getting married, or an unsettling internal conflict over whether to have a child. Maybe you regret the “practical” major you chose in college. Listening to yourself can be scary because you might feel pressured to make a change once you better understand your needs. Change can be difficult, especially when consequences are unknown. This is one reason many us ignore our needs….sometimes it’s easier to maintain the status quo.
However, when we survey ourselves and assess what needs we have ignored, we can begin to validate the unheard desires, dreams, and feelings. Even if you ignore your needs, they are there living inside you and creating disconnection. By giving yourself a voice, maybe even for the first time, you have a chance to move toward wholeness.
Consider this list of needs to jump-start your process.
This is a needs inventory I often provide to my clients to help get the juices flowing about possible needs they might have. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start. Sometimes putting language to our needs can help us understand ourselves better.
You will thank yourself for this gift.
If you can simply give yourself the space to sit with this idea that you have needs, and further that you are able to start identifying your needs, you may be able to rebuild – or perhaps build for the first time – your sense of connection with yourself. What an amazing gift!
-Dr. Keller, February 04, 2017