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Taking Responsibility for Your Needs

We all have needs in life, and sometimes that’s coffee.  A LOT of coffee.  On a broader scale, though, we can look at our other more foundational needs.  Sometimes these are fairly straightforward, like having a roof over your head, food in your belly, and feeling safe and secure – both physically and emotionally.  Other needs can be a bit more elusive, like feeling loved, having a support network or being appreciated and valued.  All these needs, when met, contribute to feeling fulfilled and satisfied in your life.  When you can understand your needs, you open yourself to greater understanding of which areas of your life are in flow, working for you and supporting you to show up as your best Self.  You can also identify areas of your life that detract from your fulfillment, where perhaps you could use more personal or social support.  If you haven’t evaluated your needs in a while, now might be a good time to take a closer look. 


The best way to understand what you need in life is to take some time and sit with it.   Needs vary, and they will change as life changes around you.  For some, needs can look like a steady job or income, eating healthy foods, time with family (or maybe without family), going for a run, or having a large friend network.  For others, needs may be time efficiency, doing inspiring work, creativity, or spiritual connection.  Many times, our needs are met autonomically; it takes little effort or we have created routines or practices in life that support meeting those needs.  Examples of this would be using the auto pay feature for your bills or monthly expenses, going to church on Sundays, advance meal prepping, following a regular workout routine, and/or having a weekly family dinner.  Where we sometimes need to work a bit harder to have our needs met, it can take more effort and may look like finally reaching out to a friend, remembering to wish someone a happy birthday, making time to go outside and breathe fresh air, having health issues timely addressed with a doctor, ciphering through the onslaught of news and media, or following a new diet.


As you come to understand your needs, it’s important to remember that you, and only you, hold the responsibility for having them met.  When we’re children, we rely on our caregivers to fulfill our needs, but as we move into being teens and adults, we’ve gained sufficiency to take care of meeting these on our own.  There will likely be times when we ask for help from others to have needs met, but we cannot continue to make it someone else’s responsibility for our fulfillment.  Sometimes, people have a hard time finding such autonomy and become reliant on external sources to have their needs met, which may lead to co-dependency, narcissism, a need to control others, critical judgment and needing frequent validation.  Taking responsibility for your needs starts with understanding what makes you feel safe, secure, confident, loved and accepted, just as you are.  Once you know what this means for you, you’re able to take action or find the resources to have your needs met.


Generally, needs fall into several categories.  American psychologist Abraham Maslow explored the hierarchy of needs in the 1940s. He looked at these five categories: Physiological Needs, Safety & Security, Love & Belonging, Self-Esteem, Self-Actualization.  He later (1970) revised these and expanded them with greater specificity, including three additional areas and identifying the basic needs that lay the framework for an individual to then seek fulfillment of higher needs, including personal growth through increased knowledge, finding balance in life and ultimately surpassing their own needs and having capacity to help others fulfill theirs (transcendence). The needs work in a pyramid fashion, each layer foundationally building upon the next, with fulfilled physiological and safety/security needs as an essential requirement before meeting any higher needs.  Maslow theorized that after establishing community and esteem, one then has the capacity to move up the pyramid and work towards fulfilling their higher needs of self-growth, self-actualization and transcendence.

Take a look at Maslow’s expanded model* to explore your own needs:

·       Physiological (breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion)

·       Safety & Security (security of: body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, property)

·       Love & Belonging (friendship, family, sexual intimacy)

·       Esteem (self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others)

·       Knowledge & Understanding (cognitive need to understand one’s surrounding environment)

·       Aesthetics & Beauty (need to appreciate and search for beauty, balance, form)

·       Self-Actualization (morality, creativity, problem-solving, no prejudice, acceptance of facts)

·       Transcendence (need for helping others self-actuate)

To best understand your own needs, it can be helpful to look at these categories and write down or imagine what it looks like to have your needs fulfilled in each area.  This will be unique for each person, reflective of our individual life experiences.  Once you have a clearer picture of what you need to feel your strongest and best Self, and most present in life, you can then determine which needs might be autonomically met, and which needs require you to put forward more effort. 

Taking this inventory is intended to give you information and insight to support your self-growth, letting go of judgment or expectation, and perhaps offering you guidance for how to feel more present.  As you do this work, let the answers to these questions come from within yourself, not someone else’s perception of your needs; no one else can paint a picture of fulfillment for you.  And if you recognize a need isn’t met now, that doesn’t mean it won’t ever be fulfilled.  You may find you need others to contribute to having your needs met, but remember it’s not incumbent on anyone else to fulfill them for you, nor should you feel responsible for fulfilling someone else’s needs (aside from being a caregiver). 


When you recognize you need help from someone to fulfill your needs, you may be presented with the great dilemma of modern day: asking for what you need.  So often, we are conditioned to be overly self-sufficient, feeling we must do everything independently and portraying an image of being self-reliant.  To ask for help is not a weakness.  Rather, it is an incredible strength to understand when you need help, input, feedback or resources from beyond your capabilities.  Acknowledging this is a keen awareness and knowing of yourself, giving you space to take action.  To have your needs met, you may seek support or additional resources, such as more education, additional tools, friends or family to help with household needs (especially if you’re a caregiver), supplemental income, time for self-care, or perhaps working with a therapist to talk through chronically unmet needs.  When you can operate from a better place of knowing, you give yourself power to make different choices.


Taking a look at your needs is insightful and can help you identify where you may be relying on others, carrying someone else’s needs, or where you can take back responsibility to have your needs met.  This is brave, as it often reveals truths about yourself that maybe you ignored or hadn’t previously understood.  Having a support network and available resources is important as you dive into taking inventory of your needs, noting what’s in flow and fulfillment, and where you may need to put more energy or ask for help.  And while you don’t want to turn the fulfillment of your needs into someone else’s responsibility, sometimes your needs can’t be met without including others.  Think about the need for love and belonging: it’s pretty hard to feel loved and to give love without having people in your life to share it with.  Other needs are best met from within, such as shedding reliance on external validation to feel confidence in yourself.  As you work with your needs, remember to hold space for curiosity and greater understanding, releasing criticism and judgment for what is or isn’t.  Better understanding your needs can help you set a stronger foundation, or be a springboard for making change, so that you can live your most fulfilled life and be more present for others.


By Jennifer Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective, Personal Growth Coach & Mentor, Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher


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* (Farberova, Anna. (2019). Understanding the Impact of Lean Production Implementation on Employee Perceptions and Their Well-Being in North American Commuter Rail Manufacturing Plants. SSRN Electronic Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.3479990.)

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