Everyone wants to be needed. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Each of us have needs to be met, and most of us feel rewarded by a sense of achievement, validation, or plain old love when we look after the needs of others. So, how is it, by and large, that we cannot bear it when someone is overly needy towards us? Neediness: that quality, once detected, that many run away from. That label we would be horrified to hear levelled at ourselves. Yet we all need the help of others – be it material or emotional. Somehow, though, ‘needy’ seems to have moved from a rounded, holistic definition of needs, to almost entirely mean emotional needs, and unreasonable ones at that. There was a time when society spoke of ‘the needy’ in charitable terms. Doing one’s bit to help the needy was a good thing, and in helping the needy perhaps we even thought we were shortening our own odds of ever joining their ranks. However, I think the vocabulary around poverty, distress and disadvantage has changed, and that nowadays the word ‘needy’ carries negative connotations. To be needy has become a pejorative label, a disempowering way of describing people who can’t cope.
Is there a line between expressing one’s needs and falling into the category of being ‘needy’? Personally, I don’t think there is. I think it is a moveable line, its position changing from person to person depending upon one’s character–much of which is beyond our control, as the old wisdom goes, ‘you are what you are’. Neediness fluctuates with age. The very young and very old are needy and we’re comfortable with that, we can heap love and care, attention and time on their needs without judgement. But as for the in-between years, no slack allowed. We tend to think the adult years is time to ‘stand on one’s own two feet’ and be less needy, strike out and do it on your own. There are some personality types who fit that analysis, whose emotional needs are few–or have they just got good at concealing and ignoring them? I suspect it’s the latter.
Today is Valentine’s Day and I’m bringing needy back. The time has come to strip away the judgemental looks needy has picked up over the years. Let’s be needy. Love, care, attention, praise (and maybe flowers): bring it all on!