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Knowing yourself and honoring your needs

December 9th,2013

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One of the wonderful things that life is teaching me, through experience and (unfortunately) pain, is that until we know our self and honor our needs, we are likely to make the wrong choices, feel frustrated, depleted, depressed, etc. over and over again.

needslist

About 9 years ago, when I had been struggling under the grips of depression for almost a year, I read many books in the hopes of finding a way out of the darkness, one of these books was called: Creating Optimism and I remember one thing about the book that made an impression on me.

There was a specific section about relationships and personal needs with a suggested exercise on making a concise and clear list of our personal needs and share them with our partner, the needs had to be divided into three zones: red (non-negotiable), orange (important but open to negotiation) and green (a wish or a want). We also had to give our partners a clear way to meet our needs which had to be: action-oriented, concrete, appropriate and doable, so as to make it as clear as possible.

This exercise took me quite a while... I had a hard time identifying my needs! when some came to mind I would dismiss them as not really important, I wasn't sure of what was a true "need" or just a "want", it was really hard to do! luckily the book offered a lot of help in clarifying things, so I eventually came up with my list and gave it to my partner and asked him to do the same.

However, as soon as I felt better from my depression, I forgot about the list... and it wasn't after a few years had passed and I was going through a lot of suffering and badly struggling with my relationship that I came across that list again and realized that I had totally forgotten my needs! How could this happen! especially for the needs on the red zone, which were needs essential to my self-esteem, personal integrity, safety, etc. The ultimate boundary! But there I was, years later realizing that even after having found what my needs were, I had not honored them! I had locked them into a drawer hoping they would not show up again and unconsciously pretended everything was ok.

Well, I learned the hard way, but now I feel so much more clear about who I am and what I want. This clarity gives me courage, power, freedom, and it feels good. Of course I wish I had known myself better earlier in life! it would have saved me a lot of pain, but the truth is, I am grateful for the discoveries and realizations that have come to me through pain, I guess it had to get really dark for me before I could see the light.

Now, I don't believe that everyone's fate is to be confused, make mistakes and finally wake up after deep suffering. That does happen to a lot of people though, but as a mom, I would like to help my children avoid some of the confusion by teaching them tools to explore their own self and understand better who they are and what they need at an early age.

I feel like our societies are changing for the better, and there is now a greater wisdom about this, before, we were solely focused in learning academic stuff and fitting into a cookie-cutter model, now however there is much more emphasis in introspection and self understanding and acceptance, so hopefully our new generations will get better and better at knowing themselves, and honoring their needs, so that they can live a more fulfilling life.

This whole thing is a work in progress for sure, I am still working on honoring my needs, something I have to remind myself every day, but I feel like I am getting there, just like I did with my shoes! (I find this is a funny analogy that many women may relate to:) For as long as I can remember, I had really nice looking shoes: sexy, shiny, fashionable, etc. but most of them where not that comfortable, I often had blisters in my feet and couldn't wait to get my shoes off!. Well, after having twins, running around everywhere, and having a broken foot, I decided, that was it!, I would never own nor purchase any shoes that wouldn't fit me like a glove! that was the bottom line! I wasn't going to take it anymore! DONE with that! I would not put my feet through that again!

As with my shoes, I am starting to feel that I cannot settle for less than having my personal needs met (at least those in the red-zone). Now that I have been able to come up with a nice and clear list, I intend to honor it over and over.

For some reason, it seems like men are much better at having their needs met than women are, so women need to look at this more carefully. I recently watched a video called Men Are Better At Getting Their Needs Met by Connie Podesta, it made me laugh out loud, I highly recommend you watch it whether your are a man or a woman, because it will help you understand how differently we are wired! And if anything, it might make you laugh!

In order to truly honor our needs, we need to be more compassionate and loving towards our own self, and we also have to learn to speak our truth clearly so that people around us know what we are willing to accept and what we are not (this is especially important in relationships).

We can't settle for less than having our "red-zone" needs met, first by ourselves and then by the people in our life. If we find ourselves in a relationship where our needs are not being met, and for some reason cannot be met, honoring them may mean having the courage to let go of the relationship altogether. Honoring our needs is not always easy, even once we know them, it takes courage, self love, understanding, compassion, etc. But it can really open up a much more fulfilling experience of life for yourself and those around you.

So, I encourage you today to really, truly reflect on who you are, what your wishes are , what your needs are? Relationships, and especially those where there is struggle and pain are a good way to start, as they can help you figure out what your needs truly are, the discomfort you feel in a relationship most likely comes from needs that aren't being met. Also, try to prioritize, use the red, orange and green zone principle to differentiate between wants and needs.

Note that this is not about blaming others for not meeting your needs, nor expecting that other people have the key to fulfilling all your needs. This is more about knowing yourself better in order to make better choices, in order to own and speak your truth clearly to others, in order to live more fully!

Have a good week!

Related articles:

How to establish healthy boundaries in our relationships?

 

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