Our behaviors can be confusing. You might be wondering if your need to be needed is normal. In this article you will learn what is the need. What happens went it is negative, what it looks like when it is healthy and how to distinguish it from codependency. You will also learn what types of people are likely express this behaviour in unhealthy ways, including a parents affect on a child.
What is the Need to Be Needed?
We want to be needed because it gives us a sense of belonging and fulfillment. It increases our self esteem and confidence as well as making us feel secure and safe. When it is healthy the need to be needed motivates us to contribute to society in useful ways.
Wanting to be needed is trait common to all human beings. It is healthy for the individual and society as a whole. It only has a negative impact on people when it becomes extreme.
When the Need To Be Needed Becomes Negative
The need to be needed becomes negative when it is motivated by insecure or manipulative reasons and when it causes someone to neglect their own needs and desires.
When feeling needed becomes dysfunctional:
Porous of boundaries:
When we are solely focused on others and neglect to to care for ourselves and are afraid to say “no”, wanting to feel needed becomes negative. People will fawn type personalities will often put others needs above their own.
Using the Need to Needed for Validation:
If the reason someone needs to be needed is to validate themselves and to increase their self esteem they will they will act in ways that are unhelpful and manipulative for themselves and others.
It’s natural to seek validation by being useful and it does raise our self esteem. However, it’s when these desires become the main reasons above the desire to help others in a balanced way it becomes a problem.
Another negative manifestation is when the need to be needed is driven by a desire for control over others. This can lead to manipulative behaviors. See the article codependency and control if you want to dig into this further.
When someone derives their identity from being needed they act in unhealthy ways to make sure they are always needed in someway. They will get anxious because they will not know who they are when they are not being useful. They may go into a depression, rage or become deceitful if they do not succeed in fulfilling the needed.
For some people, being needed may be a way to avoid feeling lonely or isolated. By being an important person in others’ lives, they may feel more connected and less vulnerable to social rejection or isolation. This becomes unhealthy when they neglect self care.
Type of People Who Feel Needed in Unhealthy Ways
Care givers enjoy looking after other people. They derive a high self esteem and identity from making sure others are looked after. They often have porous boundaries and will neglect themselves.
These types of people have a strong need to feel competent and obsessively try to solve others problems, and may have difficulty letting others solve their own problems.
Martyrs are people who sacrifice themselves for others and use this as a way to gain sympathy. They may have a strong need to feel they are doing the right thing or making a positive impact, but may struggle with taking care of their own needs.
People pleasers have a strong need to be liked or approved of by others. They go out of their way to help others and struggle with setting boundaries and asserting their own needs. This makes them easy targets for narcissists and other predatory people.
Insecure individuals want to be needed by others as a way to feel more secure or validated. They often struggle with self-esteem issues and anxiety.
Take the relationship attachment style quiz to find out more about how you relate.
Here’s What Healthy Need to Be Needed Behaviour Looks Like
Healthy need to be needed behavior is driven by a desire to help and support others in a mutually beneficial way. It does not neglect one’s own needs and boundaries.
Healthy behaviors associated with the need to be needed include:
Empathy: Empathy allows someone to connect with others on a deeper level and to offer genuine, caring support without feeling the need to manage their emotions and live their life for them.
Listening: Active listening shows you care and want to provide practical advice and guidance, so the person can help himself. It is focused on the others needs in the moment and not our own need for validation.
Healthy boundaries: Having healthy boundaries maintains your own well-being while supporting others. A person who has a healthy way of relating has limits on how much time and energy they dedicate to helping others, they are willing to say no when they need to prioritize their own needs.
Mutual support: The need to be needed is healthy when it is part of a mutually supportive relationship. In these types of relationships, both parties give and receive help in a way that is balanced.
How to Move From Unhealthy to Healthy Need to Be Needed
If you find yourself neglecting your own needs and are finding hard to say no, here are some things you can try.
Spending time on activities you enjoy. This could be hobbies or health and money related endeavours. Try setting a time where people know not to disturb you.
Develop stronger boundaries by saying no. It is Ok to say no. People who care about you and people who are mentally healthy will except your “no” without making you feel guilty. You don’t have to rush, say no to simple things and build up from there.
Look at what healthy behavior looks and build on that, you will get deeper understanding of healthy relationships the more you keep healthy behaviour in mind.
Learn to trust your own feelings. Label them. People who neglect their own needs suppress their emotions so they lose the ability to accurately label them. The clearer you become about what you are feeling the more you will trust your feelings and act upon the healthy ones.
Be around people who enjoy your company without an agenda and who care about yours and their own mental health.
Change your inner talk. This article explains ways to identify your inner talk and how to change it. Life Scripts: The Hidden Patterns that Control Your Life.
People who want to feel needed in an unhealthy way have a negative inner voice. Speak to yourself like good friend. And remind yourself that people have their own personal issues and their own mental health work to do, so do not take their actions and words as a reflection of your self worth.
Notice when you are giving of yourself to gain acceptance without expecting in return. And remind yourself a relationship should be mutually beneficial.
These are some of the things you can try, remember they do not replace advice of a mental health professional.
Dysfunctional Parents and the Need to Be Needed
When parents do not let their children live their own lives it has consequences on the child and the young adult they will become. Some parents cannot imagine their child not needing them so they make sure the child stays reliant on them. In this situation many children develop complex trauma and cope by developing trauma responses, see: The 4Fs Trauma Model: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn – Which One are You?.
Issues children have include:
Low Self Esteem.
Because the child has not been allowed to make their own decisions they have not had a chance to make mistakes and learn from them. They have not had a chance to explore opportunities to find what they enjoy and are good at. This leads to low self esteem in adult children.
They do not become independent:
A child who has a parents who have an unhealthy need to be needed do not become independent and build their own deep, happy friendships and relationships. The adult child will find it hard to bond with other people as she will see it as betraying her parents.
A child who is not allowed to try things, take risks and make decisions does not learn to handle the stress of responsibility and challenging situations.
Underdeveloped Social Skills:
A child will not be able to connect with other people because they have not been encouraged (and possibly discouraged) to interact with other children on a constant basis.
Anger and Resentment:
As the child grows up and into adulthood, they will feel anger and resentment towards the parents this will affect their emotional well being.
Is it a Healthy Feeling or Codependency?
We can convince ourselves of anything. We can put a positive slant on our need to be needed when in reality it is unhealthy codependent behaviour.
Codependency originates in childhood from having needy and manipulative parents. A person learns they will only be loved if they are serving others. They neglect their own needs in favour of others. Go to codependency and control for more.
Here are are the codependent behaviors to look out for:
Hard to say no.
Codependent people find it hard to say no and enforce personal boundaries.
Codependent people are scared if they enforce their boundaries and say no they will be abandoned as they believe the only way to get love is to put others before themselves. These abandonment flashbacks stem from childhood because of neglect and abuse.
Managing Others Emotions
If someone feels the need to manage other people’s emotions, are alert to someone else’s feelings and adjust their own behavior accordingly, they are most likely a codependent.
Need to Control
In order to manage their own anxiety and fear of abandonment, codependent will engage in controlling behaviour.
Codependent people avoid conflict and they suppress their feelings, this leads to difficulty expressing their emotions.
If you recognize these behaviours and want to heal have a look at Letting Go Of Codependency
When the need to be needed is expressed in a healthy way you will have strong boundaries and empathy that respects each others individuality. You will not try to manage people’s emotions or live their life for them, instead you will give them emotional support and a listening ear.
When the need is expressed in unhealthy ways boundaries are blurred. You become obedient to others and your own needs are neglected which can lead to controlling, manipulative behavior.
Ultimately it is a basic human need that keeps society, friendships and families functioning in a healthy, caring ways.