Up until a few years ago, I hated my needs so badly that I was often feeling broken inside because of them.
It started back in 5th grade when I lost my group of friends, and for three years, I went without a single companion. I was desperate to fit in and became convinced that if I had some cooler clothes, better shoes, and more frequent haircuts, I’d be accepted by my peers and stop being bullied so severely. I lacked confidence and thought that by upgrading my physical appearance, I’d finally be able to strut into school, make friends, and stop feeling so lonely.
At home, I begged, cried, and threw tantrums, trying to get what I desperately needed to improve my physical appearance, but resources were scarce. Over time, my expression of needs was met in a way that led me to believe I was selfish and unable to be grateful for what I had. I used to wonder why can’t I be happy and concluded it was because my needs were excessive and unreasonable and that something had to be wrong with me for having them.
That lonely 5th-grader figured out how to get the clothes he needed, and while other kids were out playing and being kids, I was at neighbors’ and grandparents’ houses doing chores to earn my own money. The day I turned 15, I got a job at an ice cream store and finally had the means to buy myself all the clothes and haircuts I wanted. I watched as my confidence soared.
Even though I had my own money, I still didn’t think I should like what I did and never grew comfortable enough to express myself authentically around my family because of it. Sometimes, I’d even change my clothes and style my hair after I was out of the house to avoid any judgment because I was afraid I’d be ridiculed for how I chose to express myself, and it felt safer to hide what I feared would be controversial.
The thing about hiding is that when we’re hiding parts of ourselves, we miss out on opportunities to learn who we are and never really become our authentic selves. Also, hiding is exhausting and takes so much energy to manage that it becomes a full-time job.
Almost 30 years had passed since 5th grade, and I had acquired tons of friends and moved to New York and back to LA, but I never processed and released the disdain I had for my own needs. And even though life was rich with relationships and financially abundant, I still harbored dangerous levels of shame for my needs.
Over the past few years, through therapy and coaching, I’ve learned to accept my needs because they’re a part of me and also that they’re not excessive. As I’ve gotten older and amassed some wealth, I’ve seen that the topic of needs is complicated because I’ve not been easily able to decipher between what is a need and what is a want and how (if at all) they should be treated differently.