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Is the Fear of “Being Needy” Keeping Us Apart?

One thing I’ve noticed in spiritual and self-help circles is that being needy is bad. Actually, it’s appearing to be needy that’s bad. It’s a really unattractive quality. It’s associated with being “clingy” or “codependent” and it supposedly is a cardinal sin in dating or attracting a lover. I did a Google search on this and all I found were videos and articles about how to stop being needy. Sheesh.

I think it’s admirable to want to be self sufficient and independent, and to self-source our worth and happiness. That’s all good! But I’ve noticed that I can feel quite isolated in my quest for self-improvement. That I will avoid being emotional or sensitive with another as to not be a burden on them with my neediness. Like it’s a toxic virus that will scare away anyone important to me. Instead I must go meditate, read a book, pray, go for a walk in nature, talk to myself in a loving manner – basically do ANYTHING else instead of “whine” to someone else. I don’t want to appear needy. Don’t want to be caught complaining or bitching!

I’m supposed to “own my shit” and not suck the energy out of other people. Don’t wanna be an energetic vampire now. Empaths, can you relate?

When people close to me hold back their emotions to appear “cool” or “not needy” I sense a distancing from them. Like they are too afraid to let it out and be real. Or too afraid to trust me not to leave them. And when they do present their needy and vulnerable selves to me, I love them even more because of the bravery and courage it took to admit it. Sometims I see them embody their emotion so easily, I wonder how they do it! How can they cry like that? How can they show anger so easily? Isn’t that BAD? When someone is really emotive, even unconsciously, I secretly admire them for it. When I’m present for this, and feeling “needed” in this manner, I can feel the love of actually being there for someone. It’s nice.

All the empaths in the house say “Yeaaah!”

When we try to hide our neediness, we rob others of the joy of being there for someone. By trying to always be self-sufficient and independent, we lose the graceful state of depending on each other. I feel alive and fully present when I’m being there for someone when they are upset or emotional. I want to allow them to get to a place of peace and empowerment. I don’t want to step in, fix them, or solve their problems for them. I used to, but I realized that’s not what we need. We don’t need “fixed.” We just need to be there for each other. Through this letting down of our guard, this vulnerability, we become closer together.

By denying our neediness trying to “play it cool” or “not seem too eager” we are not being true to ourselves. I wouldn’t let this out in front of people because I didn’t want to complain. And we can’t forget about “men don’t cry” and all the masculinity stereotypes. Or that being emotional is only acceptable in private. Go meditate and come back later when you’ve got your issues sorted out.

I just want to say that it’s ok to be needy. To say you don’t know what the fuck you want or have no idea how to figure it out. It’s ok to need a hug, or to want to be kissed, or someone to love you. It’s ok to text back right away. It’s ok to show up 15 minutes early for the date because you’re excited. It’s ok to message your friend and say you’ve had a shitty day.

We all know that we don’t want to participate in the negative, complaining culture that is so prevalent today. We don’t want to blame others for our problems. But we can at least admit that we are needy sometimes. Most of us are more needy than we care to admit. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

Allow someone the joy of being there for you. See if it brings you closer.


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  1. Wow, my friend complained to me today about holding back from him. I told him I didn’t want to come off as too clingy and annoying. But he just feels that by me trying to avoid being needy and such, I’m holding back from him instead of letting know more of me. I guess he’s right, writing this made me think maybe this is how he really feels. It’s hard to open up to people sometimes though, I’m trying to do better.

  2. Great great article! Thank you for writing it. There’s not enough stuff like this out there in the world. Being overly OK and cool and dummed down emotionally has cost me so many deep connections with people – especially romantically. I’ve found when I do open up or give more, it only strengthens relationships. Sounds so obvious and silly but it’s so forgotten. Taken me years to learn this.

  3. Great great article! Thank you for writing it. There’s not enough out there on this subject. Being too cool has cost me so many connections with the world its unreal. When I’ve opened up I’ve found it usually only strengthens the connection you have. Sounds so simple but it’s often hard to not be scared to show anything other than apparent toughness.

  4. I stumbled upon this entry while researching what is the damn scale of ‘needy’ v.s. ‘uncaring’ because I never know and it makes me miserable. Every single word you said was like a mirror of my soul. I feel this widespread terror of appearing ‘clingy’ just saps all relationships of sincerity and openness. I never resented a single friend or lover for opening up about their need for love, support or acceptance, I always felt it was a great honour. Yet I live in constant fear of overstepping my bounds with others and them fleeing me in disgust if I express the true depth of my feelings, including my gratitude at having them around. It feels so sick but it is hard to push past it. At least it is nice to see other people feel the exact same way, thank you for sharing.

  5. I’m not sure I understand. is the message to go ahead and risk being the needy, clingy person you described at the beginning? The one we’ve read so much about, whose behavior repels people and gets in the way of finding friends and partners? Is there a difference between the messiness described at the beginning of the article and the one described at the end? how do you tell the difference?

    • I think what’s important is that you’re honest with who you are. Be self aware and seek to heal whatever it is that is making you feel needy. But what people do is hide their true self to “not seem needy” and project a false image of confidence. They are afraid to open to vulnerably because they feel it will make them seem weak. But this weakness is overcome with self awareness, humility, and even some humor.

      A good book on this is Models: Attracting Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson. He goes into depth on what neediness.

  6. So so true. After my first marriage ended, the wounds from that had me thinking that – after being with someone who hung the word “codependent” all over us every time there was conflict and emotions, I was always paranoid and went into that self-sufficient, FU-to-my-feelings place. My blog I think is what really saved me, as I had a (then-anonymous) way of expressing everything from my joy to my rabid insecurities. And yes, then I found the man who’s now my husband who loves the complete version of me. Rock on. I do a lot of career coaching in my business and the more I’m open and expressive with my clients, the more they feel safe to be their own selves as well. It’s the kind of thing that catches on, which is pretty cool in a world where it’s portrayed that we are either too much or not enough most of the time.

  7. Dear Jeff,

    I really was happy to receive this lovely email / blog link, and couldn’t resist a response. It’s a bit preachy but only because I’m trying to cram a number of years worth of thoughts and reflections into a paragraph!

    I couldn’t agree more that to be emotionally honest, congruent, and open is by far the healthiest way to be. I guess that it’s reasonably common knowledge that unexpressed feelings get stored in the body and ultimately lead to poor health. Moreover, to deny or repress our needs and feelings is to deny an integral aspect of our whole being, and in doing so we can often miss some important intuitive messages. For me personally, I feel as though there is a danger in ‘spiritual’ circles that we can get caught up in a kind of ‘phoney holy’ way of being where people mimic what they think spiritual should look like and it becomes inauthentic and disingenuous. It’s a kind of spiritual by-pass. So detached becomes the substitute for non-attachment, when in reality they are very different positions. Aloof instead of observant, judgemental instead of self disciplined etc.. I guess ultimately it’s about self acceptance and the courage to be able to say…”this is where I’m at right now; this is what’s true for me right now”. But of course it’s also about building inner resilience and self respect because there will always be those who cannot tolerate or contain our emotions (whether our emotions are ‘needy’ or not) and in those moments boy can we wobble!

    Love and light

  8. Thank you for writing this, Jeff. I had a breakthrough with this today! I finally allowed myself to be angry this week. I punched pillows as I have told friends to do, and I wrote about what I was feeling. I felt like I released it all on the page and into my pillows and let it go. I thought I will never read this to anyone. Well, today I read it to my counselor out loud. I thought I dealt with everything on my own, but as the tears began to pour out I knew there was more to release and more forgiveness to be done. I was witnessing this and alarmed that I could barely read what I wrote as the tears clouded my vision. People call me a healer, an empath. They talk about my energy. How could I have all this hurt and anger bottled up? All of these labels place fear on us to have to play a part and keep us from expressing ourselves fully. It really was a breakthrough for me to express these emotions without concern of being judged. We can only do so much on our own. I had to read this out loud to let things go even further. I didn’t even want to go there and think about the hurt, but by acknowledging it and releasing it we can remove the blocks within us that keep us from reaching our full potential. We’re all here to help one another and the most courageous thing we can do is ask for help. I have shared things more than ever with friends too and I have built truly intimate friendships, where we help each other and learn from one another.

    • That’s so beautiful Lori, thank you for sharing! It sounds like you went through a lot and I’m so glad you got to express your anger and hurt without being judged! Conscious anger, conscious hurt. It’s all part of who we are! No shame in that!