So often we’re on the journey of life, running as fast as we can in the direction we think we should be heading. For many years I was running in the direction I’d set myself, and things were fine. I went past some nice scenery and appreciated the view. I helped people along the way. I listened to what they needed and (usually) gave those things to them. However, I wasn’t totally aware of what I needed in those moments.
Just recently I’ve been tuning into my needs and recognising that they’re incredibly important to pay attention to in order to lead a fulfilling life. Part of what I learnt in my counselling was about being assertive, and in order to be assertive we need to be aware of the needs of ourselves and others involved, and respect both sets of needs. The work I’ve been doing on addressing my needs has, to my mind, three key parts:
- Giving myself full permission to have needs, desires, and wants
- Recognising what my needs are (and respecting them)
- Exploring ways to meet my needs (if appropriate)
(There’s often another part in sharing those needs too, especially when they involve or impact on someone else).
Initially this all seemed very logical but I couldn’t apply it to myself. It felt so self-indulgent and that isn’t my default. Thanks to my counselling, my reflection, and the people who love me, I realised that actually it is an essential part of my wellbeing. Over time it’s become much more ingrained into my way of being. I pay attention to the emotions I feel, especially when something doesn’t feel right. I listen to it, give myself permission to express whatever I need to, and recognise what my needs are in that moment. Once I’ve done that, if it’s appropriate to I then think about the ways I could meet those needs, and put them into action.
This can be fairly minor things but can have a huge impact. Yesterday for example I felt really tired and under the weather. I wasn’t sure why but as I was rehearsing a webinar with my co-facilitator I felt confused, flustered, nauseous, and generally fragile. I recognised this was nothing to do with the situation and everything to do with my health. A few months ago, I would have felt frustrated and told myself to pull it together because I had a lot to do that day. Yesterday however, I shared that I wasn’t feeling great and that I wanted to take time out to help me recover before the afternoon’s webinar. With the help of my co-facilitator I considered some options and I decided to get back into my PJs, rest in bed for an hour or so, then take a shower before our webinar later that afternoon. I let my husband know what I was doing and why and he asked if he could do anything to help. I asked him to nip to the local shop and get some Lucozade for me (possibly nostalgia but it always helps me when I feel under the weather!). By the time our webinar began, I felt like a different person. Just an hour or so of paying attention to my needs helped me get back on track in order to fully immerse myself in what I needed to. If I hadn’t done this, I know I would have entered the webinar feeling even more tired and less able to bring myself fully.
Sometimes I need to take time out like this, but sometimes I need to get outside, or go to the gym, or go for a swim, or chat to a friend, or have a difficult conversation, or do some research, or watch TV, etc… I’m learning that my needs vary and it’s incredibly important to listen to them. If I don’t I suffer for much longer than just taking a short time out to address my needs before getting back to what I had planned. I appreciate being self-employed does allow me a little more freedom than most in terms of what I can do and when, but this approach can certainly be adapted without you having to get into your PJs and go back to bed for an hour in the middle of the working day!