Here at IBC, I’m passionate about helping you to put your wants and needs first in a way that doesn’t feel selfish. I believe so many of us are taught to be compliant, to do as we’re told and to put others first. And while they are all great things, and needed, you also need to look after yourself. You are responsible for you, you’re the only you you have, and no one else will know how to look after you better than you.
I’ve been through a journey of realising this myself. My parents like to tell me that I’ve always been happy marching to the beat of my own drum, that I was a very determined child. And looking back at what I remember of my school years that seems about right! I was quite happy to do what I wanted to do, was less fussed about what my peers thought was cool, defied all expectations academically and went against my college tutor’s recommendations when applying to University.
The first time I really stopped putting my needs first was during my year in industry, which I speak about here. After this, it took me a long time to get back on track. My final year of Uni was just as challenging, trying to finish my degree while ill and living with people who I didn’t get along with. It wasn’t until I graduated that I decided to start putting my needs first.
I moved home and took a year to focus on me and making myself better. I took a local job who were really supportive of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, started going to the gym and re-introducing gentle exercised, ate well and started saying no to things I didn’t want to do. Over the course of that year I lost all the weight I’d gained while ill, paid off the credit card debt I’d built up during my year in industry, saved up money towards my Masters and connected to who I was and what I wanted.
At this point, I met Dave. It was the best time to meet him, and I’m convinced me putting my needs first during that stage of my life is why we have such a strong relationship. You can read more about that here. This carried on through my Masters until I moved to London.
I look back on my moving to London as a very mixed point in my life. On one hand, I finally got to move in with Dave. But that cause more arguments than we’d ever had as we adjusted to living together. I went back to work which bought up a lot of mixed feelings for me. Although able to keep a great work-life balance, I was doing something I really really disliked. And earning a great salary didn’t mean anything as I spent it on shiny new things in an attempt to make myself happy. I had a better social life than I’d had at home but often in situations that overwhelmed me completely and would leave me exhausted for days after.
These mixed experiences started a process where I became really disconnected from myself. Coaching was the thing that started getting that back on track. But starting your own business isn’t a straightforward process. We also decided to move out of London at the same time as I started the business, adding another hurdle to the process. It threw up a lot of guilt, frustration and resentment as I tried to navigate my new working and living situation. It definitely impacted on Dave and mine’s relationship. We have very different ideas about what it takes to run a business and what success looks like, which created a lot of pressure.
It was my own coaching that changed everything. The simple question “what do you want?” set me off on the journey thatbroughtought me where I am. When my coach asked it, I had no idea what I wanted. I also didn’t know how to work out what it was either. I set off on a mission to discover what I wanted. That lead me to learning the difference between wants and needs.
Sometimes what you want and need aren’t the same thing. And if you’re not getting what you need it won’t work when you get what you want, if you get what you want at all. I wanted a successful business but I needed to look after my own well-being. Setting my business up at the expense of my friendships, boundaries and well-being made it unsustainable. Taking time to meet all my needs has made my business better. And if my business had taken off while I hadn’t been meeting my needs, I doubt I would’ve appreciated it anyway.
If you think it’s hard to work out what you want, knowing what you need is even harder! Sometimes you need something that isn’t particularly enjoyable, or that you’d want to do. Meeting your needs isn’t always the exciting, sexy thing. This means you can often overlook the needs in favour of those things you want. And you can do that for a while before you’ll start to notice the impacts of it. And even when you finally start to realise you’re not meeting your needs, you don’t always know which need it is you need to focus on to improve things.
Once I realised this was the case I set out to find out everything I can about needs. What they are, how you identify them, how to balance them with your wants. There are a few models of needs out there, but I felt none of them fully captured what worked for me. This is why I created my own needs model. I refer to it in a number of blog posts, and today I want to explore it in a bit more detail.
I’ve developed this model using Tony Robbin’s 6 basic human needs, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and Self Determination Theory (a psychological model of needs.) I’ve divided the needs into 4 basic categories: Physiological Needs, Relationship Needs, Self-esteem Needs, and Higher Purpose Needs. Each of these categories have different needs within, and they can be completely dependent on you, and your life.
These are the things you need to do to stay alive. This is about getting enough food, sleep and movement in your life. I include stress management, rest and relaxation also, which are so important now our lives are so demanding.
The amount of sleep, food, rest, exercise all vary from person to person. Knowing yourself, and how you best function depending on different levels of these needs is vital. We often look to other people to tell us how to meet these needs. There’s so much guidance out there about them, it’s can be easier to rely on what someone else tells you, rather than connecting to what works for you.
We often try and overlook the needs in favour for the more exciting things we want. This is why eating healthily is a struggle, getting enough sleep is difficult and stress levels are through the roof.
These are all your social needs. It includes all relationships – romantic partners, family members, friendships, even colleagues. To meet these needs, you need to have enough connection, love, intimacy and belonging. You also have to be able to communicate well with the important people in your life. Who the important people in your life are influences how you meet these needs. Your personality will also influence them, for example being introverted or extroverted will make a difference to how you meet these needs.
Sometimes issues can show up in this area if other needs categories are out of balance. Examples include not seeing your friends because you’re working too much or arguing with your partner because too much people pleasing has left you at the end of your tether.
These are the needs all about you. They’re the things you need to do to grow your confidence and self-belief. This can include learning and growth, cultivating self-respect (see my article on why self-respect is so important here), maintaining healthy boundaries, feeling important, self-care, adding variety and stimulation in your life.
Being in touch with how you feel is an important part of meeting these needs. Too often we try and ignore our feelings. We put them aside for other people, or prefer to pretend we don’t feel anything negative. All this does is blunt all your feelings, both positive and negative. It usually ends up in some kind of dramatic incident as well, such as you burning out or exploding at someone for something they did. Taking the time to regularly name how you feel is an important part of being comfortable in your own skin.
We’d all like more confidence and self-esteem, but often get put off by the amount of “work” required to increase these parts of ourselves, making this one of the hardest needs categories to meet.
Higher Purpose Needs
I think of these as the bigger picture needs. This is your sense of who you are, what your values are, why you do what you do. This is about feeling autonomous in your life, feeling that you have a level of control over the direction you are moving in.
There’s also a need here to contribute to society, to give back and help others. We are a community creature, longing to belong is an important part of life, and giving back is crucial for developing that sense of belonging. If you’re not meeting the other needs it can be really hard to do this though, to have the capacity to give as much as you’d like to.
How you feel on a day to day basis will be made up of your balance of these 4 categories. Each person has different requirements for each category, and this can change day to day. It’s worth noting that sometimes, if you notice one area is lacking, that’s not necessarily the area you need to focus on. When Dave & I were arguing when I first moved to London I needed to look at my Self-esteem Needs, not my Relationship Needs. And I’ve written before about improving you Physiological Needs won’t necessarily improve how tired you’re feeling.
You can meet your needs in positive and negative ways. Living off take away and fast food will still help you meet your Physiological Needs, but not as well as eating a diet full of fresh food. What is positive and negative will also depend on you, not what someone else tells you is good or bad. The number of times I have to remind Dave that I prefer socialising at home he still wants us to go out to the pub with people. When I do go to the pub I meet my Relationship Needs, but it has a negative knock on affect to my other needs. Dave, however, gets itchy feet if he’s at home too much, and loves to be out and around people when he socialises. Again, socialising at home meets his needs, but not as well as going out does.
Because meeting your needs is so personalised no one can tell you how to meet them. You need to know for yourself, and experiment to see what works for you. This is what I do with my coaching – I help you explore yourself and your needs to work out how you want to move forward with meeting them. I won’t tell you how to do this, I might provide suggestions, but I offer you space to fully embrace yourself.
There are things you can do without a coach though. You can go through each need type and journal about how you think you’re meeting the needs at the moment, if you feel you can do any better and what you’d like to experiment with. From there it’s simply a case of setting some goals to help you structure the experiments and moving forward with the steps of implementing them.