How well do you understand your needs?
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who works with sensitive people so they can stop second-guessing, make decisions confidently and live the life they’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here.
Your resentment is an invitation into understanding your needs.
Happy Sunday, Soothers. Here’s a surprising theory I’m going to posit today:
Many of us don’t actually know what we need. Especially emotionally.
And many of us are experiencing resentment on a frequent basis: hat feeling of frustration when we think another person or people should have acted a different way or done a different thing.
Resentment used to be my constant companion. I would bitterly ruminate about situations, how I’d been treated, or how I had interpreted somebody’s actions as thoughtless or wrong. The thoughts and storytelling I did in my head about these situations could have filled a book. A volume of books, really.
As I’ve grown and evolved, one of my biggest hopes was to learn to discard my resentment and step into something else. I’d tried for a long time to get rid of my resentment in a variety of ways that maybe helped in the short-term but really weren’t doing anything to move the needle for me: dismissing it; shoving it down; shaming myself for it; telling myself I just needed to get over it; and occasionally blowing up at the other person when my resentment overflowed.
As I explored my resentment more thoughtfully, and looked at it curiously and compassionately, I began to understand that it showed up when I had needs that I wasn’t articulating — to myself, or to another person. I was often expecting another person to know what I needed without myself having to put myself out there in stating it; sometimes the resentment came up because I knew I needed *something*, but I couldn’t articulate quite what, and I was secretly hoping the other person would figure it out for me.
Today, after a lot of self-growth and reflection, I never feel resentful, ever. I am truly healed.
Hahahahha just kidding I still constantly feel resentful and bitter because I am a human who still struggles with codependency.
But now I know to look at the resentment for what it is: an invitation.
An invitation into what?
Into first understanding my needs.
Then self-validating the needs.
Then stating my needs, no matter the outcome.
Then giving myself what I need, instead of expecting or hoping the other person can do it for me.
Now, this is nice and all but there’s a significant obstacle I see in my students and clients (and myself) around this issue:
We often have no idea what our needs are.
A lifetime of perfectionism and people-pleasing and attunement to others has left us Olympic-level-skilled in understanding and anticipating other people’s needs.
But when that gaze is turned inwards it often feels like we’re looking, baffled, at a blank space.
Do you feel like this at all? Unsure of what you actually authentically need?
You’re so not alone.
I’ve experienced this and have heard it many times from others, so today I want to offer you a few starter steps to identify your needs. Because your resentment is your invitation to understand your needs, and by better understanding your needs, you will begin to feel less resentment in your life, because you can learn to meet them yourself. But first you have to know what they are.
The first step I think to this is going to sound totally absurd, but I see this so often that I think it needs to be said. Do you drink water when you’re thirsty? Do you eat when you’re hungry? Do you sleep when you’re tired? Hell, do you pee when you actually need to or do you hold it so you can do more work?
The first step of better understanding your emotional needs lies in your body. If you cannot meet your body’s most basic needs, you will not have a foundation for understanding and attaining other more complex needs.
Try a week where you tune in and attend to those needs. It may even have to start with just observing. The reality is that so many of us are deeply disconnected from our bodies so we may not truly understand when we’re hungry or tired or thirsty. See if you can just pay gentle attention to those cues.
The second step I would offer is a 7-day journaling exercise. For 7 days, spend 10 minutes free writing whatever is on your mind today. Then spend the next 5 minutes writing down everything you think you need that day. You may have to guess sometimes, and that’s okay. Then spend 5 minutes brainstorming all the ways you could meet those needs in that day. Again, you may have to guess, and that’s okay. You’re figuring it out.
The third step I would do is some simple self-assessment. Taking a love languages quiz here or something along these lines actually can be great. What’s your love language? Mine is quality time. Then brainstorm 10 ways your love language could be met. Make 5 of those ways you could meet it yourself, first. Then 5 ways other people could meet it.
Finally, I encourage you to read Paloma Medina’s thinking on core needs at work. BICEPS: Belonging, Improvement, Choice, Equality, Predictability, and Significance. These are applied to the workplace but I think they’re good measures for your own life both personal and professional. Journal on what would be an example of each of those six for you. What would it look like? How present is it in your life on a scale of 1–5? Are there ways you can increase the presence of each? How?
Starting from being able to know your needs, validate them, partner with your needs, and claim them, and then, eventually, be able to name them for others and ask them of others: this is the invitation that resentment offers you.
I encourage you to step through the door that resentment is holding open for you; it is the beginning of reclaiming your authenticity.