Calgary Counselling


Understanding Your needs  –What Do I Need?

emotional needs

Living in a fast paced world can often leave us feeling pressured to meet the demands of others. We can shift from experience to experience with minimal time to reflect and attend to our own needs. When others question us about our needs, we may fumble with an “I don’t know what I need” or “I don’t need anything.” Does this sound familiar? How can this mindset impact us? In this article, we discuss how building an awareness or acknowledging our own needs can impact our confidence, relationships, and personal well-being.


What are Needs?


Most people define needs in terms of the basics such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. While those needs are essential to our survival, we often neglect the social or emotional needs that truly allow us to live. When our social or emotional needs are fulfilled, they can help us thrive. For example, how often do you need someone to acknowledge your efforts or accomplishments? Now, how often do you think about this need? Sure, we may only need to be acknowledged every so often, but imagine living a life without any acknowledgement at all. How might that impact our motivation? Or take a moment to imagine if all other humans were gone and living for an entire week without any human contact. Yes, some of us could manage. We might even enjoy the peace and quiet temporarily! But what if we extended that week into a month – or even a year. What would that be like? How different would it be if we replaced this empty world with people that would only ignore or criticize us? Quite simply, our social and emotional needs are critical to our survival, and they are what distinguish us as complex beings.


There are many theories that attempt to label and categorize the different needs of people. However, we can also stumble upon our needs by reflecting on our lived experiences and our future ambitions. What gives you energy? What brings you closer to a state of contentment? How  do you desire your daily life or relationships to look? How much control do you have over these situations? And based on this, which needs (or wants) do you need to let go of for now in order to move toward your primary goals?


Giving Yourself Value


Will prioritizing our needs help us to appear more brave or as someone with a higher self-esteem? Think about the underlying message when we are prioritizing the needs of others over our own. The message may be “your needs are more important than mine right now.” Yes, sometimesit’s meaningful put the needs of others ahead of our own. For example, we might give up our seat on transit to the elderly or help a coworker push their car out of deep snow even after finishing a busy day at work. Although these are incidences of when we place the needs of others above our own, they do not happen very often. However, what would it be like to be in a position where our needs consistently come second? For example, what would it be like to have your best friend continuously cancelled on you to spend time with others?Or what if your partner doesn’t do their fair share of the household chores and this becomes a pattern? Would your resentment build? Can your health suffer? Do their expectations of you (or your our own expectations of yourself) begin to change? What happens to your perceived valueof yourself if you don’t meet these expectations?


Instead, what would it be like to be mindful of your needs on a daily or even hourly basis? Perhaps you are asking for more help with your household chores or advanced notice if your friend has decided to cancel plans. Maybe every so often, it can be your turn to choose which restaurant you would like to try or which movie you would want to see during a family night out. When your needs are balanced with the needs of others, the underlying message is “I am important too.” You are giving yourself value when you respect your right to ask for what you want.

Addressing Our Needs Can Improve Our Most Important Relationships


It can require a certain level of courage and assertiveness to recalibrate how we would like to address our needs. We may need to speak up more or even at times challenge others. We may place ourselves in a position of vulnerability in allowing others to better understand our inner world. When we decide to let others around us help us, we may be helping them feel important as well. Think of a time when perhaps your boss, friend, or family member has asked you to help them with something meaningful. Remember that feeling? Sometimes people need to feel needed. It can make us feel important and perhaps less replaceable in a relationship. If we can open up about our needs to others, there’s a good chance we may build more meaningful relationships, earn the respect of others, and perhaps live a more fulfilling life.


Evidently, there is no guarantee that others will help us to have our needs met, whether unsaid or even said. In fact, some people tend to resist change, especially when our needs will affect them!But it can still be worthwhile to try.  We may even be required to negotiate our needs as they conflict with the needs of others. Of course, there will be situations or people that will not negotiate with us. Ultimately, it may be up to us to decide the level of interaction we want with these people and how much space we may need away from them. For those that are willing to collaborate with us, we may need to revisit these conversations periodically. Needs for both parties can be ever changing.


Focus on the Needs that You can Control


Sometimes we are faced with needs that we do not necessarily have control over. For example, we may need to feel important or included with our family, friends, or other loved ones to thrive but there is no guarantee that it will always happen. We can voice our needs as much as we want but it is up to the other person to decide what they are willing to do with the information. What can we control?


We can control a lot. If we even as we look at social and emotional needs, we can make a list of activities that we can control. For example, we can control:

-Whether or not we take time to identify our needs

-Whether or not we choose to voice our needs, and to whom we share them with

-How we share about our needs. Whether it is a brief request, or a longer conversation

-How we react to others responses when we voice our needs. Regardless of their reactions, we have choices about where we go from there.

-If we are lonely, we can choose to meet our own needs, by calling a friend, joining a meet up group, hosting a dinner or participating in volunteer work.

-If we need space to feel, we might set aside time to listen to music we connect with, or journal without judging, letting the writing flow for a cathartic experience or simply to spend time with ourselves

-If we need to find positivity we may need to listen to an inspirational speaker, or spend time in a gratitude mediation, focusing

-If we desire to connect spiritually, we can look up churches or mosques, hot yoga centres or literature that addresses our particular needs. We may also try prayer, mediation or reaching out to a spiritual person that we respect and ask them how they are pursuing their own spiritual needs.


Sometimes what we need above all is to recognize all of the things we can do, rather than feeling like the control is always external or somehow beyond our reach. What is most essential to the entire process is self awareness to understand what we really deeply want.


So, take five minutes and repeat this question, over and over, and then write or state your answer aloud – without judgment – each time it comes.


What do you need?


In the process you will get to know yourself, and you will identify what could help others get to know you better too. Overall its a meaningful way towards more satisfied life and the real you.

Living Well Counselling Services Inc.
4803 Centre Street Northwest #4,
Calgary, AB T2E 2Z6
(403) 695-7911

Living Well Counselling Services Inc.

Living Well was created with certain values in mind. We want to help you connect with a Psychologist or Counsellor that is effective in their areas of strength and also one that is welcoming, non-judgemental & easy to work with. Whether you need to meet with a counsellor for anxiety, addictions or depression, are in need of couples therapy, anger management tools or an LGBTQ friendly therapist, one of us may be a good fit. For tips on finding the right counsellor, click here. We also strive to keep our rates lower than the set rate for most Calgary counselling agencies, and have therapists covered by benefits should you have access to extended health coverage.


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