A few years ago, the city of NY ran a public service ad campaign. Each ad had a very cute baby (ok, my judgment–though if you saw them, I think you’d agree) in different situations. Each poster had the same title, “Take Good Care of Your Baby.” Each time I saw these ads, I became a little sentimental. How would we treat ourselves if we were a beautiful little baby? How much compassion and love would we have? What choices would we make?
I am convinced that times in my life when I have had less compassion or openness to others is also when I’ve least held my own needs with care. Sometimes I’m meeting some of my needs—such as for ease, connection, contribution or acceptance. Yet I may be focusing on those needs to the expense of others—and all needs matter. (No need left behind! 😉
It can be a lot of work to get clear about our needs and in the rush of everyday life it can seem especially overwhelming. Our culture is focused on “to do” lists–what am I getting done today–rather than focusing on where I am –how I am being today. Yet when I forget to check in about my needs, and not just check in but really explore them (especially when it comes to big decisions) the cost is high in the long run—for me, and, I believe, for others involved.
I also have a belief that most if not all of us have a familiar and comfortable pattern: to hold their own needs with care or the needs of others. The task of practicing NVC is do both: to see how everyone’s needs can matter—others and our own.
Part of this is cultural: I do believe that women are still educated socially to focus on the needs of others (as trained to be sacrificing and nurturing). It’s one reason I’m passionate about offering an annual women’s retreat: so that there is space for a community of women to further explore how to learn about their needs and to respond to them, and act on them. I also think these patterns are related to early life experiences. How were our needs held with care in our families? What messages were we given about how others’ needs “should” matter? What examples or models did we see? What stories have we learned?
I think it can be helpful to notice if you are moving faster towards responding to others’ needs or your own needs. If you are not holding your own needs fully with care, check to see if you are acting from a place of fear. Are you wanting acceptance, harmony or ease? Are you afraid of judgment, by saying no? (Needing: understanding, harmony and acceptance.) Those needs matter to me and also integrity and self-care. And I want to free of fear in responding to my needs. Sometimes dogging for your needs involves setting limits (a form of protective use of force) which may not always meet needs for ease but, in the long run, can lead to peace and harmony—in relation to others and also in your own skin. In NVC, was use the tag line, “Are you willing..?” We can also say, “I’m not willing…”
Sometimes when I’m not seeing all my needs it’s because I need to do some mourning. There are some needs that may matter to me that may go unmet. If I’m holding tightly to those needs, it can get in the way of my seeing and holding all my needs with care.
What’s your experience? When are you more likely to miss some of your needs and move too quickly in acting on some needs and not others? What supports you in nurturing yourself and all your beautiful needs—and “taking good care” of yourself, like a sweet baby?