Do you feel like you’re emotionally needy? Do you read quotes about selfish people and relate to them? Do you wish you were the opposite of demanding or needy?
If you’re answering “yes” to these questions, this post is for you. I’m going to explain why you are emotionally needy.
Here’s a hint…. Just like in most of my posts, the reason you are emotionally needy probably stems from your childhood. Once you read this, you will see that you are the opposite of demanding or needy.
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Emotional Needy (Unmet Needs from Childhood)
The emotional needs of children are incredibly important. You already know that. A child needs to be safe emotionally, but that doesn’t always happen.
Please know there are NO EMOTIONALLY NEEDY CHILDREN! Instead, there are children whose emotional needs are not being met.
If a child needs emotional support and doesn’t get it, then that child becomes an adult whose emotional needs aren’t met.
Like I always say, if you weren’t taught or shown something, you won’t know how to do it. So, if you weren’t taught how to get your emotional needs met as a child, then you grow up the same way.
When that happens, you may take on the label of being “emotionally needy.” Nobody wants that label. Not only that, but nobody wants to have relationships with those who are “emotionally needy.”
This post is going to explain why you are emotionally needy and how to change that. Before you look at making that huge change, you have to understand how you arrived at being emotionally needy.
A child needs to be seen, heard, loved, valued, adored and accepted. Sadly, many children never get any of that.
Unmet Emotional Needs of a Child
There are two paths these kinds of children take. Neither are healthy and both can be healed if these children become adults willing to do the hard work.
The first path is one of the paths that results in becoming emotionally needy. A child who takes this path will go to great lengths to get his or her emotional needs met.
Are you wondering what that might look like? Let’s look at a five-year-old child named Alice. Her parents are emotionally unavailable to her for numerous reasons.
If you want to know what emotionally unavailable means, you need to read my post, Emotionally Unavailable Parents: 5 Steps to Heal. That will give you a good understanding and you may even see that your parents were emotionally unavailable.
Alice has a one-year-old sister. Her parents teach her that her baby sister’s needs are more important than hers. That’s not the intent of the parents, but a child doesn’t know that and can’t understand intent behind behaviors or actions.
Alice is no longer the center of attention for her parents. They spend the majority of their time adoring the baby and not her.
She begins trying anything and everything she can to get attention because that is what a child needs and deserves. However, you may have heard the saying, “Bad attention is better than no attention.”
At first, Alice tries to do great things to make her parents proud and get a little attention. She colors them a picture and goes running into the living room to show off her work.
The response she gets from her parents is dismissive. They tell her that she should’ve been spending her time picking up her room because they don’t have time to do that anymore. They’re busy with the baby.
Can you feel how deflated Alice feels? It is so incredibly sad. Alice then goes to her room and begins picking up her toys and putting them where they belong.
Once again, she goes running into the living room to announce that she cleaned her room. She thinks her parents will be so excited and proud of her.
That’s not what Alice gets at all. Instead, she is then told that now that her room is clean, they need her to watch her baby sister while they get things done.
By now, you can probably see that Alice is begging for her emotional needs to be met by her parents, but nothing is working. While she is watching her baby sister, she starts thinking of ways to get their attention.
Alice gets a bottle and some snacks to feed her sister. Surely, they’ll be happy that she fed her baby sister.
Guess what? That doesn’t happen this time either. Instead, they get angry at her for not changing the baby’s diaper and for feeding her ahead of schedule.
This is how Alice’s childhood continues. Keep in mind that I said the emotional needs of children are to be seen, heard, loved, valued, adored and accepted.
None of those needs are met for Alice. As she gets a few years older, her parents begin labeling her as “emotionally needy.” That’s a label she takes on and carries into adulthood.
She becomes the “emotionally needy” friend, co-worker and girlfriend. Alice constantly needs attention and reassurance.
We’ve all had experiences with an emotionally needy person like Alice. It’s exhausting to try to meet their needs because we’re never doing it right or it’s never enough.
There’s not one aspect of Alice’s life where she isn’t demanding attention. She is “emotionally needy” with everything she does because those needs continue to be unmet.
Opposite of Demanding
Now, let’s look at the second path when the emotional needs of children aren’t met. These children are the exact opposite of demanding or emotionally needy.
Their emotional needs weren’t met just like Alice. However, they decided their needs weren’t important enough to be met. Therefore, they create a false belief that they should never have needs.
To see what that looks like for a child, we’ll explore a child named Joe. He, too, begged his parents for attention early on.
Just like Alice, he never got his emotional needs met either. Instead of amping up his attempts to get attention, he decides he shouldn’t need his parents to see, hear, love, value, adore or accept him.
He doesn’t make a big deal about anything he does, which is how his parents taught him to act. When he does great things, he doesn’t see that they are great at all.
Joe doesn’t believe that he should ever have pride in himself for his accomplishments. Why should he believe that when his parents didn’t?
As Joe gets a few years older, he also learns that he should never need help from anybody for anything. He struggles alone until he can figure everything out for himself.
His parents might even feel good about the fact that he never needs anything from them. It lessens their parental responsibilities. How sad is that for Joe?
Fast-forwarding Joe into adulthood and he becomes the friend, boyfriend and co-worker who never needs anything from anybody just like his childhood. In our society, Joe appears strong and independent.
However, that is never healthy. We need others for emotional support just like a child needs emotional support from his or her parents.
Emotional Needs of Children and Adulthood
Now, here’s a twist for Alice and Joe as adults. They meet at work and begin dating. Here’s another “guess what” for you. The relationship doesn’t go well and is not healthy.
Joe and Alice were attracted to each other because they are used to the behaviors of someone never meeting their emotional needs. Remember, though, Joe and Alice took two different paths due to their needs not being met.
Alice portrays that role of “being needy.” Joe takes on the role of not having any needs to be met.
As their relationship continues, Alice becomes more and more emotionally needy. If she doesn’t hear from Joe first thing in the morning, her day begins terribly.
Once she hears from him, she begins telling him that she has had a terrible morning. She needs him to tell her that she’s doing a good job at work and that they can talk about her terrible morning when they go to dinner after work.
She doesn’t get that because she doesn’t know how to identify, much less communicate, her needs from Joe. That results in Alice going to the bathroom to take a selfie to send to Joe.
In her mind, she believes Joe will respond to the selfie by telling her how beautiful she looks. That’s not what she gets.
Instead, Joe “likes” her photo and says, “Is this the same selfie you sent a couple of weeks ago?” Alice is sad because she needed him to tell her how beautiful she is.
Remember that Joe doesn’t believe he has any needs. Therefore, he doesn’t believe anybody else should have needs either. So, he certainly doesn’t meet the needs of “emotionally needy” Alice.
Begging for Attention
She returns to her desk feeling hurt. Alice shows the selfie to a co-worker and asks how the co-worker would respond if that co-worker’s wife had sent him that selfie.
Keep in mind that, when Alice was a child, she would always increase her attempts at getting attention when her needs weren’t met. Just like she attracted Joe because he’s like her parents, she attracted an older male co-worker as a friend, who is the same way.
Her co-worker feels awkward when Alice is being “emotionally needy,” especially since it happens quite often. His response is, “Do you send him selfies every day?”
Again, Alice’s needs aren’t met. So, she resorts to posting the selfie on social media. Behaviors like this are the reason I wrote the post, 4 Ways We Teach Kids Attention-Seeking Behaviors with Social Media.
If you are brave enough to admit you post on social media to get attention, then read that post. It can allow you to take a deep look at your behaviors. You can’t change behaviors if you don’t admit they exist and are unhealthy.
Alice gets a few likes from her selfie on social media. That seems to suffice for enough attention for a bit. However, she still didn’t get the attention she wanted from Joe.
After work, Alice goes home and puts on a new dress that Joe has never seen here wear. She thinks, “Surely Joe will think I look beautiful in this dress.”
When Joe picks her up for dinner, he comments, “When did you buy that dress? I thought you were saving money for our vacation next month.” Once again, Alice is hurt because Joe didn’t meet her emotional needs.
I could give you a million other examples of Alice being “emotionally needy,” but I think you get the point now. Please know that I’m not saying that Alice should not need compliments. Everybody deserves that and needs that to some degree, whether they can admit it or not. I’m simply demonstrating how Alice found a partner like her parents who ignores her emotional needs.
Ignoring Emotional Needs
Now, let’s take a look at how Joe continued his belief that he doesn’t have emotional needs now that he is an adult. I’ll also explain why Joe ended up dating Alice due to the path he unknowingly chose as a child.
Remember that, as a child, Joe decided he didn’t have any needs that others could meet for him. This includes Alice, even though she is his girlfriend.
Alice is always trying to meet the emotional needs she believes Joe has and goes over the top as that is how Alice was as a child. It never goes well for either or them, though.
Every morning Alice wakes up and immediately sends Joe a text telling him how amazing he is and how thankful she is for him. This makes Joe uncomfortable as he believes he doesn’t need anybody to appreciate him.
So, Joe ignores Alice’s texts most of the time. They’ve had many fights over this as Alice tells him that he doesn’t care about her because he ignores her texts.
Joe begins responding to her texts with a simple, “ok” or “thanks.” He could respond with something like, “You are so welcome and I’m so glad you are my girlfriend.”
The reason he doesn’t is that he believes she should already know that. Why should he have to tell her that all the time? Obviously, he’s glad she’s his girlfriend or he wouldn’t be with her.
That’s how Joe’s brain became wired as a child. When Alice begins to increase her attempts at meeting Joe’s emotional needs, he becomes more and more distant.
Not only that, but he gets more and more tired of Alice being “needy.” Alice senses that Joe is pulling away from her.
That only increases her attempts to get Joe to meet her emotional needs. She constantly asks him what’s wrong or if he wants to break up with her in hopes he’ll reassure her that he loves her and still wants to be with her.
However, that backfires on Alice. Joe cannot comprehend Alice’s emotional needs and the ways she tries to force him to meet them.
Relationships and Emotional Needs
Eventually, Joe breaks up with Alice because she’s too “emotionally needy” and makes him uncomfortable with all the compliments and the ways she tries to meet his emotional needs that he doesn’t believe he has.
After the break-up, they both establish beliefs about the opposite sex. These beliefs are quite cliché’ for men and women. However, the roles they both play can be played by males or females.
Alice decides all men are heartless. She thinks no man will ever love her the way she deserves. Joe decides that all women are “emotionally needy” and that he doesn’t need a partner due to that.
Now, none of that is true. Sadly, they both will probably attract more partners just like each other. That doesn’t have to be the case though.
Healing when Emotional Needs Aren’t Met in Childhood
If Alice and Joe both begin their healing journeys, they’ll see how their behaviors stemmed from not getting what every child needs. Again, every child needs to be seen, heard, loved, valued, adored and accepted.
If Alice does her healing work, she will see that she is the opposite of demanding when it comes to getting her emotional needs met. She will learn how to get her needs met in a healthy way.
If Joe does his healing work, he’ll see that it’s okay to have emotional needs. He will allow a partner to meet those needs in a healthy way.
Remember me asking you at the beginning if you’ve read quotes about selfish people and related to them? If you answered yes to that, after reading this, you should understand those quotes no longer related to you, Joe or Alice.
Instead, you can replace them with loving self-affirmations. Do you recognize any of Joe or Alice’s behaviors in yourself? If so, you should read my post, 8 Self-Loving Affirmations: Learn to Love Yourself.
As always, I recommend seeing a licensed therapist if you need guidance in healing these behaviors. You deserve to learn how to get your emotional needs met in a healthy way and to understand it’s ok to have those needs.
If you have any questions or relate to Alice or Joe, please comment below. Share those with the Not Good Enough Stuff Community. We can all learn from one another.
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.