It seems that neediness has become a dirty word. If you are needy, your friends will pity you, acquaintances will shun you, and clients will stay away in droves.
It’s as if you have a disgusting rash.
But you know, it’s hard enough to feel needy without heaping guilt and shame on top of it. Besides, there is a real way in which neediness is not only okay, but essential to your business.
Human beings have needs
So long as you are alive and your survival instinct is intact, you’re going to have needs. Some of these needs are physical, for food and shelter, for example. Others are emotional. You need to feel accepted as part of a family and community or you will fail to thrive.
And then there are needs related to making meaning. And making meaning is essential once your basic needs are met.
Meaning is a human need
From earliest times human beings have sought to explain their place in the cosmos. Myths sprang up around the communal fire to explain such stunning events as eclipses, not to mention the mysteries of weather and even the cycles of our own bodies.
Without a way to make sense of the world around you (and your place in it), you are adrift. Meaning is what anchors you to a certain view of the world. What gives you your value systems and tells you what things are worth doing and what are not.
The intersection of need and self-employment
Self-employment brings you face to face with many levels of neediness. To begin with, there are survival needs, which vary depending on how much of your livelihood depends on your chosen work.
And even if you have other sources of income, your needs to be valued and to make a contribution can be insistent.
There’s just no way of avoiding neediness in life or self-employment.
Facing neediness takes courage
Facing your own neediness takes courage (heart). You need to be able to observe not only what you need but how you respond to the lack.
And you need to be able to engage with what you need while staying open to having your needs met.
Neediness is part of the hero’s journey
In all of myth you won’t find a hero who isn’t needy. At the very least there is the need to complete the journey and attain the reward at journey’s end. Then there is the shadow side of heroism where marginalized aspects of the personality such as fear, need, and greed lurk.
And self-employment is nothing if not a hero’s journey.
Very well, you say. You get that neediness happens, that it is inescapable. But how the heck are you supposed to deal with it so it doesn’t beat you down and drive business away?
The key is not to collapse into neediness, but to let it be your teacher.
How to engage your neediness without collapsing into it
The problem with neediness isn’t that it happens, it’s that collapsing into it brings growth to a screaming halt. But you don’t have to collapse into neediness. Instead, you can regard neediness as your teacher.
Here’s some of what neediness can teach, and how your business can benefit from the lessons learned.
Humility. The first virtue neediness will teach is humility. If you’re feeling “less than” and needing reassurance that you are enough, welcome to the real world. In and of yourself you aren’t enough and never will be.
That’s actually good news. It’s an invitation to tap into a larger Source of meaning and value. You answer that invitation by reaching out to the community around you. By studying masters who have gone before you. And by connecting with Spirit.
Whenever you open yourself to humility, a path will show up before you. Just remember that you may be shown only one step of that path at a time.
Emptiness. Closely related to humility is the virtue of emptiness. Emptiness is essential to the creative process. The seeds of new projects, new ways of promoting your work, and new ways to prosper take root first in emptiness.
Make some time every day to be empty. Take a walk without your iPod. Stare out the window instead of reading a book. Do the dishes with full attention instead of watching television.
Sufficiency. One of the mysterious lessons of neediness is that you have everything that is sufficient for your well being right now. If you are reading these words, you have what you need in this moment.
I’m not talking about settling for a small life, but about recognizing the larger possibilities that your life already contains. When you tune into the myriad ways in which you are already supported, these possibilities spring up like crocuses in spring.
Neediness is a beginning, not an end
It can be scary to feel needy. But that fear doesn’t need to bring your growth as a person or a business to a halt. Practice noticing neediness without judging or rejecting it. As best you can, open to its teachings. And know yourself to be a hero on the most important journey you can make: living your own wild and precious life.
Note: The phrase “wild and precious life” is from Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day,” from New and Selected Poems, Vol.1.