Should women be needier in order to become more independent? It seems counterintuitive, but avoiding or denying your needs could actually kill your confidence as well as your relationships. Despite all the popular advice to “stand in your power” or “own it,” we first need to remove the social stigma around behaviors that are dismissed as being distinctly “female”—and we do this by both acknowledging and trusting our needs, says Jessica Boston.
Jessica is a transformative life coach and cognitive hypnotherapist. She works primarily with women, helping them to undo all the beliefs that limit their confidence. Part of her process is to look out for the “rules” that women subconsciously apply to the areas of their lives that involve some kind of attachment—such as relationships—and often result in their needs not being met.
You’re Only As Needy As Your Unmet Needs
“I meet a lot of women in their mid-thirties who have lowered their standards in relationships, and become much more forgiving of red flags, because they’re feeling the societal pressure to settle down,” explains Jessica. “It’s that time in their lives when it’s assumed that a woman should be getting married or having babies or passing other social milestones.”
“They end up living in a funny sort of labyrinth made up of what they think life ‘should’ look like, caught between what they consciously want and need versus what they unconsciously fear. On top of that, they’re thinking about what their partner doesn’t like, but their mum does, so there’s restricted movement.”
“Worse still, some women can live their whole lives like this in order to please someone who could turn around and say, ‘I never asked you to do that,’ which can be devastating.”
Identifying your attachment style can help you to decipher these limiting behaviors with a view of changing them. There are three common styles and each describes the way a person approaches relationships, specifically the thoughts they have about themselves and the other person in that relationship—but be careful not to become too attached to your attachment style warns Jessica, “These kinds of labels are useful if they’re taken as information that can help you to understand or change your behaviors, but they’re less effective when people adopt them as their identity and it becomes a way of life.”
What’s Your Attachment Style?
- Anxious: you have the capacity for great intimacy but fear your partner doesn’t feel the same way. Relationships consume you since you’re sensitive to fluctuations in others’ moods, often taking them personally.
- Avoidant: you value independence, preferring autonomy to intimacy. Even though you may crave closeness, you maintain emotional distance, keeping an eye out for signs that a partner is impinging on your freedom.
- Secure: you’re comfortable with intimacy, affection, and communicating your needs. You can also read and respond appropriately to others’ emotional cues without taking them personally.
Jessica admits that she sees more women with an anxious attachment style, while more men show avoidant traits. “This is a generalization, but men are often raised to be subconsciously avoidant of their emotions, whereas women are encouraged and expected to face their feelings in the moment.”
Women are also prone to doubt the validity of these feelings. “Much of my work is about helping women to trust themselves, and to trust that their needs are as valid as anyone else’s. If your needs are reasonable, it’s OK to have them, but if you rely too much on a partner, that’s a different story.”
It doesn’t help that words like “needy” and “neediness” are often used as insults. “This implies your “need” is wrong, and it can be a way of silencing you,” adds Jessica. “Yet your needs are your needs, so look beneath the surface, or the insult, and ask what words like ‘neediness’ really mean to you.”
How Can Women Be More Secure?
“Unless you have faith in yourself, you’ll rely too heavily on other people, which means you become vulnerable to their moods, actions, and decisions,” says Jessica. “Becoming attached to people and things is part of our social conditioning, so it’s kind of unavoidable, but just be careful how you attach.”
“If you do so with the belief that a person or thing will make your life better, then your reality depends on something outside of yourself and you give your power away.” Yet if you trust in the validity of your own experience without these add-ons, you’ll have less need to depend so heavily on them. They’ll simply be “nice to have” rather than a necessity.
Finally, you’ll also trust others more, becoming attuned to those who want to support rather than silence you—recognizing and responding to the red flags rather than ignoring them. “When women live freely, they live without the limitations of culture and society, and they stop running around after family, friends, or partners.” They also get their needs met because they meet their own.