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For Mental Health Month, We're Challenging You to Embrace Your Needs

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As humans, we have needs.

As humans, we also love to deny our needs.

Or at least, I know I do.

It sometimes feels like my needs are just my weaknesses being whiny. Like they’re inconveniences trying to hold me back, and that I need to fight against them as to not let them “win.”

I’m not the only one who has a tumultuous relationship with needs. According to Annie Wright, a licensed psychotherapist based in Berkeley, CA, my need to be “needless” is something other people grapple with, too.

“The fact that we’re resistant to meeting our needs tends to cluster around two things,” she told The Mighty. “The first is we live in a society where largely we are taught the cowboy mentality of independence… the second can come from the messages we receive from our individual families.” 

For example, she explained, if you grew up in a household where it wasn’t OK to show your emotions, express anger or say no, you might feel like honoring your needs isn’t safe or OK. When our needs aren’t met as children, it’s easy to believe they don’t matter when we’re adults.

But our needs do matter. Something I’ve had to learn is that denying them doesn’t make them go away — and in fact, embracing our needs can help us with our mental health.

That’s why, in honor of Mental Health Month, our My Mighty Month challenge for May is all about needs. Embracing them, understanding them and expressing them. And we want you to get specific. 

There are three ways you can get involved. 

1. Participate in our daily #MyNeedsMatter challenge on Twitter and Facebook.

Every day in May, we’ll post a question to inspire you to think about one of your needs. We’ll be posting them on our Twitter account and our My Mighty Month Facebook page. (Follow here and like here if you haven’t already!)

We’re hoping these daily questions will force you to think about what you need in a specific and tangible way. We encourage you to answer by replying or commenting, but feel free to jot down the answers in a notebook if that’s more your style.

2. Download and share our “I Need” cards.

Recognizing what you need is hard enough… sharing your needs with others can feel near impossible. Expressing your needs, especially when you battle health issues or live with a disability, can help strengthen your support system. People want to know how they can help, just like you want to know how you can help others.

To make this process a little easier, we’ve made “I Need” cards you can print out and share with friends and family. Here’s mine:

Our “I Need” cards span across all different topics, so hopefully, you’ll find one that works for you. Print out the ones that resonate with you (there will be two on a page), or print them out for a loved one who you’re trying to support. Even filling them out without sharing can be a good practice. It’s all about identifying your needs and owning them.

You can download the “I Need” cards below:

You can also share our customizable images on your Instagram or Snapchat story! This is a great way to let people know what you need today and to help normalize having needs. You can download them here and here.

Tag us and let us know if you’re participating! Not that we need the recognition (ha, get it?), but we’d love to see how everyone uses their “I Need” cards.

3. Do you have a hard time expressing your needs? Sign up for our newsletter.

Consider this newsletter your crash course in needing. Every week in May, you’ll get a newsletter about why recognizing our needs is so hard, and some expert advice about how to embrace them. You’ll hear more from Wright about small steps you can take if being “needy” is hard for you. We’ll also be featuring an interview with Dr. John A. Johnson, a psychology professor at Pennsylvania State University, about the difference between taking care of your needs and being selfish. (Hint: they’re not the same thing!)

Not signed up for our newsletter? You can change your newsletter settings here.

Whether you’re comfortable posting about your needs online, or would just rather answer our daily question in a notebook, we hope there’s something in this month-long challenge for everyone. Because in some ways, our struggle with our needs reflects a larger struggle with our self-worth. “The act of getting more comfortable with our needs and wants is a leap of faith,” Wright said. “We’re working on this larger belief that we’re worth it.”

You are worth it, and no matter how, we hope you’ll join us.

Want to make May a Mighty Month? Join us on Facebook at My Mighty Month, and don’t forget to tag any social media posts with #MyMightyMonth. You can also sign up for our My Mighty Month emails, (select “Mighty Monthly Challenges” from the newsletter options), which include tips and reminders designed to keep you motivated. 

Originally published: May 1, 2018
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