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I'm Not "Needy" I'm Human

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I think we all have names we call ourselves when we’re upset and caught in a spiral of self-loathing. For me, “needy,” “clingy,” and “attention-whore” are some of the big ones. Not very nice, I know. I have a lot of trouble with self-loathing because at my core, part of me truly believes there is something wrong with me. I’m currently undiagnosed, so it’s possible that this belief stems solely from some undiscovered imbalance in my brain, but I have a feeling society and trauma play a more significant role.

Those words, “needy,” “clingy,” attention-whore,” all revolve around degrading myself for needing other people. I have been taught in many different ways that it’s OK to want companionship and friendship and connection, but it’s not OK to actually need those things. To treat those things as needs instead of casual occasional desires.

This is, of course, bullshit. Humans need connection. We need it. Sometimes we don’t even want it, but we still need it. Even the most introverted people on the planet, like my husband, need to know they are seen and loved.

The confusing part about all of this is that our society pretends that it’s OK to need these things. In theory, we all know it’s OK to need other people. Humans are a social species, and of course we need to spend time together and rely on each other. But then, one night when we’re having a panic attack, we pick up our phone to text someone and we freeze.

We put the phone down and go back to hyperventilating alone because we don’t want to be “needy.”

The reality is, our society says it’s OK to need people, but when we actually act on this need, there’s a lot of shame attached. We often can’t even articulate what we’re ashamed of or why we’re so scared of being “needy” or “clingy” but those feelings of shame are still as strong as ever, even if we can’t explain them. Still, being able to explain something, having the vocabulary to describe it, gives you a little bit of control over it.

I am the daughter of two hard-working middle-class parents. My dad is a head accountant and my mom is a nurse, and they are both the children of hard-working farmers and factory workers who were born during the great depression and grew up poorer than I could even imagine. Life wasn’t horrible for my grandparents, but it wasn’t easy either. Survival took precedence over anything else, especially something as silly and unimportant as feelings. These values or hard-work, practicality and self-reliance were passed down through the generations.

I think a lot of middle-class people have the same or similar family history, with the same values being passed down with the same intensity, even after the great depression ended, even after our families built up a little generational wealth, even after survival was no longer a serious threat.

As a result? We all have generational trauma. We’re all coping with generations of people who didn’t have the capacity to deal with their emotions, and then raised kids with values that actively downplayed or dismissed emotions. Now the middle-class is made up of people trying to cope with generations of emotions even though we’ve been given no tools to do so.

So we reach out. We try to talk to other people about our pain, because when in doubt that is human nature’s go-to move. Reach out.

We are social creatures, we need one another. Not just in a superficial way, but in a very real way. We have to process these traumas and emotions together. We have to text that friend when we’re having a panic attack, because even if they can’t stop it, they can sit with us so that we know we aren’t alone.

It isn’t “needy” to need people. It’s human. It’s normal. It’s good.

Photo by AllGo – An App For Plus Size People on Unsplash

Originally published: October 26, 2020
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