How to Defeat the Neediness that is Killing You

chicagotj.org stop being needy


I remember my first girlfriend. We attended different high schools, so I didn’t see her all the time. We also lived on opposite sides of town, so we made the most of our time together. At first all was grand. Conversations were mutually wanted and energetic. However, all too soon it seemed as though she was growing distant. She had her own circle of friends and a busy life, but my teenage mind couldn’t take that into context. Instead, I became fiercely distraught and began to experience unwarranted abandonment.

A few years and many relationships later, this had become a terrible pathology. Any slight change in behavior or routine from another person and I would spiral into anxiety. What had I done wrong? Why hasn’t this person called or texted like they always do and said the same thing they always do, at the same time they always say it?

It wasn’t until I matured and processed through my first divorce that I understood why these horrible, thoughtless people had done me so wrong:

They actually hadn’t done anything to me at all.

I was a clingy and needy person. I had internalized and misinterpreted every change and false start as malice towards me. How many relationships lay scorched and mutilated in the napalmed battlefields of my own insecurities?

I had driven them away, not because I was unworthy in their eyes, but because they recognized (and were turned off by) my own personal sense of worthlessness. 

I was empty and looking for someone else to fill the void in my heart and soul. The difference between those people and myself was my lack of malevolent intent. I hadn’t developed a healthy sense of self and become truly happy and content with myself. It doomed many of my relationships.

The root of clinginess and neediness is low self-esteem.

Do you see these signs in yourself? 

Understand that as long as you struggle with this, it will be very difficult to withstand the natural changes that occur in all relationships. As a therapist once told me, the trouble with wishing people to act a certain way to keep us happy, is that we create a world that only we are fit to live in. No one will ever be able to live up to your ideal of how they should act and speak, and you will never be satisfied or content no matter how much they try and change. You must be completely complete in yourself and by yourself.

Will you miss people? Of course you will. Should people be accountable for rude, inconsiderate actions that are genuinely rude and inconsiderate (provided that we haven’t misinterpreted their actions and behaviors)? Definitely. I’m saying that when you learn to defeat those feelings of neediness and clinginess, you will rail against ill-treatment and unfounded changes because they are wrong, and not because they provide you an excuse to wallow in self-pity and woe-is-me-isms.

You will be able to distinguish between the changes in the attitudes and behaviors of others that require consideration and thought on your part, and those changes that are inherent in this shared condition we all call…being human.

The root of clinginess and neediness is low self-esteem. Needy people cling to others to fill the a hole they have in their own sense of self-worth. This lack of self esteem and self worth may have it’s origins in many sources (feelings of abandonment, trauma, etc). Any change to what a needy person finds familiar and safe can send this person into a spiral of anxiety and irrational fear.

To overcome this, try to remember the following:

1. Do not idolize anyone. No one can live up to such unwarranted elevation.

2. Really, truly believe that anything you ever need is already inside of you and it always has been. You don’t need anyone else to make your life complete. You are worthy already.

What experiences do you have with neediness and insecurity? How have you overcame them?