Anger, hurt, fear, exhaustion. These difficult, inconvenient, or even agonizing feelings are clear signals that a need is not being met.
As mature grown ups, we know this is a normal part of life. In an effort to be responsible and capable adults, too often our tendency is to push these feelings away. We have important things to attend to. We are too busy. Our loved ones’ needs are the priority.
Why does it feel so much easier to love, have compassion for, or forgive others? What would it be like to treat ourselves with that same attention and kindness?
We can learn how to be different with our experiences of overwhelm, self-judgment, and resentment. We can use difficulty to discover our own needs.
When I lovingly prepare a meal for my family I make sure it is fresh and nutritionally balanced– protein, leafy greens, whole grains. Yet, I have been known to run out the door having skipped a meal. Using this example, I’ll share a simple practice to identify needs.
Step 1: Notice
I’m really tired and getting a headache. Last night I spent over two hours cooking, washing the dishes, and packing my kid’s lunch. Here I am feeling sick ‘cuz I didn’t eat. How am I going to make it through my workday feeling like this?
Look with intention.
Step 2: Get Curious and Be Kind
I know in my head I deserve it– I wonder why I don’t take better care of myself? This seems pretty silly. What’s up with that?
You don’t want to say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t tell a 4-year-old child. For example you wouldn’t say, “You’re so inconsistent! You think you’re so competent and look at you, you’re a mess!”
Step 3 Take Responsibility
I chose to cook last night and I do get satisfaction knowing they eat well. I also chose not to stop and take a breath before leaving the house this morning.
Taking responsibility is not, “Look at all I do to take care of them and I don’t even have time to eat!” If we do happen to have those thoughts, bring yourself back to the process and your intention.
Step 4 Stay Curious
This seems to be a pattern. I have an easy time taking care of others. Yet, I keep neglecting myself. I wonder what that’s about?
No need to diagnose or analyze. It’s great to wonder but you don’t need an answer– at least not right away. The key is to keep noticing. Keep your awareness on uncovering the need.
Step 5 Tune Into Your Needs
What am I feeling? A bit overwhelmed, physically ill, annoyed, and concerned for myself.
What am I needing? I really want to practice being different. I need nurturing.
Whew, I sure do juggle a lot! I need acknowledgment around all that I contribute to my family…
I also need to eat! I’m grabbing an apple. Tonight, maybe when I pack the kids’ lunch I can pack mine too…
I need help remembering that I deserve this…
As opposed to focusing solely on problem solving, this process invites more space, compassion, and mindfulness. Give it a try and please share what changes for you.