At a recent training, I was prompted to reflect on the question, “What is the beauty of needs?” I am sharing my reflections with you in this blog and encourage you to answer the question for yourself.
When I think of needs, I think that beauty is in the meeting. When needs are met, those feel like moments of perfection. The met need almost always comes with an exchange with another person. If we aren’t present to the exchange, we miss the beauty (as the quote in the image suggests).
A story of the beauty of need
A story comes to mind around my needs and one of those moments of perfection, as I like to say. I must provide a little background first. The Enneagram is a useful tool for my personal growth and for coaching others. I resonate deeply with the Enneagram 7, which has a core childhood message of “It’s not okay to depend on others for anything.” The core fear then, is that I will not be taken care of. Alternatively, being taken care of is my core longing.
While I was coaching for the National Conservation Leadership Institute, one of the fellows started the morning by acknowledging their lack of full presence due to a very sick, and very young, family member. While the fellow was telling the story, I immediately connected to my own children and felt a deep sense of empathy. I shed quite a few tears that morning and found myself holding the cross necklace I had chosen to wear that day. When the session started, it took some time before I could be present for the training.
As we were walking to lunch that day, one of the other coaches reached out to ask if I was okay. They had noticed my tears and wanted to check in with me. My initial reaction was to let them know I was okay, and I felt myself pushing away the care. At that moment, I realized that what I was doing was rejecting the very thing my heart longed for – someone to care. Noting that, I stopped, looked at my friend and fellow coach, and said, “Thank you for caring.” That was a beautiful moment for me.
What are our needs?
My struggle with the question about beauty is that the ability to identify and express needs was suppressed in childhood. We were told what we needed and that was that. So, pinpointing my deepest needs is a big step. Asking for my needs feels like a giant leap. There seems more sadness than beauty in that. I suppose the beauty comes in the journey to transform from childhood and make it okay to identify and ask for what I need.
As an Adlerian (someone who follows the principles of Alfred Adler), I think of the human needs of safety, belonging and significance. In fact, I use those as a basis for the regenerative leadership work I do. Almost all our longings can come back to one of these needs.
The safety need is expressed differently depending on life experience and situation. For me, besides having the basics of food, water, and shelter provided, safety becomes being able to be my full self with others. My safest places are with my children and my partner. They accept me and all my strengths and flaws. They are the most beautiful beings to me. I also have several communities that feel safe to show up fully. They provide energy and vitality.
I can find lots of beauty in the need of belonging. I don’t have any trouble making friends. In fact, some joke by saying “there she goes, making friends again.” That is a very beautiful part of me – I am so curious about others and their experiences.
I find the need of significance to be the least important to me. If I am safe to be myself, making friends, and having new experiences, I automatically feel significant. The beauty of having my own company is that I am doing meaningful work by design. When someone tells me how I affected them, I feel an even deeper sense of significance.
Needs as gifts
For those who have participated in my workshops, I often try to reframe “asking for help” to “sharing gifts.” When you give from your overflow, from your strengths, it provides a deep sense of meaning and significance for the person giving. When you ask someone for help, you are really asking them to share their gifts. Beauty resides in this sharing and exchange.
When I think of sharing gifts, I also think of the beauty of empathy, compassion, and courage. When we see people suffering and in need, acting requires empathy and compassion. Asking and receiving help can sometimes take courage.
David Whyte, in his prose on Help from his book Consolations, states (in part)
“At every stage we are dependent on our ability to ask for specific forms of help at very specific times and in very specific ways. Even at the end, the dignity of our going depends on others’ willingness to help us die well; the sincerity of their help often commensurate to the help we extended in our own life. Every transformation has at its heart the need to ask for the right kind of generosity.”
Generosity is beautiful!
WHAT IS THE BEAUTY OF NEEDS FOR YOU?
HOW DOES (NAME YOUR NEED) LIVE IN YOU?
This question of the beauty of needs comes from the work around non-violent communication (NVC). To that end, I suggest a few resources below.
A good summary of The Beauty of Needs inside NVC can be found at: https://www.therightword.info/nvc/needs-based-communication/beauty-of-needs/
A quick NVC model can be found at: https://www.cnvc.org/learn-nvc/the-nvc-model
The book I read and enjoyed is below:
The course I am taking that encouraged this reflection is Trauma-informed Leadership through The Pocket Project and can be found at https://pocketproject.org/trauma-informed-leadership-course-ii/
Written by Michelle Doerr