It's not needy, you're just being silly.
July 4, 2011 7:02 PM   Subscribe

I feel that if I ask people to do anything with me, it's somehow "needy". At the same time, I know that this is ridiculous. Please help me work through this.

Some important background info that is relevant: I'm a 19 year old male. I've had three short-term relationships in the past two years. In my first one, I was more on the needy side with my partner (she was often busy). My second one was more of a 'cruise' for me (she was much more invested in the relationship than I was). My third was a simple FWB situation which didn't end so great. I've become relatively antisocial in the past few months.

I wrote a big explanation for my (knowingly) flawed logic of why I think in the terms I'm about to explain, but backspaced all of it because it seemed like a bunch of desperate self-justification. So here's my problem: I have an extreme fear of seeming 'needy'. An example: I will not ask person X to do Z with me because if I do I'll seem as if I'm not comfortable with my own company, and therefore 'need' their presence. I'll be seen as needy, so they'll think I'm weird. Yep. That 'logic' is flawed as hell, full of misguided assumptions, and generally makes no sense. But I simply cannot shake the fact that it's how I currently feel. I've been coping with all of this by taking the drastic approach of heavily investing in the idea that I don't need people. "I'm okay with myself - I don't need people. I don't want people to think that I need them. I'm better than that." As a result of this approach, I've become distant to most of my friends.

I honestly enjoy other people's company with a large degree of sincerity. It's just that this moronic concept I have floating around in my head about "seeming needy" is ruining potential great experiences I could be having. I know I won't feel this way forever, and it's probably some phase that everyone goes through. I just need some support on how to get past this metaphorical speed bump. Oh, and - based on my current financial situation, I simply cannot afford talking to a therapist about this. Any advice is much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I know this is a big giant MeFi cliche, but I used to have the exact same issue, and a combination of therapy and reading Feeling Good really, really helped me. Feeling Good on its own is amazing, and I would totally recommend it to you.

For me, the main issue was that I felt 'lesser' than other people, and assumed they felt the same way. So any me/them interaction involved them having all the power (since they were so much cooler and more together than me), and therefore me asking them to hang out was a breech of the imaginary social order I had made up for myself. I had to break that flawed idea of the world before I felt comfortable asking other people to hang out with me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:24 PM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

Are you aware that this "reasoning" is flawed in two ways?

1. Asking people to do things with you doesn't make you needy or uncomfortable in your own skin.

2. People want to feel wanted and enjoy being invited to do stuff.

I get the sense that you're all over (1), but maybe not (2). To the extent you can logic your way past this, it could help to also keep that in mind.

Have you tried a "fake it till you make it" approach? Like someone who's inexperienced and nervous about dating -- force yourself to invite friends to activities, and you'll see (as opposed to just "know" in an abstract sense) that nothing bad happens.

(This screams "therapy" to me, though. Are you sure there aren't any free or inexpensive options in that regard?)
posted by J. Wilson at 7:53 PM on July 4, 2011

Making an invitation doesn't seem needy. It seems assertive and outgoing. I like invitations :) Maybe your friends need you and would be happy to have your invitation to do something? We're all needy from time to time. It sounds like you maybe do feel needy and you want to hide it. If you can find a way to look your own neediness in the eye and accept it, that might help. Humans are social animals for a reason, you know :)

And if you do seem needy .... it's not the end of the world. When I was your age and even older, people put up with a lot of needy weirdness from me and still supported and cared for me. As long as you hold up your end and reciprocate (by listening, asking questions, supporting, and showing that you are sincerely interested) you're cool.

If you aren't spending time with people socially at all - DO get out and do something. Go to a church service, a coffee shop, a discussion group. You don't have to talk or interact, just be around other humans. It can help take some pressure off you, I think.
posted by bunderful at 7:56 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Something that helped me, though not like, revolutionized my life or anything: 1) having a schedule of meet-ups (that is, if you have someone you meet for a mutually enjoyable meal/ping-pong game/etc every week or so, it becomes reasonable to-- at one point-- suggest you do it Tuesday that week instead of Wednesday), which provides useful practice; 2) it's also easier to suggest things if you have a reason. Like, 'I want to do X and I'd like help-- and I think you would be a great partner 'cause you're great at Y and we share an interest' (or whatever). Then you could (again) set up a schedule.

These are temporary measures but they may buy you time-- and interaction-- while avoiding pitfalls of it being a demonstration of personal need, 'cause you're doing something both enjoy, and you're clearly also indulging them. It becomes quite clear if you cultivate relationships based on common interests, anyway-- when people have fun talking about X thing, often 'X geeky thing' but it could just be 'X thing they don't share with many others', they will be the ones expressing their need of you. You can observe, and see how it doesn't have to seem unhealthy. Eventually, it may even seem reasonable to 'need' to talk about (say) the subtext in Battlestar Galactica or whatever, 'cause-- quite clearly-- otherwise both of you would explode. So. Cultivate obscure/rare interests, if you don't already. Meanwhile, do work on your mood/self-esteem more generally, but don't let that stop you from temporary measures.
posted by reenka at 7:59 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Allow me to introduce you to another AskMe cliche, Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture.

I wouldn't say you're a 'classic case', but I think that familiarizing yourself with that dichotomy and understanding the implications it has for your feelings and for the way you interact with others and for grasping another perspective might help you sort out a solution. Try not to worry too much about the 'other person' when thinking of your situation in an ACvGC context though. Concentrate on how your feelings relate to the guesswork you're doing. Imagine how it would feel to be completely prepared for any answer.

Now, be prepared for any answer—ready with a back-up plan, or with an acceptable line of reasoning in case of a negative outcome, or the incredible (unbelievable? no!) total agreement—and ask away.
posted by carsonb at 8:27 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am struggling with this right now. For me it seems very irrational yet it's there. I don't want people to "see" me how I feel and think I am. I am taking bunderful's tact and am looking to do some volunteer work. I ask friends over for dinner at least once a month to help with this. For me this feeling has been strong for the past 3-4 months.

I was going to a knit nite and got into and found myself staying after and having long intimate conversations with the teacher. I found myself thinking about her a lot for the next couple of days. Until recently I would have considered he as a woman who is out "of my league." Decided I needed to step up and make my attraction known if only for the fact that I needed to take responsibility. Whether she said yes, no or may I could then take the next step in response. She said no. I was surprised that I didn't take it badly at all. I could then move forward.
posted by goalyeehah at 9:31 PM on July 4, 2011

I personally got over this by inviting people to things I would go do by myself anyway. "Hey, Friend, wanna go do Z? No? Ok, see you later!" *goes off to do Z*

It then becomes less of an awkward "please come keep me company" sort of situation and more of a "I am going to do awesome thing Z, would you like to come too?"
posted by Xany at 12:12 AM on July 5, 2011

I was like you until I noticed that my relationships all got so much more meaningful once I stopped worrying about this. I think this fear comes with such a huge downside -- hiding your real needs, fear of those needs being seen -- that its costs outweigh its benefits. There are ways to show who you really are and what you really need / want without putting it on others in a "needy" way. That's the cost-benefit sweet spot.

Put it another way: what is the downside of NOT inviting your friend? Ah, on a reread, you seem to know this already! Well then, why not try some experiments that prove your fears of rejection wrong and prove correct your sense that overcoming this will make your friendships etc. stronger, not weaker.
posted by salvia at 12:34 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been coping with all of this by taking the drastic approach of heavily investing in the idea that I don't need people. "I'm okay with myself - I don't need people. I don't want people to think that I need them. I'm better than that." As a result of this approach, I've become distant to most of my friends.

This makes it sound like you're just papering over a perceived shortcoming by play-acting. You aren't dealing with actual needs by finding healthy ways to satisfy them; you're pretending that they don't exist. This won't work. Imaginary gas doesn't make your car go anywhere. Imaginary parachutes don't make it safe to jump from planes.

Neediness has a lot more to do with your reaction to other people's decisions than with the requests or suggestions you make. Suggesting an outing or a get-together is no problem at all, unless the person you're asking has some personal problem of their own. Where you might go wrong is if you're unable to accept "Sorry, but no" gracefully. If you are play acting that you don't need social contact, and as part of that act you are resisting suggesting activities or asking for companionship, then you are putting yourself in a terrible position that creates exactly the quality (neediness) that you are trying to avoid. You aren't getting your needs met, so the sense of deprivation and need is escalating. At the same time you're exploring very few opportunities to get those needs met, so each of the rare requests you do make is so high-stakes that you emotionally delaminate if it doesn't go as you hoped. That reaction is what real, problematic neediness is.

Asking people to do stuff with you is always going to be a numbers game. Even people who really like you will often have conflicting commitments or needs of their own. The way to healthily manage and satisfy your own needs is to ask early and ask often, so that no one event is all that important. Get those needs satisfied before you're at the end of your rope. Stop trying to run on fumes.
posted by jon1270 at 5:16 AM on July 5, 2011 [6 favorites]

An example: I will not ask person X to do Z with me because if I do I'll seem as if I'm not comfortable with my own company, and therefore 'need' their presence. I'll be seen as needy, so they'll think I'm weird.

Your logic is flawed in a way that you may not have considered: it's really quite arrogant. You are deciding for these people what they think about you and how they will respond to an invitation from you. You don't give them an opportunity to say yes or no or "ew gross you needy person!" These are people who, up until the point that they got involved with you, have made various choices throughout their lives regarding school, work, relationships, etc., including choosing to be in your life. And in doing so they have apparently become intelligent and interesting enough for you to want to do stuff with them, so they can't be all that bad at making choices. And yet now that they are involved with you, they no longer get to make decisions about what to do and who to do it with, because you are making those decisions for them.

If you can change your mindset from anticipating other people's responses to you, to listening to other people's responses to you, you will have much more fulfilling relationships. You will likely be rejected now and then, but you can handle that, and learn from it.
posted by headnsouth at 6:01 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's something philosophically wrong here. We all need each other. Dependence is a fact of life. You would not be a 19-year-old today without having relied on your parents, who relied on other people to sustain your family. You are "needy" of the people who build buildings to build them safely, and on those who sell us food to sell it without poisoning us. The whole world functions because of a web of need and responsibility and interconnection. This is the rule. Independence, "not needing people," doesn't exist. My father, who has lived alone for twenty years and has "no friends" relishes his self-image of an independent person, but doesn't he call me every day? I know the truth of this "independent man". And it's fine!

I think you need to examine more closely the actual truth of life -- and the life of these friends of yours who you imagine are so quick to call you "needy." Where can you actually identify an lack of need? It's a real myth our age that not needing others is a possibility. It's okay to need people. People give us love, companionship, a sense of belonging, fun. Love and companionship: you can't generate these things internally, and they are among the most important things of life.
posted by Clotilde at 6:14 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

i think that our individualistic society has caused people to feel this way. "get a job, you don't do anything all day" or "mind your own business" or "don't be codependent" are things that americans grow up with. if "needing to interact with other people because it's in your genes" is "needy," then own that shit and be proud of it. call your friends and say "i need to hang out with you because i'm a human being."
posted by DJ Broken Record at 8:16 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

If that first relationship you mentioned where you were the "needy" one was one of your first big emotional relationships it is quite possible that you are attempting to avoid similar future pain. This would be especially true if the reason for the relationship ending was given as your "needyness" If this was a time that you let yourself be open vulnerable and you got hurt it is quite reasonable to want to avoid being seen as "needy".

Does this sound possible?
posted by The Violet Cypher at 10:43 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to feel similarly, but two main things really helped:

1) Other people think about themselves as much as you think about yourself, but nobody else thinks about you as often as you think about yourself.

Realizing that let me free myself from this constant litany of "oh, what must they think of me if I do X?". It also freed me from thinking that any time someone was talking about "her" that the "her" in question was me (which was nerve wracking when I had a poorly-acoustically-insulated office next to my boss' office).

2) Self confidence - once I liked myself better, I didn't feel like this hollow shell of a person who everyone else "must" be able to see is pathetic. This mostly happened when I went to college - I went across the country to a place where nobody knew me, so I didn't "have" to be that same person I was six years ago.

Need a strategy to ease back in?

Join or find a couple of clubs near where you live - a lot of those do activities that are cheap or free (minus gas money), and it gets in a basic amount of socializing. The nice thing? If you don't like what they're doing, you never have to go again and nobody will judge you for that.

When you're ready to propose a get-together, do something low-risk like going to a park to play frisbee or soccer or something. Ask multiple people (by email/text, if it's less stressful), so it's not a blow if one or two people won't come. You may be at a point right now that if you ask one-on-one and they are busy, it'd crush you, so have it low-key and suggest a time but be flexible.

Turns out, it's not a weakness to like being around people.
posted by bookdragoness at 12:42 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I see a rec at the top of the thread for Feeling Good and just want to say one thing to you about CBT. CBT seems to be a good way to talk yourself out of irrational fears that aren't true or that aren't likely to happen. And it may well help you a lot to check it out.

Thing is, sometimes the fears people use CBT to talk themselves out of, are actually sometimes true and are actually sometimes fairly likely to happen. So if you spend months pumping yourself up that your fear just this irrational, fictitious thing in your mind that won't happen, and then it ends up happening, it can really set you back.

So, I'm not going to say that you're being silly and ridiculous. Some people will find you needy, for all sorts of random innocuous reasons. And some people won't, even if you act like the neediest person ever. That is exactly why you should just go ahead and be yourself, and seek out the kind of friendships you want, where you can ask your friends to do with you the kinds of things you want to do. Because some people will be compatible and some people won't, so it's better to know who is who right off the bat.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:04 PM on July 5, 2011

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