Is there a kid who has never been frustrated because they can’t get what they want? Yup, being frustrated is part of life. No one escapes it. But it is especially poignant for kids who were raised by parents who didn’t appreciate the importance of satisfying emotional needs.
Pat was one of those kids. Her parents took good care of her physical needs but neglected her psychological needs. As a result, she grew up feeling emotionally needy and starved for attention.
When she met her husband, she believed that her life would dramatically change. Her husband would love her, make her the center of his existence, care about what she wanted and make her happy. Sounds like a happy ending to a fairy-tale. Too bad fairy tales are not real life!
Today, 10 years later, Pat is very disillusioned. “Life is not fair,” she proclaimed. “I didn’t get loving care from my parents. Now my husband is too busy to give me much of anything. And my kids are demanding more and more of my time. Hey, what about me? When do I get my needs met?”
After empathizing with Pat, I told her that one of the really nice things about being an adult is that you can give yourself what you didn’t get as a child. Some things are obvious. You can stay up as late as you want. You can eat your favorite foods. You can buy that expensive jacket. Other things are not so obvious but are more significant in the long run. You can give value to your thoughts. You can respect your feelings. You can nurture your desires.
When Pat heard me say that, she exploded. “Myself! What good is it to give it to myself? I want attention from my husband. I want respect from my kids. I want my mother to value my ideas instead of always putting them down. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”
“No,” I responded. “It’s not too much to ask. And. you certainly have every right to ask for what you want from others. But, be prepared. People can’t give to others what they don’t have to give. So, your husband may have limited time. Your kids may be self-involved. Your mother may be so critical that she can’t be there for you in the way you’d like her to be. But, rather than continuing to feel so unfulfilled, how about beginning to give yourself those things you never got?”
I then helped Pat take a journey within, asking her to imagine a different type of existence:
Imagine giving your unique thoughts, feelings and experiences the respect and consideration they deserve.
Imagine encouraging yourself to learn whatever interests you.
Imagine applauding yourself when you have the courage to do whats difficult.
Imagine accepting your mistakes as part of the learning process and never calling yourself ‘stupid’ or ‘bad.’
Imagine having a really good day because you’ve done what you like to do and you don’t feel guilty or upset.
Imagine telling yourself “you’re terrific” and feeling really proud of something you’ve done or made happen.
As an adult, you have the power to satisfy that needy child inside of you. So, give generously, joyously and creatively - to yourself. Taking care of your emotional needs is not selfishness, not narcissism. It is simply, taking care of yourself.
Paradoxically, you may find, as Pat did, that when she took better care of herself, others took better care of her. It’s often strange the way life works out!