I need to finish my midterm homework before Thursday. If I don’t, I’m sure to get a poor grade. I need to lose 10 pounds before this summer. I need to get that new car I just saw on the television. The one with the cool guy, gorgeous woman and their two adorable kids having adventures with fantastical glittering light gliding behind them as they drive. Yeah, that car. I need it.
You know what I’m talking about. The culture we live in today. The NEED culture. We are constantly bombarded with images, text, and sound specifically tailored to induce NEED in us. And because we aren’t mindful each day, we fall prey to its subversive allure.
This last Christmas, I heard phrases like:
“I need that iPod Touch. All my friends have one and I don’t. Santa will bring me one and if he doesn’t, then I wasn’t a good girl this year.”
“I need Eggo waffles for breakfast.”
“I need to go help my friend, she’s having a bad day.”
“I need to write this blog.”
But, what is the actual definition of the word?
Per Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary it’s defined below:
- necessary duty: obligation <no need to apologize> <the need to pay taxes — Peter Scott>
- a: a lack of something requisite, desirable, or useful <a building adequate for the company’s needs> or b: a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism <health and education needs>
- a condition requiring supply or relief <The house is in need of repair.> <refugees in need of shelter and food>
We don’t use the word need appropriately and because of that, we create a stress in our lives that is never satiated. The need never goes away, because the truth is, it’s not a need, it’s a desire. It’s a want that is like the Marianas Trench; Deep and seemingly bottomless.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows me that our household is in the Psychological Needs area. We have, as of November of 2016, taken care of our family’s basic needs. That last one, safety, took a bit, but we got it last year. Is there always the threat that these needs will become a priority once more? Sure, but I think many of us are in that boat. The point is, right now, in this moment, we are safe and secure. We have food. We have shelter, water, warmth and rest. And I’m grateful for all of it. All the needs. They remind us who we are and where we came from. But, what I truly want to talk about is desire. Or in other words, want. If we were to replace the word need with want or desire in the above sentences, your perspective changes.
“I desire that iPod Touch. All my friends have one and I don’t. Santa will bring me one and if he doesn’t, then I wasn’t a good girl this year.”
“I want Eggo waffles for breakfast.”
“I want to go help my friend, she’s having a bad day.”
“I want to write this blog.”
Do you see how that one word changes how we look at these sentences? It gives ownership to the individual who spoke them. That person wants something. And somehow, that also changes the way we respond to it. If it’s a desire or a want, then we analyze it more. Is it ESSENTIAL to survive? No? Then it’s a want. And heaven forbid we SAY we want something and be thought of as greedy or selfish. But we still want it. So much so, that we sometime lose sleep over pining for it. Dreaming of it, mouthwatering, delicious, attention-grabbing… Ahem.
So, we justify this desire by saying need. It’s easier to get it, if we say we NEED it. We don’t have to feel guilty for purchasing that iPod, rather than buying a food gift card and giving it to the homeless person on the corner. We don’t have to feel selfish for NOT taking five minutes to make the waffles in the waffle maker. We can feel justified in throwing a fit when we don’t get what we wanted. “But, officer, I NEEDED IT!” She says, hyperventilating, eyes gleaming.
I’m okay. I’ve taken a deep breath. Yes, I’m better, thank you.
I don’t need to write this blog. I want to write this blog.
The desire to write these words is more than the desire to NOT write them.
Will I lose my shelter, food and safety if I don’t write these words?
That doesn’t change the outcome of it, though. I will still write the blog. I will still buy the Eggo Waffles when we have the makings in our home. I will still find a way to get an iPod Touch for the little person who believes in Santa. That’s not the point. I don’t care if I’m judged for doing these things. Because we all do these things.
Claiming helplessness because of a perceived ‘need’ is the worst sort of lie we can tell ourselves and others. Because, deep down, we know we just lied. We KNOW it wasn’t a need. And the guilt settles on us like damp woolen blanket. Sticking to us until we feel stifled and breathless from the weight of so many need lies. The only way to feel okay is to get something else. And we NEED that, too. We NEED to feel better about ourselves. So, we pile lie upon lie and feel worse and worse. Then one day, we get sick. We lose days at work, then we lose pay. Enough of those times, and you might lose your job. Lying causes stress. Stress takes years off your life and even makes you sick. But, there is an easy way to get rid of this kind of stress. Just use the appropriate word. Replace Need with Want or Desire. It’s simple, but I will tell you, it’s damned hard to look at yourself and admit that you’ve been doing it often. It’s damned hard to be mindful of how often you say the word and how much of the time, it means nothing.
There is a method to help us realize how often we say the word, Need, inappropriately. It’s just like the swear jar, only it’s called the NEED Jar. Every time you say the word, need, inappropriately, you must put a quarter in the jar.
I think we will do that at our house. Only I want to make it a penny, because I would lose a TON of money, if it were quarters.
Renee Settle, Aligning Souls, One story at a time.
Master Coach, Author, Consultant for hire