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The latter part of 2017, and most of 2018, was a challenging year for me on a professional, but mostly personal front.
I felt a great sense of restlessness, anxiety, but most of all sadness that my light, my passion, my spark had been lost.
You see, regardless of our education, professional standing, age, or cultural and ethnic backgrounds, living a life that matters is a search for each and every one of us. It is what makes us human.
What sets your soul on fire, what makes you feel alive and filled with possibility, and most of all, what makes you feel fulfilled and purposeful?
Like most people when I am challenged, I search for guidance and answers.
So, I reached for a book. Okay who am I kidding, I reached for cheese, crackers, chocolate, chips and dip, and then I reached for guidance in the form of a book. Book in one hand, cheese in the other. I truly believe when we ask the universe for guidance it delivers; however, what we do with what we get it is entirely our choice.
The book I picked up last year, which I’ve frequently returned to since, is a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach titled, Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self.
It is a book written for women (and some willing men), and it is a book I recommend for my clients and other women I know. There was one line that stood out to me in particular, and it felt like a pause, a light bulb moment: “But after all is said and done, women wake up and go to sleep in their hearts.”
Let me say that again: “Women wake up and go to sleep in their hearts.”
Our hearts represent our emotional needs and in that moment, I realized that my heart was starved. It wasn’t just starved—it was aching for sustenance and I was pretending. Pretending to have it together, ashamed that I had settled, denying that my needs weren’t being fulfilled, but most of all, believing that I did not need those needs to be met.
But with each lie and each denial, I could not escape that my heart was dull and that my true self was lost underneath all that heaviness. My heart was screaming through my comfort eating, through my sadness, my anxiety, my control, through my search for something more. And so began a journey into understanding emotional needs as a source of nourishment and sustenance for well-being.
Ivan Tyrrell talks about our innate emotional needs that need to be met for good mental health. These needs are:
1. The need to feel secure. Every child is dependent on caregivers for their development and growth. In order to develop, we need to feel safe. It is a nonnegotiable. When relationships feel unsafe—physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually—we cannot grow.
Are your relationships offering you safety?
2. The feeling we have for autonomy and control. When people get anxious and depressed, they feel they are losing control of their life and it impacts their health.
Do you feel you have limited options? Do you feel like you are helpless and stuck in your circumstance?
3. To give and receive attention. You cannot have a family, organization, or a community without an exchange of attention. It is not a one-way street. When children do not get quality attention from significant relationships, their frontal lobes do not develop adequately.
Are you in one-sided relationships with attention seekers? Do you find that you withhold attention from others as a means to control them? Do you feel like you are not being seen?
4. To feel emotionally connected to other people. We need close relationships to family, a partner, or others that we can be ourselves with. A person that can truly see us and we can feel safe with them.
Do you have someone who is your person? Someone who has your back?
5. To have friendship and intimacy. We need healthy connections with people who make us feel alive. Connections where we can share our truest feelings and know that they will want to support our growth. They will not be perfect people, but they will be connections that are good for our health and well–being.
6. To feel connected to the wider community. We are born into a tribe. When we are cast out of a family or friendship group, we feel unsafe and have no sense of belonging. The need to belong is fundamental to our soul’s survival.
Do you have safe connections to a wider community? Do you have people, even if they are not your family, where you feel a sense of belonging?
7. To feel recognized and have status within the community. For example, if you’re a custodian in a school and you are valued by the head principal, you will feel connected to that community.
Do you feel valued if you are a stay-at-home mum? Do you feel appreciated by the people around you? Do you feel valued for what you do regardless of what you do?
8. To have the privacy to reflect and consolidate our life experiences. We need downtime. We need time to reflect and time to pause.
Is your day so busy with doing that you have no time to simply be? Do you overshare or surround yourself with people who need to know every detail of your life?
9. To have competence and achievement. We are the only species with such a sophisticated prefrontal cortex. It requires stimulation and requires us to feed it so that it can make enriched connections. It’s like a muscle that we need to develop.
Are you learning new skills? Are you feeling a sense of achievement?
10. To feel we have meaning and purpose in our lives. There is a reason for getting up in the morning. We need to feel like we are getting up for a purpose. Meaning can come from serving others and being needed, whether it’s raising a family, running a business, or being part of a team at work making a difference.
We can have meaning by learning something new. We also can get meaning from being connected to ideas or beliefs bigger than oneself and it could be political, spiritual, or religious.
What do you get up for in the morning? Is it adding meaning to your living?
“Women wake up and go to sleep in their hearts.”
We cannot truly thrive if our emotional needs are starved. It is time for each of us to pause and reflect.
When looking at these 10 innate, nonnegotiable emotional needs, ask yourself: Are you feeling starved or are you feeling satisfied? Which areas are you feeling like you are still hungry for something more? What healthy ways can you bring adequate nourishment to those areas?
International Women’s Day is a culmination of the struggle for the equality of girls and women across the globe. It is permission for us to live a life that matters and live a life that bursts with passion and vibrancy. A life of feeling emotionally nourished and truly satisfied.
We have to take an honest look at the state of our emotional needs, and if we are starved, we need to offer ourselves the sustenance that we crave.
Nobody can fill your emotional tank for you but you. Yes, we need others, but we need to be the ones that create healthy emotional options for our nourishment. It will take brutal honesty. It will take making tough choices and decisions. It will take courage to address those areas where we are not being satisfied.
If you do—if you give yourself permission to nourish yourself—you will find the real you. You will excavate your authentic self for a life that is nothing less than something more.
Honour the sacredness of your emotional needs, for in it lies the power of balance for the better.
Another brilliant one from Giselle: Compulsive Self-Sacrificing leaves us Guilty, Cranky & Exhausted—8 Ways to Restore Balance.