Meeting Our Six Human Needs As Sensitive People

In my previous post, I talked about the power of contentment and the beauty that can be found in the smallest things. This is the gift of mindfulness and spirituality, but we are not only spirit, just like we are not only body or mind. I was forced to remember this when something began stirring within me after months of quiet bliss enjoying the present moment. Slowly, my old coaching teachings started whispering in my head: You're not meeting all your needs.

Yes, I have a Life Coaching certificate! (I'm also a Psychology drop-out, but that's a story for another day). Even though I haven't chosen the coaching path, everything I've learned over the years permeates the content I write and record. Today, I want to present to you a powerful teaching that comes from psychology: The Six Human Needs.

The concept is simple: There are six needs all humans share: Certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution. Everyone experiences them, but we all meet them in different ways, and the level of importance we give each of them varies from person to person. The key to remember is that we need to fulfil them to some degree in order to live a balanced, joyful life.

This is a summary of each need, taken from this article. (I recommend checking the link and reading all of it, as it offers powerful insights.):

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure.
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli.
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed.
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something.
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability, or understanding.
6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others.

I started thinking of these needs when my sense of contentment began to dwindle. As I reflected on them, I realised I wasn't meeting all of them, or I was trying to meet them in ways that didn't serve me or others around me. —Yes, even when we make poor choices, we are attempting to meet our needs! And on top of that, some of these needs can conflict with others, giving way to a delightful clash that reminds us how complex our species is. Here's a personal example:

Being a sensitive person, I tend to value certainty highly, but at the same time, I have a strong need for growth. This means I'm constantly seeking to learn new things and grow as a person. Yet a part of me wants to just stay home, watch movies or read books that I already know by heart, and be comfortable in my introvert cocoon. This is the same clash I suffer when I require some variety in my life. I feel like having new experiences, but I love my little home rituals so much! Surely I don't need variety that much, right?

Until I do, or life throws variety at me by force. Then it takes extra effort to step outside my cocoon, because I haven't had much practice, and a trip to Ikea becomes akin to climbing Mount Everest. The solution? Incremental steps, like anything in life. Little by little, we start doing things that seemed impossible not long ago. And as we do, we grow, we become more certain in ourselves, and we give our body and mind the variety that fuels them.

If you're sensitive, you know life is all about balance. Lean too much towards comfort, and you'll lose your ability to handle discomfort. Lean too much towards discomfort, and you'll enter a state of utter overwhelm that will override everything. The result is the same either way: you stop functioning.

We are required to perform this balancing act. We must learn to listen to the wisdom of our bodies as well as the wisdom of our minds: Do I want to stay home and rest because I genuinely need to rest, or because I want to avoid stepping out of my comfort zone? If I avoid it, will it become even more difficult next time? Can these two parts of myself reach a compromise? Perhaps do the thing I don't feel like doing, and reserve some time to decompress afterwards? Deep breaths and dropping into our body will help us answer these questions. 

Another common clash we can experience as sensitive people is significance versus contribution. We feel the urge to give to others or do something meaningful, which is a beautiful thing, but deep down we might be trying to feel important and needed. We are seeking approval. By performing these helpful acts, we expect recognition and a feeling of being valuable. But when we focus on this, we end up perpetually chasing that confirmation that we are significant and valuable, and that's how we start overgiving, which might lead to burnout and resentment. 

For those of us who create content for others, this desire for significance can block our creativity. We genuinely want to contribute, but when we start worrying about whether people will like our creations or if they're good enough, we lose sight of the end goal, which is to serve others. We fixate on our own performance, stifling our expression and our need to explore and experiment. And so we end up creating from our mind rather than our heart, turning our creative process into an anxiety-inducing nightmare.

Contribution can make us feel significant, but we mustn't tie our worth to our contribution, just like we can't tie our worth to a relationship. The most important work we can do on a personal level is to constantly remind ourselves we are worthy, we are enough. Ultimately, all humans fear the same thing: that we aren't enough, and because we're not enough, we won't be loved. We all have that in common, whether we're sensitive or not, but most of us who are sensitive received the message that we're faulty, and it is time to challenge that toxic belief.

This is why I created what became my most popular poetic meditation on Insight Timer, The Bravest Thing You Will Ever Do. We all struggle with self-love sometimes; even those who look confident on the outside do. The amount of beautiful, heartfelt comments I've received on this piece have only shown me how much we need these reminders: Yes, we are enough. Yes, we deserve to be loved. Yes, we all are works in progress, constantly growing, but at the same time, we are always worthy, because we were born worthy. 

I leave you with a journaling prompt: What actions am I taking to meet my six needs? What actions could I take to meet them in a more effective way? Make it simple. Brainstorm two or three things that are easily accessible for you. And remember life is imperfect, we are imperfect, and as much as our ego hates to hear this, that is okay.

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