We all have needs. Some of our needs are basic, in that all of us need them and many of us, thankfully, have them (food, shelter, warmth, etc.). Some of our other needs are more individualised or specific, in that not everybody has them and not everybody needs them (silence when studying, something to cuddle when sleeping, no spices or gluten in food, etc.). These more specific needs vary greatly from person to person, and can depend on a variety of factors (personalities, pasts, lifestyles, etc.), but they are no less necessary than our basic needs.
All of our needs, no matter how small or individualistic they are, are non-negotiable. The very definition of a ‘need’ is that it is something that is required no matter what. Unlike a ‘want’ or a ‘preference’, a need is not a choice. The vast majority of people understand this about our basic needs, but when our needs are more specific, and the people around us either do not have that same needs, or it requires less effort their needs to be met, this false idea of negotiability starts to creep in, and we might be accused of ‘overreacting’ when we ask for what we need. This is deeply incorrect.
Here are seven reasons why it is not overreacting to ask for what you need.
Your needs are essential, and you cannot go above essential
To overreact is to respond more emotionally or forcibly than is justified, and when it comes to our needs – which, I remind you, are essential and non-negotiable – it is simply not possible to be too emotional or forceful. To suggest that it is possible to be too emotional or forceful is to suggest that a need is negotiable, which it is not, in the same way that a circle is not a square, or an apple is not an orange. To say that asking for what one needs is overreacting would be like telling an asthmatic that they are being too demanding when they say they need an inhaler, or saying to a baker they are taking it a step too far when they insist on having access to an oven. Our needs are not optional, and we are not asking too much when we ask for things that are not optional for us.
You deserve your needs, and even if you didn’t, you still need them
I have said several times that our needs are non-negotiable, and I feel the need to continue to repeat this fact, because needs are often viewed as optional extras. This is particularly true when the needs in question are the needs of disadvantaged groups and minorities. Because of this mistaken idea of needs being negotiable or optional, this idea of not ‘deserving’ to have one’s needs met has crept in, and that is a terrible and inaccurate idea to be given constant credence. All of us, regardless of where we come from or what we have done, deserve to have our needs met. This is true for basic needs like food and shelter, as well as specific needs like extra pillows or content warnings. Even if, in some hypothetical universe, we did not deserve to have our needs met, they still need to be met, or else we cannot properly function. This is what I mean when I say that needs are non-negotiable.
When someone says you are ‘overreacting’, they are trying to silence you.
Accusing a person or a group of people of ‘overreacting’ is a commonly used silencing tactic. Indeed, it is used so often by people in positions of privilege (politicians, the rich, white men, abusers, and anybody else who likes to frequently tell others to ‘just calm down’.) towards the less privileged (minority groups, activist groups, victims of abuse, etc.) that it has practically become cliche. It is an effective silencing tactic, because it paints the accused as ridiculous, hysterical, and not to be taken seriously. But when you are asking for what you need, you are not being ridiculous and hysterical. They, whether consciously or unconsciously, are being controlling and manipulative. They are in the wrong, not you.
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It is nobody else’s place to tell you what you need.
I am willing to bet that everybody reading this article can name at least one person in your life who believes they have the right to tell you what you need or don’t need. My mother is guilty of this, particularly with regard to my diet and exercise regimes. These people seem to be under the impression that they understand your needs better than you do. But here’s the thing – they don’t. Regardless of what they might tell you, you know yourself better than anybody else knows you, and you therefore know what you need better than anybody else.
You, and your needs, are important.
Many of us, particularly those of us in minority groups (women, people of colour, LGBTQIA+ people, fat people) are constantly led to believe by the societies in which we live that we are less important than the more privileged among us. As such, we feel that our needs are not as important as not only the needs of others, but also the comfort, convenience, and reputation of others. This is, quite simply, not true, and it is that sort of poisonous standard in our society that leads to domestic abusers like Johnny Depp being able to continue having successful careers, while victims of domestic abuse like Amber Heard have to try and carry on without the proper justice they need and deserve. If we continue to perpetuate the idea that some people’s comfort is more important than the needs of others, these sorts of disgusting events will continue to happen, and that is something that nobody should consider acceptable.
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Your loved ones want to know your needs.
When our needs seem a bit silly or embarrassing, we can be reluctant to ask our loved ones to accommodate us. I, for example, find it very difficult to ask my loved ones if we can avoid seeing certain genres of film when we go to the cinema, because my inability to watch some types of movie is embarrassing. However, your loved ones will want to know this information. Good, dependable friends and family care about you and your needs, and they are unlikely to actually know what those needs are unless you tell them. It is not overreacting to ask your loved ones for what you need; it is telling them what they consider to be vital information.
Your needs are still your needs, no matter how ridiculous they are.
This final point may be a touch controversial, but I hope you will hear me out. If I am being perfectly honest, I think that many of us have needs that are a bit ridiculous/fussy/excessive/etc. Using another personal example, I need to be able to watch an episode of a TV show whenever I am on the treadmill. If I do not have a TV show to watch, I will not complete my run (and believe me, I’ve tried). I could just not run at all, but running is exceptionally good for my physical and mental health, so I argue with some conviction that running is one of my needs. In turn, having a TV show to watch while I run is another, related, need. Now, I will freely admit that my need is ridiculous, but that does not change the fact that it is my need. There is every chance that I will change my running style at some point and no longer need my TV show, but right now I do, and it is not overreacting for me to say that I cannot exercise without it; it is the truth. And if you have a ridiculous need, it is still your need, no matter how ridiculous it is.
While some needs are needs that are shared by most of us, others are more personal, more specific, and, in the eyes of some, more inexplicable. However, they are still your needs, they are just as much of a necessity in your life, and it is just as essential that they are met. Asking for what you need is not overreacting; it is essential.
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