In your family, were you taught that “wants” were demanding? Was it safer to appear self-reliant and independent?
If so, you grew up trying to quell your wants and learned to take care of others while repressing your own.
Self-reliance and independence are highly valued in our culture. I received a lot of strokes in my family for taking care of myself. It wasn’t as if my wants disappeared. They went underground, as the strategy I was trained to value, of always taking care of others, came to the foreground.
Adopting my infant daughter, I perceived her as extremely needy. At first, it felt good to meet those needs since caretaking is much easier than feeling my needs. She was the needy helpless one and I was determined to give her everything I hadn’t gotten. But when, as a toddler, she whined and hung on my leg, deep irritation arose, even disgust. She was the location of “neediness” and she always wanted MORE. “Enough already!” I seethed inside.
To manage my feelings of disgust, I trained her to be self-reliant and independent. If I made her needs more important than mine, I resented her demands and pushed her away. These feelings scared me as I never wanted to feel this way in relation to my daughter so it made sense to teach her to be like me.
She learned from the best and yet the tables turned and suddenly I felt like the needy one demanding love. This is when I recognized -Oh! This really has to do with me! So, turning back in, taking the location of this trait out of the external and feeling my inner neediness in its deepest innocence and vulnerability became my practice.
Seeing the price of my self-reliance was feeling disgusted with my own neediness brought tears to my eyes. I’d projected the helpless needy one on my daughter judging her as entitled and demanding. Bringing that energy inside, seeing that was my fear, I saw how deeply I judged myself for being entitled and demanding when actually I just had normal needs.
It’s still sometimes hard to express my BIG wants. It’s easier to convince myself to take care of others. And yet knowing that my wants are worthy, and as important as everyone else’s in my family I’m able to support everyone in expressing their biggest desires knowing there is ENOUGH for all.