Recently I wrote an article on how guys are needy in ways they don’t even realize. And while I hope you were able to make some changes based on what you read there, we really need to address the inner issue. Neediness stems from a fundamental lack of confidence and self-esteem.
That might sound like a tall order to have to defeat. In some sense it is. You’re attempting to undo several decades of learned behavior. However damaging your lack of confidence and low self-esteem are, they’ve gotten you to where you are in life right now. You’ve chosen to continue the behaviors that reinforce them for a reason.
The good news is that it’s not an “either / or” proposition. You can start making strides toward being a man with greater confidence and self-esteem even while you continue to struggle with these issues. You don’t have to figure out “why” you have poor self-esteem, low confidence and seek approval from others. All you have to do is start engaging in the behaviors that will begin dismantling that part of your personality and replacing it with the new, more confident you.
You also don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There’s a wide array of techniques in behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) that have worked for tens and hundreds of thousands of men. It’s not about laying on a couch and talking about your mother. It’s just about simple techniques anyone can learn, practice and master to start making changes in who they are — immediately. There’s nothing “woo woo” about it.
The scientific community is in pretty broad consensus that behavioral techniques can work. In fact, DBT is one of the few therapies proven to show improvement among people with borderline personality disorder. CBT is a highly effective therapy for everyone from drug addicts to schizophrenics. You might not need anything quite so extreme, but that doesn’t change the fact that this stuff works.
The greater the amount of energy you put in, the greater result you’re going to get out. So here are three things that will help you to stop being needy and start being a confident, independent man starting tonight.
Strategy One: Exposure and Testing
What You Do: Put yourself in a situation where you generally engage in a needy behavior. This can be done by going out to a bar if you’re the type of needy person who always needs attention on them; If you’re the type of guy who’s always checking out his girlfriend’s social media, simply sign into Facebook; Or maybe you’re always arguing with your partner because you have this need to control them. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is that you want to stop doing, put yourself in a situation where you normally do it.
Now don’t do it.
I’m not suggesting that you’re going to stop doing it all at once. That’s not the point of this exercise. You can do whatever it is you keep doing a few minutes later. But just for now, don’t. Take a second. Check in with yourself. How do you feel? Anxious and stressed out? Uncomfortable? Start by putting a name on that emotion, whatever it is. You’ll be surprised at how big of a difference simply naming what you’re feeling can make.
Now give it a number. How bad is it? Is it an eight? A nine? Whatever it is, put a number on it while you continue to not do it. Now keep track of that number, because it will change. It might spike at first. However, in almost every case, your level number is going to go down, eventually to nothing.
What You’re Supposed to Learn From This: So much of our bad behaviors are about avoiding or eliminating unpleasant emotions. This gives them a huge deal of control over our lives. Engaging in this exercises starts giving you a sense that no matter how unpleasant you find a feeling, feelings come and go. It puts you back in control of your behavior by giving your emotion a label and a level. While the emotion might be unbearable at 9 and uncomfortable at 5, it’s totally manageable at 3. Even noticing that the emotion goes from 9 to 7 can make a big difference in terms of your ability to stop being needy.
Strategy Two: Meditation
What You Do: Just sit, basically.
Every day, take ten or fifteen minutes to turn off all the electronics. Sit down, close your eyes and focus on your breath. You can sit in any position that seems comfortable to you. If sitting in a “mystic” meditation position helps you to get in the spirit of things, by all means, go for it. You can do it sitting in your favorite chair, but don’t lie down — that tends to make guys fall asleep.
The first thing you want to do is start counting your breath. Breathe in for four seconds. Hold for four seconds. Breathe out for four seconds. Hold for four seconds. Spend a few minutes just doing this until it becomes second nature. Once you’ve done that, you only need three words to help you:
- Thinking: The point is not to ruminate on your life. It’s to clear all thought out of your head. This takes some practice. For now, whenever you have a thought come up, just say “thinking,” either silently or out loud.
- Feeling: One thing that you’ll notice when you start meditating is that you feel every little thing. Your brain is so used to being stimulated that when you withdraw stimulation it’s going to try and find it. Don’t scratch that itch or adjust your position. Simply say “feeling.”
- Hearing: Unless you live out in the middle of nowhere, you’re going to have some noises. After a while of practicing meditation, you’ll stop noticing them. But for now, simply say “hearing” when you notice a noise.
That’s really all there is to it. If you start spending 15 minutes every day doing this, you’ll be absolutely amazed at the difference it makes in your life. To be sure, you’ll definitely notice something right away. But the real impact comes over time.
What You’re Supposed to Learn From This: No less an authority than the Mayo Clinic notes that meditation’s benefits include increased self-awareness, new perspectives, stress management skills and, perhaps most crucial, focusing on the present moment. All of this adds up to helping you realize when you’re being needy, being OK with it and substituting a more effective and constructive behavior in its place.
Strategy Three: The Two Most Powerful Questions You Can Ask Yourself
What To Do: Just do whatever you normally do. Only this time, when you notice yourself being needy or doing needy things, you have one of two questions you can ask yourself:
- “What do I want to happen?”
- “Why am I doing this?”
It’s just that simple. Notice yourself engaging in a behavior that you’re not comfortable with? Just ask yourself one of those two questions. In fact, the hardest part is the noticing. You can only engage in this exercise once you’ve got a little bit of experience under your belt recognizing what needy behaviors you’re engaging in. On top of that, you need the self-awareness to notice when you’re doing them in the moment.
The first two exercises I gave you are going to go a long way toward helping you to get to the point where you have that level of awareness. In fact, I’d wager that you could probably do all three of these exercises on the same day and have them be effective.
What You’re Supposed to Learn From This: The exercise accomplishes two things. First, it gets you to stop whatever it is that you’re doing, if only for a couple of seconds. A lot of times, that can be enough; Just that second or half second of reflection is enough to get us to stop doing whatever it is that we don’t want to keep doing.
However, there’s another component to the exercise: Gaining an understanding of why you’re engaging in needy behaviors. For some people this information is irrelevant. For others it’s completely necessary to their self-development. Either way, getting that little bit of insight can provide you with the information you need in that moment to get what you’re after and stop being needy about it.
The Real Work Happens in Field
Meditation is great, but the meat of the work you’re going to do is in the field. After all, it’s easy to NOT be needy when you’re not around anyone else. You need to get out there and test yourself. You need to put these exercises into action around other people. Drop me a line in the comments and let me know how these exercises worked for you. Do you have any others that helped you to stop being needy around other people? Go ahead and share them.