“One of the basic needs of every human being is the need to be loved, to have our wishes and feelings taken seriously, to be validated as people who matter.” — Harold S. Kushner
You are important. You matter. You are a human being, imbued with incredible potential and noble aspirations. Each day, you make life better for the people around you. Your labor and love brighten others’ days.
And like everyone, you have some basic needs.
Clean air and water. Nutritious food, quality shelter, and safety. Connection with other people through compassion, understanding, acceptance, appreciation, and belonging. Autonomy and freedom. Self-expression and self-actualization.
And it’s likely that you have unmet needs. They are like a fog, shrouding your life in unhappiness.
Which needs are unmet can change across the years.
For example, growing up, I felt isolated. I had one good friend in elementary school. Many acquaintances, but only one good friend. All my siblings are 8 or more years younger than me and I was surrounded by adults. I often had no one to play with.
Some kids create imaginary friends; I constructed an imaginary city, so small, that it fit on the tip of my finger. I was its mayor and its inhabitants’ personalities were modeled after characters in my favorite tv show, The Smurfs. They were constantly causing problems with one another and needed me to sort things out.
In college, I didn’t get enough sleep, exercise, or proper nutrition. As a result, I lacked clarity and my studies suffered. I contracted pneumonia during the winter of my junior year. At that time, I made a strategic decision to fail some classes so that I focus my limited energy on the classes I wanted to pass. 2 years later, graduation was a mixture of relief and exhaustion. I laughed when someone asked me about graduate school.
In my late 20s, I struggled to see life’s purpose and meaning after I lost my faith in god. And the stress of working as a software developer wore on me. A gloom set in and life lost some of its luster.
Since then, I read dozens of books, researched religions, and experimented with ways to meet my needs. It’s been a long road, but over time, I identified constructive ways to meet them. And every time I meet a need, I push back the clouds of darkness.
I tell you this because I want you to know that you are not alone. Every person has a long list of unmet needs. Everyone, even you.
I want you to know that you, too, can meet your unmet needs and feel better about your life. This may be hard to believe, but it’s true.
And the first step to meeting your needs is to take an inventory, an honest assessment, of what needs go unfulfilled. So take a minute and look through this list of needs. Write down any that are currently unmet. You might fill a sheet of paper. Or a notebook. And that’s OK.
You may need to take some time, days even, to generate a comprehensive list. And that’s OK, too. Introspection requires hard work; take all the time you need.
Once you have your list, circle one need to focus on. How can you better meet that need in the future? You might talk to someone has this need met. You might read books, seek professional help, or try different approaches and reflect on the results.
For example, if you struggle with poor health, you might talk to folks with good health and ask them how they maintain it. You might even interview them about their habits, eating plans, etc.
If you suffer from a specific ailment, you could find people who’ve overcome it or at least found ways to cope. The Internet makes it easy to find people with similar difficulties.
To become more healthy, you could read books on health and nutrition (I’ve read a dozen) and experiment with different strategies. You could talk to your doctor about your health goals, hire a personal trainer, or see a physical therapist. (I’ve done all three.)
Or maybe you have a different need you want to focus on. It doesn’t matter where you start; just start somewhere. Improvements will come slowly, in bursts and fits, at first. But as long as you persist, your life will improve. Gradually, things will fall into place as rays of sunshine peek through the mists.
Over time, life will regain a sparkle that you forgot even existed. You’ll wake up one day in the future and say, Wow, I actually feel good today! As the years pass, your life will become a beacon of joy for others who trudge through the fog of unmet needs.
Be well, my friend.
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