Think about your family and friends. Why do they make time for you in their lives? Why do they want you around?
I think many of us aren’t sure how to answer these questions. We see the things we don’t like about ourselves and wonder why anyone would choose us instead of someone better.
And yet, we want relationships.
A common response is to try to change ourselves into someone more desirable. We watch closely for what the other person thinks and what they like. We try to be those things and hide any part of ourselves that doesn’t match.
Another common response when we struggle to see why someone would want us is to try to make sure they need us. We go out of our way to help wherever possible. We try to anticipate needs and fix problems. We inconvenience ourselves to make everything as convenient as possible for the other person.
While these are natural responses to the fear that someone might not want us simply for who we are, they do lead to some problems.
When we try to keep our position in someone’s life by making ourselves needed, we’re constantly having to earn our place. We have to keep finding ways to be needed and striving to meet those needs. It’s never enough and we’re never done.
All relationships take time and energy. When we’re not sure why someone would want us, we try to give enough to them that it’s actually easier for them to keep the relationship than to let us go.
Now of course, seeing each other’s needs and helping each other is a beautiful part of friendship. Just because you run an errand for someone or help them move or agree to get together at a time that is mildly inconvenient for you does not necessarily mean there’s a problem. More important is your motivation for doing those things.
On some level, are you trying to earn a place in their life? Deep down is part of you wondering…
If they don’t need me, why would they want me?
Another problem with both of these responses is that they are ways of treating ourselves as less than. Going out of our way to meet someone else’s needs can come at the cost of sacrificing our own. It tells us and the other person that their needs are more important than ours. When we change ourselves to try to please them, we’re saying that their preferences are more important than who we are.
It follows that these responses do not lead to mutual relationships. When we set ourselves up as less than and put ourselves in the role of pleasing and taking care of the other person, we cannot also be equals in the relationship. We are undermining the give and take of a mutual relationship—to see and be seen, to know and be known.
So what do we do?
Try this. Make a list of things you value about yourself. This is not about ways you live up to others’ expectations, but about the qualities and characteristics you appreciate about who you are.
If you want to take this a step further, try asking a few people what they value about you. You might want to specify that you’re hoping for feedback that goes beyond what you do for them and speaks to who you are.
Two things this exercise is not:
It is not an attempt to find enough good qualities about you to tip the scale. That’s just another way of trying to prove you’re enough and your worth is not something to prove.
It is not a recipe for being wanted. These qualities and characteristics are not a to-do list. Let’s not trade one way of trying to earn our place for another.
Looking for reasons we might be wanted for who we are isn’t going to fix what makes us try to be more likable or strive to be needed. When we have a pattern, however, of focusing on the ways we fear we fall short or don’t fit in, it can take intentional effort to also notice what we value about ourselves.
Sometimes when we realize it’s time to make a change we get caught up in looking at what we don’t want anymore. It’s hard to reach for something different when we’re not clear about what we want instead.
If you could know without a doubt that you were wanted, who would you be? How would you show up? Who would you spend time with? What would you do? What would you say? What would you stop doing? (Are there any clues in the list you made above?)
Now, what would it look like to bring just the tiniest piece of the you who believes you are wanted into your life this week?
The question of whether we are wanted means looking at patterns and unpacking Stories. It’s deep work and important work. Looking for your own value is just one piece in shifting from looking for what’s wrong with you to seeing yourself as someone worthy of love and belonging.
Instead of sacrificing yourself for the sake of a relationship, consider what beautiful qualities and characteristics you bring to your relationships. If you notice that you have a pattern of trying to be needed, know you’re not the only one. It is possible to create relationships that are mutual and satisfying. I’d love to support you.