To be ‘needy’ is to be a problem to the people around you. We all of course have needs, many of them very similar. We need food, shelter, warmth, water. We need to feel reasonably secure and acceptable to those we spend time with. Most of us admit to needing affection and goodwill from others. Somewhere, a line is drawn, and certain people are ‘too much’. Too needy. If a person is designated as ‘needy’ then dealing with what they need ceases to be anyone’s problem.
It’s interesting to ask who is allowed to need what. Who is likely to have their needs met, and who is not? To what degree is there exchange or barter in the mix? We may be more likely to accept the needs of people we easily empathise with, and people whose needs are convenient and do not require much effort to sort out.
Need has the scope to create a sense of social duty. This can turn into feelings of martyrdom and being put-upon. The more obliged we feel to answer someone’s inconvenient need, the more we may resent them if they cannot obviously recompense us. Much may also depend on the presence of an audience who can be impressed by how good we are. It’s always easier to be kind and generous when you can see how you will benefit directly from that.
It is worth paying attention to who we cheerfully help on request, and who we write off as ‘needy’ and try to ignore. Think about who you take seriously and who you don’t and whether you in turn expect to be taken seriously, or tend to be one of the people whose needs are not reliably honoured.
Of course there’s a political angle to this, too. A politician in the UK can expect to claim thousands of pounds of ‘expenses’ on things most of us would have to fund for ourselves. A person too ill to work is expected to live on far less. What we’re happy to accept that the Queen ‘needs’ is not the same as what we think old people in care homes need.
Often it seems to me that the scope for getting your needs met is directly proportional to your wealth and power. Of course it’s the people with least wealth or power who tend to have the most need.