When you feel unneeded
I’ve just finished watching the movie Paddington.
Yes, the children’s movie. (Sometimes I think children’s movies tell better stories than ‘adult’ movies to be honest!)
In the movie, Paddington (voiced by the wonderfully talented Ben Whishaw), arrives in London per his aunt’s encouragement, where she’s sure he’ll find a loving home because surely, people won’t have forgotten “how to treat a stranger.”
Unfortunately, the London that Paddington arrives to is very different from the London his aunt and uncle had heard about many decades ago. Ever the well-mannered bear, Paddington tries to politely greet passersby at the train station, trying to find someone who might help him.
Unfortunately, everyone’s simply too busy to stop and be bothered by a conversation with Paddington and they continue on with their business as if he’s invisible.
I felt so bad for Paddington. All he wanted was to feel accepted; to feel like he belonged. He was afraid that perhaps he was doing something wrong and worst: that no one wanted or needed him.
Interestingly enough, I have felt similarly lately. It’s been over 8 years since I graduated from college and I no longer keep in touch with any of the friends I made during that season of my life. They have either gone on to marry and start families, relocate and start new jobs, or somewhere along the line the friendship simply gathered dust on life’s shelves.
I realized, with great sadness, that people have come to be so busy with their lives. Like the people at the train station in the movie Paddington, it seems that we hustle and bustle through our days, so focused on errands and tasks and to-do lists and goals, that somewhere along the way we forgot how to connect to each other.
I’m talking about real, heart-to-heart connection – showing people that we care, that we value their friendship, that they mean the world to us.
But again, it would seem that we’ve just become so busy as people.
So while reflecting on this the other day, I became depressed. Because I felt like Paddington.
In the very few close friendships that I have, I don’t exactly feel needed. As I thought about it, I wondered who – if anyone – would even notice or care if I magically disappeared one day? There had been times when I’d lost touch with friends for months at a time but they never reached out to see how I was doing. Thinking on that was disheartening. Was I the only one who cared? Was I the only one who wanted to reconnect?
I thought about how I always seemed to the first to initiate communication, how I always seemed to be the one putting forth the effort, how I always seemed to be the one who cared.
Then I wondered: how did I end up here? And why?
You see, I believe that we attract situations into our lives that teach our souls lessons we need to learn.
So I thought and thought and thought: what was the lesson here?
If I felt so miserably unneeded, why did I feel that way?
Here are three things I’ve come up with so far. Maybe they’ll help you if you ever reach a point when you feel unneeded:
1) I need to validate myself. A lot of my angst has come from lacking validation from others – whether it’s not receiving their thoughts on a story I’ve written, or not receiving a reply to an email, or feeling unheard in a conversation or misunderstood in general.
Being that one of my love languages is ‘Words of Affirmation’, I’m very big on words and thoughts and discussion. So when I put something out there and get only chirping crickets in return, it’s practically devastating to me. In fact, I started to realize that this is probably why so many creative people are depressed. We put our soul into our work of art, but then once it’s put out into the world, you very rarely get any validation for it. (When’s the last time you left a movie theater and thought, ‘I think I’ll send the screen writer a thank you note for putting together such a beautiful story. It really moved me’?)
We crave validation for what we create because it means so much to us – we want to know that our work has moved someone, that it’s stirred them, that it’s somehow affected them. But again, that validation doesn’t always come.
Well what I’ve learned is that first and foremost, the validation needs to come from myself. If I’ve written a story that I think is amazing, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of it if I don’t celebrate its amazingness for myself. So now I take pride in my work. If no one celebrates it or sends accolades, all that matters is that the work affected me and that I’m pleased with it. So what is something you’ve done that you’re proud of? Don’t wait for anyone else to pat you on the back. Celebrate your accomplishment for yourself! Honor yourself. And feel your heart warm as a result.
2) I need to create happiness for myself. In speaking with a life coach, I realized that my desire to feel needed and wanted stemmed from two things: a desire to have a purpose (if someone depended on me, it gave me something to live for) and a desire to experience happiness.
Putting both on an external source, however (in this case: a person) can be detrimental. Because the sad truth is that people won’t always be able to meet your expectations. They will disappoint you sometimes; they will let you down; they will break their promises. They may not intend to, but it’s bound to happen. That’s just life.
So instead, you have to develop your happiness from the inside out and you need to create more room for it in your life. This can mean different things to different people. What makes you happy? What lights you up? What’s something you’ve always wanted to do? Maybe it’s a class, maybe it’s a trip, maybe it’s spending time with an old friend.
I started to take things that were emotionally exhausting and mentally draining off my calendar, and I’ve started adding things that excite me in their place. For example, this week I’ll be going to my first ever painting class! On the weekend, I’ll be apart of a writing workshop, which I’m especially excited about because it’ll put me around like-minded people (people who love stories!). So how can you add happiness into your own life?
3) I need to find emotional support. I realized that the low point I felt was especially brought on by a lack of emotional support in my life. I’ve found that I’m starving for connection with others. I want to move past the surface-level to the depths that most people never explore in their lifetimes. I want to really know people. I want to laugh with them, encourage them, listen to them, celebrate with them…and I want all those things in return.
But I can’t have those things if I don’t go out and get them. So this is what I need to work on cultivating in my life at present and I’m looking forward to sharing more about my journey toward feeling more emotionally supported in my next blog!
One thing I’ve learned while researching for today’s blog, however, is that so many people in our world feel lonely, depressed, and unwanted. If you’re one of them today, here’s an article you can refer to for building emotional support: click here.
I hope that in these words, you can feel the love that I have for you. I hope that you can feel that love wrap around you like a warm blanket and that within that embrace, you feel safe and secure. I know the world can sometimes feel unwelcoming and cold, but you do belong here and you are supported by more people than you know.
I’m one of them. :0) And I’m rooting for you all the way.