Need vs. REAL Need – How to tell the Difference

Last post, I wrote about how to break the habit of telling ourselves we “have to” or “should do” this or that. Thinking we need to do whatever we are telling ourselves is often an automatic reaction to believing we must meet a specific need. Urgently! But thinking and acting this way only puts excessive pressure on ourselves that keeps us in a state of frenzy. A cycle that can be hard to break free of.

There’s a difference between knowing real need from those needs we pressure ourselves into thinking must be met, right now! These latter often are tasks we may conclude aren’t so important when we stop to think about our priorities.


The key to discerning real and personal need comes down to knowing our true priorities. Many people may not think too much about their personal needs beyond maintaining good health and having enough money to provide for themselves and their family. Both worthy priorities, but which constantly feed our desire to always want more. We can find ourselves chasing after things – if not for us then our loved ones – at a dizzying pace.

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But, when our health goes or we are hit unexpectedly with struggle or loss, our needs can and do change instantly. And this is when it becomes critical that we take a hard look at what we really need to see us through the tough times. Hardship almost always requires us to shift our priorities by putting our own needs first. Above everything else except perhaps the needs of loved ones who are still dependent on us (unless we’re in dire straits).


In much of western society, thinking about our personal needs and optimal health is not something most of us are inclined to do. We have been culturally conditioned to carry on, regardless of our struggles. Which leaves us feeling frustrated, resentful, angry and worse off all-around than we truly want to be. Which is why there are so many courses on self-love, taking back our power, manifesting the life we desire but are too afraid to have, and so on.

Despite what we have experienced in our past or are going through now, prioritizing our personal needs gets pushed to the back of our mind. This is because we are simply too busy running around trying to meet any number of the excessive demands that we place on ourselves, daily. This may be caring for our family. Working. Helping any number of people besides ourselves.

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When we can stop for a moment and think about everything we are doing that doesn’t feel purposeful or gratifying, we can start to think about what would reduce our stress and struggle. About what we really need. The point here is not about making immediate changes. Rather, it’s about understanding the consequences our actions have on our overall well-being. Even when we think they don’t.

All of us can recognize when we feel off-balance. We can all admit (at least to ourselves) when we dislike something about our life. Despite this, we don’t always know how to fix what feels wrong or believe that we can.


Pause gives us insight. Insight gives us the opportunity to listen to what our heart is telling us. The heart never lies. You can be sure that even when we don’t have all the answers, finding that first one leads us to others to move us along our path of change.

Change is never an overnight process. It takes effort to continually monitor our needs from which true wants are born. This is not the same as chasing things that are temporary solutions to our true wants that go far deeper. These last being genuine needs that help us live a more authentic life, which comes from knowing the difference.

As a bereaved mom, it took me ten years to understand how much I had been altered by my loss experience. It took another four for me to understand the type of support I needed to start regaining my health. When we have our health and a strong sense of self and worthiness, the sky is the limit for what we feel we may want to pursue.


We all have stuff from our past we have to deal with. While we may be able to overcome the pain from some of our experiences, all of it leaves a residue within us. We react to the impact of lingering hurt in various ways. Mostly, by not loving ourselves enough (if at all) and thinking we aren’t good enough for this or that. Whether it’s money, health, a forever relationship, perfect family or a career we’re still chasing, any need that hasn’t been fulfilled within us will always be there. Until it is, or we no longer have the need.

Which is why it’s so important to know at the different stages of our life what we really need to complete ourselves. Not knowing this at any stage of our life prevents us from consistently living with a more positive attitude. Where we have no desire to feel angry with ourselves or others or discontent with our life.

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Keeping it high level, in three columns write down:

  1. In column 1, what you love and what you love doing. (Example: family/gardening)
  2. In column 2, what you like and like doing. (Example: watching sunsets/having a glass of wine on a patio).
  3. In column 3, what you dislike about your life and dislike doing.

You’d be surprised how much a simple exercise like this can reveal about what you do and don’t need for today.


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