How many times have you heard “don’t be needy” or “don’t come on too strong” or “you’re too desperate” when you look for dating advice? It’s pretty common to tell guys that it’s unattractive to want too much from someone too quickly, and while it’s true that you shouldn’t be planning the wedding on the first date… it’s not helpful advice to just say “be less needy!”
So let’s talk about what it means to be needy or desperate.
The dictionary definition of needy is “a person lacking the basic necessities” and that’s a pretty good starting point. When we’re needy, it means we’re lacking something essential. In the context of dating, it usually means we feel insecure and worthless as a romantic partner, and we need someone to be attracted to us and want to date us so we feel attractive and desirable.
That need to feel attractive and desirable is valid, and it’s important. A lot of the advice about not being needy ends up coming across as “stop wanting things from people” and that’s just not practical or true to life. We all want things from other people all the time, it’s human nature. We all have a need for social and romantic connection, and it’s important to our well-being to believe that we are good enough to attract the people we want to connect with.
So that’s a bunch of academic, abstract language, let’s get practical.
The way I see it, “being needy” in the world of dating means that you don’t believe you deserve the kind of relationship you want and you’re looking at the women you’re dating to prove you wrong. You want them to convince you that you’re lovable. That’s where it gets weird.
Women don’t want to feel responsible for your emotional state. They don’t want to feel like you need their validation, or that if they reject you, that you’ll fall apart.
But what if you need that? What if you don’t feel attractive? What if you need validation?
First, you need to tell yourself that it’s okay to want those things. It’s hard enough when we feel unattractive, don’t make it worse by shaming or blaming yourself for feeling the way you feel. Again, these are valid, human needs. It’s normal to want these things.
Second, you need to practice self-validation. It’s all in the way we talk to ourselves, how often do you criticize and put yourself down? Probably a lot more often than you criticize or put down other people. For most of us, if we talked to our friends the way we talk to ourselves, no one would want to hang out with us. So commit to being a better friend to yourself.
What would you a tell a friend who was thinking and feeling the way you are right now? You’d probably be supportive, understanding, and encouraging. And even if they didn’t believe your kind words, they’d appreciate that you’re on their side and want the best for them.
So tell yourself some nice things! Some people like to say affirmations in front of the mirror, I like to write down some of my good traits in a journal. Whatever works for you, and if you haven’t tried any of this stuff… now is the time to try it.
I say this a lot, if you want different results you have to take different actions.
It can be helpful to think of this as exercise. Confidence and self-assurance are like muscles, they’re built up gradually over time through consistent effort. There’s no quick fix magic here, if you feel unlovable it’s going to take time and steady support to feel worthy of love. But it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be just five minutes every day.
If you have time right now, which I assume you do since you’re reading this article, take a moment to think of a few things you like about yourself. At least three. These can be qualities, like being kind, funny, or generous. It can be specific accomplishments, like donating to charity, or volunteering, or maybe you supported a friend through a difficult time. It might also be that you’re simply proud of yourself for still being here after a lot of hardship.
If you’re building a house, you build it one brick at a time. Assuming it’s a brick house. The point is, you start putting these bricks down and it doesn’t look like a house yet. You can put a lot of effort and energy in and it will still look like a very short, square wall. Then it looks like a slightly taller wall, with maybe some openings in it, so it’s not even a good wall because it has these gaps. Then you start to put the roof on, and suddenly it’s a house. Those gaps are for windows and doors, but you can’t see that until the project is done.
In the same way, when we start to build ourselves up with the goal of becoming confident and self-assured, it doesn’t look that way for a while. We feel silly, or we think we’re tricking ourselves, or we get discouraged because we don’t see any change at all.
To use another metaphor, it’s like planting a seed. You prepare the soil, you plant the seed, and you water it regularly. Then you wait for it to sprout, which can take a long time. There’s a lot happening under the dirt, and if you keep digging up the seed to check on its progress, you’re going to kill the plant.
Just do five minutes of positive self-thought every day. If you commit to this and keep it up for a month, or 6 months, or a year… you’ll see an incredible shift in the way you relate to yourself.
Spending time intentionally reflecting on the good things in your life is a powerful practice. It’s life changing. Most of us don’t do this, but we’ll spend hours agonizing over something bad that happened. Whatever you give your attention to will occupy more of your thoughts and feelings, it’s not some kind of supernatural mysticism, it’s just the reality of our brains.
Do you have to be perfect before you start dating? Not at all. It’s easy to fall into that trap when we start improving ourselves, believing that we need to be 100% confident and totally self-validated before we can be ready for a serious, loving relationship. But you don’t need to be perfect.
One of the things that women care about most is your path. They can see the trajectory you are on, and the goals you are pursuing, and that matters a lot to them. If you don’t have a job, but every time she talks to you, you’re telling her a long list of places you’ve applied to, skills you’re developing, how you’re improving your resume and cover letters… she’ll see the path you’re on. She’ll know that it’s only a matter of time until you get a great job.
Similarly, you can say to a woman very directly, “I’ve struggled a lot with being confident and assertive in the past, I’m working on changing that. I’m practicing that right now by telling you this, because I’m way out of my comfort zone.”
She has probably never had a conversation that open and honest with her date, and it’ll definitely get her attention. If she can tell that you are owning your nervousness, that you are okay with being nervous, she’ll be pretty impressed. And don’t forget, she’ll know that you’re nervous either way. I try to avoid painting with a broad brush, but in general women are much more aware of other people’s emotional state than us guys are. Don’t try to pretend that you’re chill if you aren’t, instead you should own the nervousness. Take pride in getting out of your comfort zone and being brave.
The older you get, the more true this becomes. I was late to the dating game, I didn’t start trying to date until I was in my 20’s and I didn’t have any success for a few years. A lot of guys start even later than that. But when you’re dating women in their late 20’s, their 30’s, their 40’s… they care a lot less about whether you are cool and know how to flirt and a lot more about whether you’re going to bullshit them. They want a guy who will be upfront about his situation, whatever that situation may be, because it is exhausting to be around a man who is trying to hide his feelings and usually not doing a good job of it.
So wherever you are, whatever your starting situation is: own it. Say it directly and confidently. If you’re nervous, embrace it. If you’re scared, share it. And if you’re lonely and really want a connection, say that too.
Especially with the covid pandemic going on, we’re all even more disconnected than usual. So stop hiding yourself, take a risk and open up. You might be pleasantly surprised at the reaction you get.
If you want to practice your social skills and get direct feedback and encouragement, book a free consultation call with me right now. It’s the best 30 minute investment you can make in improving your dating life.