What You REALLY Need To Hear — Based On What You THINK You Need

Kris Gage
Artist: Nimi / Photo by: Ove Jæger Eriksen

Maybe you relate to none of these. (It’s unlikely, and if you truly feel that way you’re probably in denial, but whatever — that’s your truth, not mine.)

Maybe you relate to more than one — which is fine. (Most of us do.)

But here are some of the most common problems we suffer from:

you want: TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE

You feel lazy, and like you lack routine / productivity / energy / short-cuts…

What you THINK you need:

  • “Motivation” / “inspiration”
  • Increased productivity / productivity tips

What you REALLY need:

  • To pull your head out of your own butt and just take action. Life isn’t here to hand you a juice box and cheer you on — and getting what you want in life DOES NOT depend on always “feeling like doing it” or “doing it perfectly” or “bEiNg As PrOdUcTiVe As PoSsIbLe.”
  • To realize that “motivation” is one of the biggest crocks of the universe, and everyone who got what you want did it even when they weren’t motivated. Success depends on doing it even when you don’t feel like it.
  • To recognize that, as Gorman wrote: you’re not “lazy”you’re afraid
  • To realize that success depends on perseverance, not “motivation.”
  • To realize that done is better than perfect, and progress is better than “productivity.” Doing something inefficiently is better than wasting time on articles about how to do things more “efficiently.”

you want: DIRECTION, PURPOSE or PASSION

You feel like you live without fire, without decisiveness.

What you THINK you need:

  • To “find it”

What you REALLY need:

  • To understand that “passion” isn’t a prerequisite to happiness (and, in fact, asking too much of things in life — like expecting your work to also be your “passion” is not only unrealistic, but unnecessary)
  • To understand that “passion” isn’t a prerequisite to “success” (conventionally defined), and tons of “successful” people have achieved what it is you think you want without ever taking the time to “find their passion.”
  • See also: “PERSONAL TRUTH and IDENTITY,” below

you want: CERTAINTY, SECURITY and GUIDANCE

What you THINK you need:

  • More information
  • Reassurance
  • Support
  • Concrete answers to “WHAT IF?”, or “just knowing” what will happen

What you REALLY need:

  • To relinquish your chokehold on “needing to KNOW!,” and cut off your never-ending perma-thirst for “but what if??!” Make peace with the fact that you do not control the universe, you will never know everything, can never plan for every contingency, and nothing will ever be perfect or concrete and never-changing, so be okay with uncertainties and change.
  • To understand that you, not your anxiety, runs the show here, and your anxiety is not your master. You do not need to give anxiety the wheel. (It knows nothing. It only fears.)
  • Don’t turn to people who struggle with anxiety for answers on anxiety. They’re going to give you advice like “find someone who loves you for your anxiety!” and “anxiety can be energizing,” which isn’t healthy. You can be aware and engaged (and lovable) without fueling anxiety.
  • Calm down. Get comfortable with discomfort. You do not rule the world, and it will NEVER offer you all of the answers. If you try to control it, or plan for every outcome, you’re going to run yourself into the ground.
  • Lighten up. “When you succumb to this self-doubt, you can become your own worst enemy and may harm yourself more than anyone else does.”
  • Trust. Tons of people deserve it. But also recognize and make peace with the fact: people may violate it. They may let you down. They may drop the ball. Be prepared for things to go awry and learn to be at peace with the real imperfections of life, rather than trying to fight or prevent them. (Because to do so is to only half live.)

You want: APPRECIATION, LOVE, and WORTH

What you THINK you need:

  • Appreciation
  • Others sensing and responding to your needs
  • Others to take your advice or accept your help
  • Others to be more kind and less self-absorbed

What you REALLY need:

  • To develop emotional boundaries, recognize that other people are not your domain, and you do not control their responses, behavior, or life
  • To recognize that sometimes your help isn’t helpful — or welcome!
  • To meet your own needs rather than expecting others to satisfy them, and step back from the codependent model (everyone satisfying each other’s needs, and trying to “get” love from others instead of themselves)
  • To love yourself, rather than gauging your worth based on others’ “love”
  • To be honest about your motivations, and distinguish “generosity” and “kindness” from thinly-veiled attempts to garner love, appreciation, or worth. (“While doing good things for people is certainly an admirable trait, when you do so because you expect the other person to appreciate you or do something nice for you in return,” it’s a lot less admirable.)

you want: YOUR PARTNER TO STOP ACTING SO SHITTY

See section above.

you want: PERSONAL TRUTH and IDENTITY

You are sensitive and hyper-aware of your own experience and inner-workings, and swing between being moody, withdrawn, melancholic, self-deprecating and even self-pitying… to creative, open, and magical.

You THINK you need:

  • Validation
  • Your “true calling”
  • To “find” and “be true” to yourself
  • Someone who truly understands and loves you “for you”

What you REALLY need:

  • Make peace with the fact that you are human. You may never be what you envision, but you are not a wretched failure or “missing” anything. Your value and worth does not hinge on how “special” or “unique” you are.
  • Become objective, integrate into the real world, get out of your head.
  • External self expression. Create, whatever it means for you. Don’t destroy it and don’t tear yourself down, but don’t make it too precious, either. Just put work out there and move on — improvement comes with movement and progress, not stagnancy. Stop ruminating and pouting.
  • The fastest way to creating beauty and greatness is moving with ease and lightness, not holding yourself back with cutting second-guesses.
  • The secret to lasting love isn’t finding someone who “truly loves you for you” and with whom you never stop feeling head over heels in love, but rather relinquishing your need for either.
  • Recognize that you have to choose which you want more: your “authentic” self, or love and partnership. Because people can never see each other as we see ourselves, accepting someone’s love ultimately also means accepting their vision and esteem of you in their eyes (which will never perfectly mirror your own — and never can.)
  • Recognize that you have to choose between your fantasies (including your idealized view of yourself) and satisfaction in the real world. (You will never live up to the former, as it is a fantasy and offers only a temporary, unhealthy “balm” of escape.)
  • Let go of the past and move on. (Incl. shame, esp. “failure” or “hurt.”)
  • Give less (not more) attention to your feelings, identity and personal experience. This probably sounds terrifying, and you may even have examples of this blowing up in your face, but “feelings” are not a consistent source of truth or guiding light. Deep down, you probably know this.
  • Understand that you are not your feelings. You may think that your feelings are your guidance, but your feelings are not you.
  • Avoid putting off things until you are “in the right mood.” We are happiest when working towards a goal — even small progress. “You will not ‘find yourself’ in a vacuum or while waiting for inspiration to strike.”
  • Self-esteem and self-confidence comes from working and moving. You may never feel “ready,” but happiness doesn’t come from “readiness” — and in fact, waiting on it leads to despair.
  • You don’t need “motivation” — you need discipline. You need to just DO IT.

you want: YOUR PARTNER TO LOVE YOU “FOR YOU”

See section above.

you want: YOUR OWN IDEALIZED SOLUTION

We get it — you’ve got your ideas for a perfect world / company / relationship / solution to this problem, and you’re here to obsess over the “long-tail” optimization of minutia to get there.

You think you need:

  • For people to just do it the way you say is better
  • Integrity, morality, and “perfection” in your realm of focus

What you really need:

  • To relax already. Calm down, bud. You’re not going to fix the world just by quietly raging about its imperfections — no matter how “obvious” the solution may be.
  • Do not expect others to change immediately (if ever!) People are, for the most part, pretty hung up on and preoccupied with their own shit (see: this entire list), and their core drive in life isn’t to follow your prescribed solution. People may agree with you and still not change, or they may not “see what you see” at all. Don’t get hung up on it — just lead by example, and if you really want to make an impact, dedicate more attention to them (their fears, etc — see this list) than your vision.
  • Understand that people aren’t obligated to follow your solutions. It’s easy to get angry when people “refuse” to do “the right thing” (as you’ve defined), but people are not your puppets — and you may not even be 100% right…
  • To recognize your own short-comings. And work on those as well.
  • Get over yourself. The self-righteousness is cute, but it isn’t helping.
  • Seriously, calm down. If you’re not careful, you’ll ruin yourself with self-righteousness and anger.

you want: STATUS, RESPECT and WORTH

What you THINK you need:

  • Success, esteem, recognition, and “what sounds good”

What you REALLY need:

  • Self-love and self-identity; defining your worth without external measures
  • Value defined without impressing others or inflating your importance
  • Charity, collaboration, compassion and love for others, including groups
  • Breaks — and a vacation! Pro tip: don’t go somewhere “brag-worthy.” Go somewhere “boring.” Learn to be with yourself as you are.

you want: MORE TIME FOR YOUR GENIUS RESEARCH

Yeah, I see you. We all see you. And you’re not nearly as “brilliant” as you think you are in your head. You’re just wasting your life away, and I think part of you knows it.

What you THINK you need:

  • More time for research
  • More alone time

What you REALLY need:

  • Act. Thinking takes us out of our experience. Mental capacities can be an extraordinary gift, but they’re also a “trap” when we use them to “retreat from others — and the real world.” We are not better than reality. And up against it, it will swallow us slowly and without a second thought.
  • Pursue. Just commit to something real already, and stop dicking around. You may think your happiness is in remaining aloof and effervescent, but in reality this is deeply flawed logic — studies show we are eons happier once we commit to something.
  • Self-awareness and honesty. “Notice when you are getting intensely involved in projects that do not necessarily support your self-esteem, confidence, or life.” Projects can become “huge distractions” from what you really need to do, and “decisive action will bring more confidence.”
  • Love. Trusting others is hard. Letting others in is hard. Other people can feel “intrusive” and “draining” — I get it — and maybe you’ve even had one or more experience of letting others in (maybe even loving them) and getting burned. But the answer isn’t to close ourselves off to love, but to realign ourselves with a healthier view of it (understanding healthy vs. unhealthy behaviors), and also accepting that emotional needs and compromise are part of the deal in love, and love is a rich part to the full human experience. (And even many of history’s greatest scientists and philosophers had love.)
  • Okay, “connection.” Bc whatever — even “having one or two intimate friends whom you trust enough to have conflicts with will enrich your life greatly.”
  • Exercise. I know you don’t — or you do it just enough to check the box, leaving as much time as possible (which is never enough) for “research.” Meditation, jogging, yoga are gonna make a wold of difference for you — even if you “don’t wanna” at first (or ever.) I know you know this. You’ve read about it, too. But know also: you’re not exempt.

you want: FUN, ADVENTURE, and NOVELTY

You’re the “drop everything and backpack the world” type. You’re the “I want to taste every smile and hear every song” type. You’re insatiable in your appetite — and low-key wrecked in your sadness to realize you can’t ever have “it all.”

What you think you need:

  • MOAR FUN!
  • MOAR ADVENTURE!
  • MOAR NOVELTY!
  • MOAR!

What you REALLY need:

  • To relax your need for adventure and realize that it’s a crutch — an escape from the ugly discomforts and unpleasantries of real life
  • To take a breath. Recognize your impulsiveness, and get in the habit of observing your impulses and accepting — even embracing — what it is you’re running from so hard (because it will eventually catch up.)
  • Learn to understand your real needs through self-awareness rather than chase, and to prioritize and focus accordingly
  • Recognize that sometimes planning or anticipating is more fun than the actual doing, and make peace with this — it’s okay.
  • Leave time for adventure and novelty and fun and new ideas, and don’t try to suppress it all entirely — otherwise you will still destroy yourself from the inside out, just in the other way

you want: TO NOT BE CONTROLLED

It’s not that you’re necessarily running anywhere, or doing anything with your time (e.g., research) or want an accolade for anything — you just don’t want to be wrangled.

What you THINK you need:

  • Free rein
  • For people to not try to control or manipulate you
  • To maybe control or manipulate other people preemptively (just in case)

What you REALLY need:

  • Others. You do not exist in a vacuum, and life will be much grander if you weave a wider web. Learn to choose your battles, and hand things off to others for them to oversee.
  • Love. Give to get. Stop fighting everyone — you could have so much more power if you uplifted and inspired instead.
  • To learn that a person’s value is not solely measured by their “grit” or what they have “endured.” Life isn’t fair, sure, but life — and people — can sure as hell be beautiful, too.
  • To learn that the world is not against you, and few people are vying for the upper-hand in the way you might be. Let others love you.

you want: PEACE OF MIND and CHILL

Can’t we all just get along? The answer, fundamentally, is: no. Because we are not stuffed animals.

What you think you need:

  • Space / to be left alone
  • Chill
  • Peace

What you really need:

  • To know that conflict is a part of life. And the fairy-tale imaginary scenario where nothing ever happens and nobody ever disagrees is a situation in which we are all just walking zombies — as you sometimes risk doing. Love isn’t about agreement — love is about engagement.
  • Know that when you disengage, you are actively letting your life pass you by.
  • Join your life. Pay attention rather than drifting off, tuning out, or daydreaming. You are an agent in your life. Act like it.
  • Figure out what you want (or feel, or need.) Earlier this year I went through an exercise of defining what I wanted even if I really didn’t care — It scared me that I lacked agency and decisiveness in the big things in life, and I realized it was in part because I’d lost the muscle in everything, big and small. So I forced myself to have an opinion on everything, starting with small things like dinner. Months later, I am far more decisive in the big things as well.
  • Know that no decision is a decision and problematic behavior can be both direct and indirect, explicit or causal. When you are unengaged in something where it’s inappropriate (such as a longterm committed relationship or work), your failure to invest is an active, direct problem.
  • Exercise and meditate. “Developing body-awareness will help teach you to concentrate and focus your attention in other areas of your life as well.”

In short

Across the board, what you REALLY need to hear is:

  • Pull your head out of your butt.
  • We all suffer from logical fallacies and we are terrible at foreseeing what will make us happy
  • What you THINK you need is rarely what you ACTUALLY need
  • What you ACTUALLY need is often the thing that seems the most counterintuitive and/or scary and/or to which you are most averse.
  • We are all low-key addicted to or preoccupied with something and, like an alcoholic is obsessed with getting booze or a druggie with their next hit, “healing” and “health” is not in satisfying it, but rising above it.
  • The harder we are fighting to “prove,” “get,” or “protect” something, the more indicative it is that we need to relinquish it (not achieve it) in order to heal. (Note: this takes a great deal of emotional health and maturity, and many people never get there, out of fear.)
  • Examine how you can contribute to a solution — rather than “asking” for or expecting a solution from the outside world or other people.
  • Learn to unwind without escapism, drugs or alcohol. Exercise, eat well, meditate.
  • Repeat.

For more on this, see here.


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