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Neediness Alert – 6 Surprising Behaviors That Sabotage Your Excellence And Make You Look Desperate And Insecure Without Realizing It

K. Joia Houheneka is a global leader in luxury entrepreneurship. She is the founder of Club Elevate+Aspire+, an application-only exclusive community for entrepreneurs building high-end, premium, and/or luxury businesses.

Executive Contributor K. Joia Houheneka

Neediness is poison to a healthy relationship. It’s the same whether you’re an entrepreneur trying to get a sale and establish a customer relationship, or a single trying to get a date and establish a romantic relationship. Neediness will be toxic to your prospects – and rightly so. The thing is, neediness can be subtle and insidious. You might not even be aware that your actions are giving off a needy vibe. Here’s what to look out for.

Persons left hand on a blue surface

“We all have needs. But no one needs to be needy.” (From “Paradoxical Luxury” by K. Joia Houheneka)


Are you leaning in or leaning out?


If there’s something you want from someone else, your temptation might be to lean in (both figuratively and physically). But you might have a better chance of actually getting it if you lean out – and make them come to you instead.


This leaned-out posture and mindset is one that I and my clients (who are entrepreneurs building high-end, premium, and luxury brands) all work continuously to master. We understand that it’s key to being superlatively attractive in any market.


As Robert Greene observed in The 48 Laws of Power: “Desire often creates paradoxical effects: The more you want something, the more you chase after it, the more it eludes you. The more interest you show, the more you repel the object of your desire. This is because your interest is too strong—it makes people awkward, even fearful. Uncontrollable desire makes you seem weak, unworthy, pathetic.”


Desperate desire betrays neediness, and neediness is never attractive. Here’s the deeper paradox: we all have needs, including the need to be needed – but the best way to get our needs met by others is to keep neediness out of our relationships.


Needs vs. neediness

Let’s make this clear. As human beings, we all have needs. 20th-century psychologist Abraham Maslow famously categorized these into a hierarchy, which contemporary psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman has organized into a useful sailboat metaphor


At a basic level, the “hull” of the sailboat, we all have needs for Safety (food, drink, shelter, a sense of stability), for Connection (belonging, affection, intimacy), and for Self-Esteem (capability, self-worth, mastery). And it’s true we satisfy many of these needs through our relationships with others.


The key is not to need any one particular prospective relationship.


We want to fill our lives first with successes, love, and possibilities so that we can come to any new prospective relationship with a sense of abundance and earned security – this is how we prevent neediness.


Significantly, by not coming from neediness, we’ll be able to build the kinds relationships that fulfill not only needs but deep desires.


For example, if you’re an entrepreneur, you never want to be in the position that you need any one particular sale. If you literally need money to put food on the table and a roof over your head, then earn it through a part-time job to pay the bills and/or lower your expenses. Get your Safety needs met before you get into a sales conversation.


Further, sales calls should not be your primary social life (your Connection need) nor should making the sale be some sort of validation of your worthiness (your Self-Esteem need). As entrepreneurs, we can always be improving our sales skills and enhancing our offers, but it’s useful to get some sales practice under your belt as well as feedback on a beta version of your offer before trying to make a sale. This way, whatever happens in the sales process is just another point of data and a learning opportunity, not some “reflection of your fundamental value as a person and an entrepreneur”.


Lastly, while the viability of your business does depend on sales, it should not depend on any one particular sale. Do the work to fill your pipeline so that you have alternatives and abundance before you come to the table to make your offer.


As A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the aerospace scientist and former President of India, famously put it: any “no” you receive should be just an acronym for “next opportunity.”


Your attitude should be: “I’m confident in the value of my offer today. I hope we can work together. But if you decide you don’t want to move forward now with this, either way, I’m fine.”


Or as the old-time sales reps used to say, “Either way, I’m eating steak tonight.”


The truth is, if you come to the sales table in a state of desperation and neediness, even if you manage to get a sale, in the long run, you still lose. Desperate salespeople give away too many concessions, accept too many compromises, and break too many healthy boundaries. With neediness, you settle for bad-fit customers, or worse, attract predators who will take advantage of your weakness. Neediness breeds relationships of co-dependency.


This is why you want to do the work to meet your basic needs first. Arrange for multiple potential sales opportunities so that you can be choosy about who you’ll conduct business with. Come to the sales opportunity as a self-sufficient adult to build a healthy win-win relationship.


Eschewing neediness this way is just as important if you’re trying to start a new romantic relationship.


You shouldn’t be dependent on finding a new partner to cover your living expenses, i.e. your basic Safety needs. You should have already built supportive friendships and family relationships to fulfill your Connection needs. And you should already be engaged in passionate pursuits and activities that not only augment your Self-Esteem, but that give you an interesting, vibrant life that someone else will want to share.


If you’re in the dating market, get multiple first dates lined up at once. This gives you options so you don’t have to worry if any one date just isn’t a fit. If and when you do meet someone you want to go deeper with, you can always cancel the rest. (This is actually exactly what I did when I met the man who is now my husband.) Plus, demonstrating you’re in demand will just make you more desirable.


As Daniel Priestley noted in his book Oversubscribed: “People don’t buy what others want to sell, they buy what others want to buy.” This principle applies equally to desire in the dating scene.


So, go make yourself someone desirable. Start by making sure your basic needs are met. Otherwise, your neediness just becomes an unasked-for burden and obligation you’re imposing on a stranger. This only invites unhealthy co-dependency. Come from want but never from need. Your sense of security and the security of your new partner will be the rock on which a robust long-term relationship can be built.


(Note: I want to make clear, I don’t think superlatively healthy people ever entirely get rid of insecurity, they just learn to successfully manage the tension between security and insecurity. The highest form of living is a life of continuous growth. But this, by definition, means deliberately, continuously pushing yourself outside your comfort zones such that you will feel some measure of insecurity. However, a healthy adult should also have simultaneously a developed-and-growing sense of security from your past successes and your capabilities to assume responsibilities, hold down a job, pay the bills, nurture loving relationships, build your skills, etc. – this evolving security is what you want to ground yourself in when you approach trying to get a new sale or a new date.)


6 ways you might be inadvertently suggesting neediness

Neediness “tells” can be subtle and sometimes counterintuitive. The person on the receiving end often just has a negative emotional experience they can’t quite identify, but the cause when analyzed turns out to be that they sensed neediness.


This is why you want to be intentional and proactive in your communication, so that you’re showcasing your best self and speaking from your evolving security not from unrecognized insecurity.


This practice has been transformational to my life and business ventures. It’s also crucial for my fellow luxury entrepreneurs. One of the joys of luxury entrepreneurship is that our customers and clients are generally successful, driven, creative, savvy, affluent people who have ascended to the higher self-actualizing growth needs, the “sail” of the sailboat metaphor comprising Exploration, Love, and Purpose needs.


(Note: not that one is ever completed and done with the basic security needs. Just like the hull of an actual sailboat, Safety, Connection, and Self-Esteem always require ongoing maintenance and sometimes even a full-fledged overhaul, especially after stormy days and travails of turbulent seas. Still, it’s often the case that once a person reaches the echelons of self-actualizing, it’s easier for one to stay and/or get back there.)


Hence, when you are operating from or aiming toward self-actualizing and dealing with others who do, you don’t want to inadvertently evoke neediness.


Interestingly, the non-obvious forms of neediness rarely come from a Safety deficiency (Those needs are often blatant). They sometimes come from a Connection issue, for example when people try to rush intimacy because they experience its lack. However, by and large, the subtle shows of neediness are generally related to Self-Esteem.


It’s important to remember that Self-Esteem is a lifelong journey that never ends. Self-Esteem is not static – it can go up and down across a life, and everyone can benefit from conscientiously attempting various practices that boost and bolster Self-Esteem. These practices include:

  • Being mindful of your thoughts & feelings, including facing facts that might be uncomfortable

  • Accepting the reality of who you are (if only as a starting point for change)

  • Challenging yourself

  • Practicing gratitude & savoring

  • Assuming responsibility for your choices

  • Leveraging your strengths

  • Learning from your mistakes

  • Celebrating your wins

  • Asserting & expressing yourself

  • Setting healthy boundaries

  • Surrounding yourself with others who will be a positive influence

  • Pursuing a high, noble purpose

  • Keeping the promises you make to yourself and others

  • Living in integrity, making sure your actions align with your convictions, beliefs, and ideals


In addition to practices that augment self-esteem, it can also be useful to proactively look out for signs of being needy. So here are the 6 common, subtle ways many people do unintentionally show neediness:


1. Trying to prove yourself in conversation

When you’re speaking with someone, are you fully present listening with curiosity, empathy, and focus on the topic – or is your mind wandering to what you’ll say next because you feel the need to look smart?


Jim Camp, the master negotiator (who himself identified neediness as the “greatest weakness in negotiation”) made the comment: “…being right is very important to most of us. It is a powerful need, and like all needs, it must be overcome.”


As a human being, you do have a legitimate need for knowledge, a need to be liked, a need to feel important – you should prove yourself to yourself. But – you have no need to prove yourself to anyone else, especially not to any one potential new business contact or romantic interest.


Facts: you will never know everything, you will never be liked by everyone, and you will never be as important to anyone else as you are to yourself and your closest loved ones.


However, just because you can’t be everything and can always be more doesn’t mean you are not already worthy as you are.


If you are on the path of trying earnestly to do good, to live mindfully, to take responsibility for your choices and actions, to respect the dignity and rights of others, to strive to achieve your potential and bliss – then you have a solid basis for self-worth. Make this your inner wellspring.


2. Bragging

“It ain’t bragging if you can back it up” is a popular quote whose origins are murky. And like many quotes of this kind, it’s not quite accurate.


While there are certain contexts when you want to be proudly forthright and vocal about your past accomplishments (for example, in an entrepreneurial pitch presenting your credentials and expertise), in many contexts it’s neither appropriate nor attractive.


Though at first blush, bragging might seem to be an act of confidence, it’s usually just a mask for insecurity. People who are comfortable in being who they are take deep, serene inner enjoyment in their achievements and don’t need to tell the world.


Ask yourself, what does this boast contribute to the conversation? How is it useful or valuable for those who are listening? Is it providing helpful information? Or is it just coming from neediness and insecurity?


3. Talking too much

One doesn’t have to be bragging to be inappropriately self-centered from insecurity. Being the one talking too much is in itself often a “tell”.


A conversation ought to be a two-way exchange, and if anything, you will convey more gravitas by being fully present to listen long and deep.


Often it is the artful use of an intentional pause and a few words carefully chosen that will be most powerful to a conversation.


4. People-pleasing

While the previous three forms of insecurity show up as inappropriate self-aggrandizing behaviors, these next three are unhealthy self-effacing behaviors.


People-pleasing is often defended by those who self-identify with the term as synonymous with virtues like kindness and being nice. But people-pleasing goes beyond kindness to a disposition to bend over backwards for others, even if it means crossing healthy boundaries, as literally trying to bend over one’s back would do.


Why are people-pleasers over-helpers, giving of themselves to others more than they have the capacity to give?


Typically, it is because they feel a need to be liked. For some, it can even be a kind of trauma response, a coping mechanism developed to try to win love and/or attention.


People-pleasers generally neglect to take responsibility for their own true needs by refusing to assert themselves or prioritize their boundaries. Many times, it’s a backward attempt at control – instead of owning the control they do have over their own actions, responses, time, and boundaries, people-pleasers put inordinate effort trying to control other’s emotions or behaviors, which, of course, can’t be done.


If you are a recovering people-pleaser, many of the practices that improve self-esteem can be invaluable in your journey of confronting this form of neediness.


5. Avoiding controversy

There are certain situations in life when it is wise and healthy to avoid controversy. Family reunions, for example, should be opportunities to celebrate and connect over shared values, not bicker over disagreements that could never be solved in a few hours anyway.


That said, avoiding controversy should not be a general policy in interactions with others.


Every human being has a limited perspective. That limitation is part of what it means to be human. From our limited perspectives, we all develop our own opinions – and although we all should be open to revising opinions based on new evidence, we should all feel free to assert ourselves, tell our stories, and make the case as we see it for what we believe.


Controversy is inevitable in human society. It is incumbent on each of us thus to courageously stand up for our convictions.


If you’re continually avoiding controversy, ask yourself why. Many times, just like people-pleasing, it comes from a neediness to be liked or accepted. Yet it is only your authentic self that withers when you continually fail to express your genuine beliefs.


6. Apologizing profusely

Finally, there are times when an apology is warranted. If you reflect on your past deeds and truly regret something you have done, an apology is often the best first step toward making amends.


However, sometimes apologizing is just a defense mechanism and a display of neediness.

Have you ever seen someone start a presentation with a bunch of apologies or preface a recommendation by saying sorry? Have you ever seen someone immediately apologize in order to avoid a conflict, even when they have nothing to be truly sorry for? Many times, people feel they will come off as bossy, arrogant, or disagreeable without this note of deference, but too many apologies, especially uncalled-for apologies, will just make you look uncertain, lacking confidence, and insecure.


Over-apologizing often comes from low self-esteem, especially an insincere apology that’s just a form of seeking reassurance - for example when someone preemptively apologizes for giving an imperfect gift just so they can be reassured, “No, I love it.”


Sometimes apologizing is just an attempt to avoid vulnerability, to protect oneself against a potential rejection. It often goes hand-in-hand with people-pleasing with a need to be liked and to avoid upsetting or disappointing others, even at the cost of authenticity and healthy boundaries.


So, the next time, before you utter the words “I’m sorry”, ask yourself: are you truly remorseful or just displaying a form a neediness?

How to master the paradox: Show up confident and let others shine

A life of excellence – like luxury itself – is one filled with mastering paradoxes. The key to rising above neediness is one of these paradoxes: you show up brimming with confidence yet you let the other person shine.


First, you show up to that potential sales or romantic encounter centered in your sense of evolving security. You are energized, alert, present, and you let your presence be felt. You take up space with your body and time with your speaking. You bring value to the table, and you let that value be experienced.


Confidence, in essence, is all about self-trust. It is your belief in your capacity to make good decisions and cope with life’s challenges. It involves the competency aspect of Self-Esteem and is itself a lifelong journey of ups and downs. Luckily, confidence is also self-reinforcing. By engaging in the Self-Esteem-boosting practices, your confidence can grow, and each success gives evidence and resilience to empower you to achieve more successes.


Then, with that sense of success, you turn the spotlight of your attention and focus on to the success of others. Your role is that of the generous host or hostess, the one with the largesse to throw a magnificent event that caters to the guests’ satisfaction and delight. This is how win-win relationships thrive.


Admittedly, it is not the easy path (nothing worthwhile comes without challenges), but it is the path that brings deep meaning and fulfillment.


Are you committed to excellence, high standards, and mastery in your work and life? If so, I would love to invite you to apply to join us in Club Elevate+Aspire+.


Club Elevate+Aspire+ (sponsored by Open Horizons Coaching) is an exclusive membership specifically for entrepreneurs with missions of excellence who are building high-end, premium, and luxury brands.


If accepted, you will enter through the Complimentary Level where all members receive:

  • Access to my plenary talk: “8 Advanced Strategies to Elevate Your Personal & Brand Status”

  • Ideate Daily, a gem-like, condensed daily memo personally from me to inspire your luxury strategy & excellence

  • Invitations to special members-only opportunities and other periodic gifts


Please note: admission to the Club is by application only – even at the Complimentary Level, we curate to accept only those whose public online presence demonstrates they are serious about growing a high-end business. If you’re interested and you qualify, there are also Premium/VIP-level memberships to the Club that are by invitation only.


We look forward to receiving your application to Club Elevate+Aspire+!


Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


K. Joia Houheneka, Luxury Travel Advisor & Excellence Coach

K. Joia Houheneka is on a mission to Elevate Luxury to make luxury synonymous with excellence. She has a background as the owner of a luxury travel agency, Delve Travel. However, much of her current work involves coaching entrepreneurs in her bespoke method that combines luxury business strategy, training in flow states & self-actualization, and growth-focused travel – it is designed for those who are serious about achieving excellence and flourishing across all areas of life. Entrepreneurs with high-end, premium, or luxury businesses are invited to apply for a Complementary Level membership to Club Elevate+Aspire+ to discover more.



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