On Necessity

Something has occurred to me recently. It’s a bit raw and confused, but I’ve found that many of you like those posts the best, so here goes.

I haven’t been able to be very helpful for the last few months. And helpful is one of the biggest ways I define myself. Always has been. So not being able to be helpful, I would have expected, would throw my whole world into turmoil.


Alan is managing the bakery entirely without me. Training new staff, procuring a new mixer and winning new wholesale accounts. Even the Saturday market in Stratford which was entirely my responsibility, he’s got organized. All that and he’s running the house, too.

He doesn’t need me.

No, it’s OK. He loves me. I know that. But we’re talking necessity, here. We’re talking need, which is not the same as love.

And as I pull out of one commitment after another and the organizations I was volunteering for carry on without me, I realize I’m not actually needed anywhere. I am appreciated. I am valued. And I got that confused with being needed.

I am not necessary.

Which is a tough thing to realize for someone as conscientious as I am. I always thought that my doing for others meant that I was needed to do for others. But as I move out of various roles, that leaves the way open for someone else to fill those roles. And they do. Or those roles go unfilled and the world carries on. Being appreciated is not the same thing as being needed.

Being loved is not the same thing as being needed. Having lost some of the people closest to me, people who I thought I would die if they weren’t in my life and then continued to live, I realize that we, none of us is actually necessary to each other. Loved, certainly. Desired, appreciated and loved some more. But not necessary.

We may need to have other people in our life, but who those people are is fluid and ever-changing. And yes, we do meet someone who we adore and spend years and years being their friend or their sibling or their spouse and it’s wonderful and we relish it. But if it ends, when it ends, we keep on breathing. Missing them and sad, but still breathing.

I know that I am loved. I thought that meant that I was necessary. But it doesn’t. It only means that I am loved.

There is freedom in this realization. Guilt melts away from your relationships with other people and with the organizations you want to help. Here is what I can give you. No, you don’t need any more than that.

The only person that we are truly necessary to is ourselves. Or we ought to be. Think about it. When we go out of our lives, we actually will stop breathing, which we cannot say about anyone else, no matter how precious they are to us.

But do we believe in this necessity? Do we treat ourselves as necessary? Or do we treat ourselves as an afterthought? An annoying burden to be dragged along through life and resented.

I know where I fall. Please let me know what you think.


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20 Responses to On Necessity

  1. Paul says:

    My idea of being needed or necessary came to a grinding halt when I was working for a large corporation. We were launching a new product – so much work to be done – I was working 6 days a week/10-12 hours/day. I was asked to take some holiday time and when I went to my VP to talk to him about the fact that I thought I should stay and continue to work, the reality of my necessity was demonstrated.

    His response: “If you want to know how indispensable you are, fill a bucket with water, put your fist in the bucket and then remove it. The hole that you leave is a demonstration of how indispensable you are. Take your holidays.”

    It wasn’t that I wasn’t respected or valued, just that when you get caught up in what you believe is expected and what you believe is necessary, you lose sight of the reality of your situation.

  2. sandy says:

    Thank you. (Big deep breath.)
    You’ve beautifully articulated the personal struggle with and confusion over being ‘needed’ vs being loved. As if being loved wasn’t quite enough. As if being needed would somehow guarantee the love. What a relief to be able to accept love (as long as it lasts) as enough.

  3. Pam Rogers says:

    It is a hard realization but the necessity of needing oneself truly counter balances it. When we don’t need ourself, well then. It’s over.

  4. Cathy L. says:

    I appreciate your blog. I applaud you for re-evaluating your life, your commitments with your hubby and with organizations you volunteer for. It’s great to take a good look at how you fill your days and chose to redo it to suit yourself and your wants and needs. I’m glad you feel loved too, as this brings sunshine to your day.

  5. Stephanie says:

    This is magical!! What a true message. Thank you for sharing these important and honest words, what an impact this can make if people open up to that understanding. <3×100

  6. Mary Ann Rosenbloom says:

    Being needed is the exact opposit of being loved…if we are needed it fulfills a selfish need in the other. True love is not selfish…we don’t love the other for our own needs…although that is all too often the case.
    None of us feel good when we know someone else just stepped into our irreplacable shoes and is doing a good job….what? such a lesson!
    You have summed it all up so eloquently!

  7. Terrie says:

    You have provided some important reflections that for some take a lifetime to realize if they ever do! Being needed is how we define ourselves whether it be as a parent, spouse, employee, volunteer, friend or family member. These are our roles but they cannot overwhelm us from concentrating on deeper meaning between those we interact with. But to be loved and to love is a true commitment that requires the constant effort of the sender and receiver. It is truly worth the effort. I agree that stepping away even temporarily from those we believe need us can be necessary and won’t change the love if it is there.

  8. Monique says:

    Behind every man… you know it. He is so effective because they are doing this for you. I know, it is hard to understand… especially when wee feel like no one notices us there. I understand it from my father. When my mom died he lost his meaning. We had a long talk and I realize that men are helpless without a woman around. So, keep loving him and keep loving you.

  9. Karen says:

    Nail? Meet hammer.

    My head just exploded. I KNOW you can hear what my inside voice is saying! You’ve given me some serious food for thought. I’ve been thriving on being needed, even though I learned this lesson when I was downsized. The company just closed up around the gap I’d left and went merrily on its way. You’d think I would have retained that lesson, but it seems I NEEDED (!!) your reminder.

    %*#@$…this is a game changer!

  10. ann says:

    Lesson to learn.

    hugs and thank you

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