Dr. Gregory Jantz

Discovering Your True Needs in Life

April 21, 2021

It can be very difficult to determine what you consider a desire and a need in your life. When asked, you may give what you think should be the right answer instead of the truth. You may concede that your late-night snack of cookies and ice cream is not really a need, but you’ll leave your house at 9:47 at night with a coat over your pajamas to drive to the store and get Ben & Jerry’s. 

Desires vs Needs

Desires are things you want; you can do without them, but you still want them. Life goes on in their absence, but having them would certainly enhance it. Needs, however, have a greater sense of urgency. A desire deferred is an inconvenience, even uncomfortable, but a need denied is deprivation. So, how can we trust that what we define as a need is really a need? 

Let’s take a moment and think about life on a desert island. Picture yourself stranded, in the middle of nowhere, with very few resources. What do you need to survive? Write down your top three needs. 

If I were to answer this question myself, I’d say water, food, and shelter. Those are pretty basic. When we consider what is essential to life, we often talk about the physical life. We also have an emotional, relational, and spiritual life to go with this physical one. Now, come up with at least three needs under each of these other categories: 

Under emotional needs, you might have such things as optimism, hope, joy. Relational needs might include things like acceptance, affirmation, forgiveness. And for spiritual needs, perhaps you listed things like faith, trust, praise. I share these with you not to say they are definite answers, but to give you an idea of the types of things you could choose. I find that many people have never done this type of inventory, let along put intentional thought into dealing with these types of questions. 

Going back to the desert-island exercise, we’ve already established our physical needs. Let’s assume they’re taken care of. What other three things would you personally want (or desire) to survive on that island? 

After thinking about it myself, I’d want a Bible, a purpose, and a chance of escape. Even though we’ve categorized these as wants (or desires), they’re still pretty important. I doubt any of you would seriously put Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on your list. When reduced to choices of these kinds, those behaviors are pretty easy to label. 

Short of being stranded on a desert island, or experiencing some other type of catastrophe, it can be difficult to stop long enough to make sense of our busy lives. 

Identify Your Needs

Begin identifying your real needs, because every person who engages in excessive behavior has a true need at the core of that behavior. By discovering what your core needs are, you can detach the power of the need from the excess of the behavior and begin meeting the need in a positive, healing way. 

What provides you a way to overcome obstacles? Here is a prayer that may help. 

Father, I thank You for knowing my needs even when I don’t. Give me the courage to examine my life and understand the truth about my priorities, about what my priorities are instead of what I want them to be. Grant me clear vision and discern the truth between my needs and wants. Help me have courage and not to be afraid. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with anorexia, it’s important to seek professional help. Our world-class team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE has helped many people recover from eating disorders through our focus on whole person care. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak confidentially with an eating disorder recovery specialist today.