Childhood needs don’t go away as we mature and age into adulthood. We never stop needing to feel like we can trust that people will be there for us, that we are capable, have a strong sense of self, can create new things, have a purpose, and can gain intimacy and be understood by others. These needs develop as we age into adulthood and, if we are lucky and well cared for, become maturely sought after. We aren’t crushed by one friend’s betrayal because we have been able to trust others, for example. We don’t stop needing to trust, however, just because we become adults. As a matter of fact, the person who says they “don’t need anyone” or “can only trust their own self” is often the protagonist of many a romantic comedy who, by the end, learns to trust and therefore develops intimacy and wisdom. If they don’t change, they lose the love interest to someone who can be vulnerable.
Very often, individuals think that they shouldn’t need to be understood by and connected to others. Or, they assume if they don’t have these things already, they are irrevocably broken. Neither is true. The fact is, we still need to be loved, admired, reinforced for good behavior, and shown we matter. We all need gold stars and cookies sometimes from the people we respect. We need to create things of our own. We need hobbies and outlets.
Maturation doesn’t mean we stop needing connection and praise, but that we learn to build tolerance when we don’t get a need met immediately and we learn to self-soothe when we don’t get those needs met by others. Tolerance doesn’t mean we stop needing something – while a healthy person doesn’t need praise daily from their superiors, being told they have done a good job and are valued sometimes, if not often, is necessary for job satisfaction. We need to be our own most trusted cheerleader, but we can’t thrive being the only one. True growth depends on building social networks that both challenge AND support us, meet our needs and help us to do the same. It isn’t childish or selfish to want to have our needs met, instead, building supportive social networks is one of the main tasks of adulthood.