There have been a number of discussions on the forums in recent weeks on the subject of neediness. In my book, I formulate a theory that defines non-neediness as the source of all attractive behavior in men. Unfortunately, I think some readers (judging by the threads on the board) are making one of two mistakes: 1) misunderstanding what non-neediness is and how to attain it and 2) trying to use it as yet another measuring stick for success (i.e., treating it as yet another “magic pill” for their problems — I will get into the ironies of this in a minute).

In Models, I define neediness within romantic and social relationships as prioritizing another person’s perception of you over your perception of yourself, and that this prioritization leads to all unattractive behavior in men, whether directly or indirectly. So, when talking to an attractive woman, a needy man will expend his effort trying to piece together what her perception of him is and cater his behavior to what he thinks she wants, whereas a non-needy man will focus on what his perception of her is. If she thinks poorly of him, it will only affect him as much as he perceives her opinion as being valuable.

There are two ways in which men can become needy: by undervaluing themselves or by overvaluing the person with whom they’re interacting.

The former problem stems from run-of-the-mill low self-esteem and is experienced as low confidence in social situations, consciously realized by a series of negative beliefs about oneself, and finally, manifested through needy, unattractive behavior. An example of this would be a man with low self-esteem who feels a severe lack of confidence interacting with women (or anybody, really), and therefore has developed bizarre beliefs about why people would or would not like him. As such, he believes he needs to impress them with money or accomplishments, make fun of others, or pretend like he’s too cool for anyone else. As a result, these beliefs manifest themselves as needy behaviors and turn off many women.

Men with the latter problem probably suffer from some sort of complex surrounding women and likely had a complicated relationship with their mother growing up. Regardless, the end result is the same: pussy is put on a pedestal. So even though these men may be high self esteem individuals in other areas of their lives (successful in business, have tons of friends, etc.), when confronted with a woman they’re attracted to, they instinctively subjugate themselves to her opinion and become needy. One could argue that the elevation of women in pop culture could very well be having a massive influence on men in general, as it seems more men today than ever supplicate themselves and idolize female sexuality more than ever before.

Anyway, an example of a guy suffering from this would be your classic Nice Guy syndrome: successful, charming, interesting guy who stumbles over himself buy a girl gifts, taking her out to nice restaurants, checking his phone every hour to see if she’s called or texted. All in all, he’s a good guy, well put-together, confident in most situations, yet his valuation of women is massively skewed causing him to lose confidence in front of attractive dates, develop bizarre beliefs (you need to buy women flowers for them to like you), and ultimately, exhibiting needy behaviors (drunk voicemails crying over a girl he went on two dates with, etc.).

The two causes of needy behavior often go hand-in-hand, or at least appear to. But they appear separately quite often as well. The second type of needy man is usually the easier fix. It’s just a matter of re-orienting some of his unhealthy over-estimations of women and getting him to respect himself a little more in their presence. His foundation of self-esteem makes changing the proper behaviors easier, and the proper beliefs and perceptions soon follow.

It’s the first type of guy who takes more work, particularly because low self-esteem individuals are so poor at accurately interpreting their own experiences and behaviors. Until they’re able to learn to do this, progress occurs very slowly, or not at all.

So now that we’ve got kind of a better understanding of neediness and how it relates to men’s behavior (if you want the full rundown, I recommend buying the book), I want to address what some people on the board seem to have done, which is try and use non-neediness as their measuring stick for success.

First of all, let’s be clear. We’re all human. We all look for validation from those around us. We all care about what other people think to a certain degree. And barring sociopaths, we always will. The goal here is NOT to ELIMINATE neediness from our lives — it’s impossible to do this without completely gutting ourselves of all emotions or empathy — the goal here is to re-prioritize our perception of ourselves vis-a-vis the perceptions of the women we interact with. We want to focus on validating ourselves more and become less of a junkie for the validation we receive from others. The external validation will always exist and will always matter, but the more internal validation we create, the less the external validation will matter.

So it’s a relative goal we’re looking for, not an absolute. And it will shift from interaction to interaction. For instance, it’s healthy and normal to exhibit a higher need for validation and occasional neediness from your wife of 10 years. It’s not healthy or normal to need a lot of validation from a woman you’ve known for 15 minutes. For some reason, some guys are reading the neediness section of my book as a prescription to start measuring one’s own neediness in all scenarios and try to eliminate it completely.

But here’s the irony, and something that may blow your mind: The act of analyzing one’s own neediness while talking to a woman is, in itself, a needy behavior. Stop it.

Stop trying to quantify and maximize everything. Non-neediness is the ROOT of attractive behavior, not the attractive behavior itself. Standing there in your head and obsessing over your level of neediness while some girl is trying to connect with you or joke with you, is just going to inspire more needy behavior. In the book, I go into painstaking detail of what non-needy behavior looks like and how to practice it — in fact, like, 11 of the 15 chapters are dedicated to BEHAVIORS, not to the theory behind the behavior. Practicing the proper behaviors reduces your neediness. It’s not a coincidence that I dedicated the majority of the book to it.

Non-neediness is an experience, a feeling, a perspective. It’s not something you can maximize or measure. It’s simply a self-perception. Feeling it can be described in many forms. Many people around the dating industry try to describe what the experience of non-neediness consists of, whether it’s “being non-reactive,” or “centered and present,” or “not giving a fuck,” or whatever. These all kind of get at the experience, but don’t encapsulate the extent of it or how it comes about.

The best way I can describe the experience of non-neediness is by something a student of mine once described as “The Filter Switch.” What he meant by it is that suddenly one night he went on a date with a girl and realized that instead of sitting there and focusing on meeting her standards, as he had for years and years prior, now he was sitting there and evaluating whether she met his standards or not. Whether she was good enough for him had become far more important to him than trying to be good enough for her. Nothing objectively changed about the kind of girl he was out with, what they were doing, what they were talking about, or how he met her. He was likely saying the same jokes, telling similar stories, and being just as physical.

What did change was his perception of himself and his value relative to hers. She was a person he didn’t know well. And it’s healthy and normal to screen and filter people we don’t know well to see if we want them to become part of our lives. This is ostensibly the entire purpose of dates themselves: so that both people can sit down and see if the other person meets their standards and is capable of fulfilling many of their emotional needs.

That simple change in mindset and self-perception silently seeps into all of your actions and words, affecting everything, without thought or effort. It’s no coincidence that soon after having that experience, he landed a hot girlfriend.

And that’s the best description I can think of experiencing non-neediness: which direction is the filter pointing? Are you trying to pass through her filter? Or is she trying to pass through yours? In most interactions it won’t be 100% one or the other — as I said, we all do care what other people think and always will — but there will be a clear feeling within yourself which one you’re prioritizing more, who is prioritizing who more.

Is this something you can go out and practice? Not directly. And it’s definitely not going to change overnight. But like practicing behaviors, practicing mindsets can also positively influence your self-perception and help you become more accustomed to newer, healthier mindsets as you try to adopt them completely.

Likely though, developing the filter switch will be a gradual process, a result of a lot of time invested in yourself. It may be something you notice periodically as time goes on and from interaction to interaction. It’ll be a feeling. Something that arises into your consciousness. And perhaps an occasional reminder: “Wait, why am I trying to prove anything to this girl? I don’t know her or if I even like her yet.”

Finally, I’d like to pre-emptively bat away a question I’m sure will come up (it always does). The question goes something like this:

“If we’re supposed to be non-needy and be more concerned with what we think than what she thinks, and she’s supposed to prove herself to us and all of that, then how do you explain approaching and escalating and calling her first and all of that — isn’t that just needy behavior?”

Oi, again, this is covered in detail in the book. But the answer is no, it’s not necessarily needy behavior. It can be. But it isn’t always. When you want to buy a new car and you go to look at them, you’re approaching the car dealership, but do you try to convince the salesman of how good of a driver you are? Doubtful.

Any action or behavior can be needy or non-needy. What determines the degree of neediness is the intention behind the behavior. I can go out and approach 20 hot women for the sheer joy of it and not be needy with any of them. Or I can sit in a nightclub at a VIP table with $500 bottles of vodka and have 20 women approach me that night and be exhibiting extremely needy behavior the entire night.

And if that doesn’t make sense to you, then you really need to read the damn book.

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50 Responses to Understanding Neediness

  1. Chaos says:

    Cool post, clarified a lot of things I kind of feel this was inspired by my over obsession with neediness… 😛

  2. Trickster says:

    “The second type of needy man is usually the easier fix. It’s just a matter of re-orienting some of his unhealthy over-estimations of women and getting him to respect himself a little more in their presence. ”

    I definitely fall into this second type. Everybody who knows me knows me to be a kind, cool, confident, interesting, and motivated guy, but when I start dating someone, especially someone I like, I put them on a pedestal and my anxieties take control of me. Any tips as to how to reorient this thinking?

  3. questra says:

    Mark – great post. Nailed the point when you mentioned ‘The act of analyzing one’s own neediness while talking to a woman is, in itself, a needy behavior’.

    In my experience though, changing one’s mindsets and behavior usually requires a period of over-compensation (as you’ve also mentioned before). I personally went through a long period of over-analyzing and scrutinizing every single thought and action to ‘correct’ my behavior.

    My question is, how do you balance not over-analyzing (or as some would say: acting like a natural) with a healthy dose of introspection? I guess it’s a unique balance that each of us eventually finds through time and experience – but do you have any tips for getting to that healthy balance quicker?

    • Mark says:

      I recommend guys to do their analysis the day after an interaction, not during, preferably by writing in a journal or something. In the moment, we’re not objective at all and it simply creates more problem than it fixes. The next day, or a few days later, we’re more emotionally detached from the situation and can look back with some clarity. This is in the book as well I believe.

  4. Dr. Jeremy says:

    I wanted to comment on the last “reader” question you pose – whether approaching and escalation is needy? I believe the “filter switch” as you call it can be simply applied to those behaviors as well.

    When I approach or escalate, I try to keep in mind that a woman’s response to my advance is a screening for HER and our compatibility…not of ME or my personal worth. I’m not approaching and “hoping she likes me”. Rather, I’m testing our suitability for each other through her responses to my escalation. If she ends up being not interested or refusing, then it is no reflection on me. We simply were not compatible…

    Same “behavior”, but totally different (non-needy) mindset.

  5. Leo says:

    Haha! I liked the picture of the guy, he looks so worried. I used to be like that.

  6. Pontius says:

    great post! Ive got a question. You write:

    “Is this something you can go out and practice? Not directly. And it’s definitely not going to change overnight. But like practicing behaviors, practicing mindsets can also positively influence your self-perception and help you become more accustomed to newer, healthier mindsets as you try to adopt them completely.”

    So, do you think ‘practicing mindsets’ provides additional value to the practice of non-needy behavior? I mean, you talk a lot about embracing and sharing ones vulnerability, but if I consciously try to do it from a position of non-neediness and mentaly rehearse a non-needy mindset, aint that just a disiconnection from the experience of vulnerability? Or am I just over-analystical here?

  7. Jack says:

    “For instance, it’s healthy and normal to exhibit a higher need for validation and occasional neediness from your wife of 10 years.”

    Why is it ok to become needy around a woman just because you’ve known her for 10 years?

    • Mark says:

      Has nothing to do with time, but investment. A man who’s been married for 10 years is a lot more invested than a man who’s known a woman for 10 days. Therefore, it’s logical that he would value her approval far more.

      • Dizzy says:

        Logical, sure.

        In practice….

        If that was the actual case, then no man would ever cheat.

        • Nicholas says:

          Nonsense. Human motivation and human behavior are not linear and logical. Instead of “if-then,” it is more like “yeah-and.”

          Investment and trust. After 10 years of marriage, he probably doesn’t have much to hide, and she will probably have learned of many unflattering things about him, and come to accept him in-spite-of / because-of those things over the period of the marriage. (Assumes the marriage is developing in a generally healthy way.) She’s earned his trust and she benefits by his investment of himself in her and the marriage.

          But either husband or wife may have unresolved issues that they do not understand. And the attention of an attractive stranger may seem to resolve some of those issues, and therefore to feel “right,” in the gut, even though the head knows it is wrong.

        • Mark says:

          Agree with Nicholas. Dizzy, this seems to me a really simplistic way of viewing relationships.

          You can be highly invested in someone and still cheat on them. Just like you can lie to your best friend.

  8. jake says:

    Thanks mark, really needed this, was definitely one of those over-analyzing guys.

    So I’m guessing the best way to raise your perception of yourself (not in comparison to a girl, but in general) is to do/have things in your life that would answer the question “Am I a great person” with a yes? If the answer is no, find things that will make you feel intrinsically valuable?

    (For example, you personally value your intelligence or dressing style, so you know you’re great.)

  9. Furious Styles says:

    Great post and I love the book. Non-neediness is a spirit more than a technique. IMO, there needs to be another word for it (we might have to make up one or import one from another language). “Non-needy” feels so clunky.

  10. brett says:

    “There are two ways in which men can become needy: by undervaluing themselves or by overvaluing the person with whom they’re interacting.”

    Sounds very similar to when you gave us a speech on bootcamp back in 2008. Remember that? Feels like soooo long ago.

  11. Socialkenny says:

    The greatest punch-line point in this article was what you said about overvaluing and devaluing.Those are the prime ingredients in neediness.

  12. Anonymous says:

    F-ing AMAZING…I’ve never posted on these kinds of forums, and this being my very first post, I absolutely loved reading this article…I thought, well I’ve been reading pickup stuff for months now and I can’t be needy, yea right, I am, and unfortunately the harder one to treat apparently, but I’m working on it…

    BTW you remind me of another dating consultant/coach, David Wygant, ever think of working with him, you too are just the epitome of what all the PUA/AFC should be about…

  13. Nick says:

    Brilliant. I’m thinking about buying the book on the strength of this post alone – the presence of an actual analysis combined with nuanced, balanced, realistic conclusions is refreshing compared to the usual catch-all black-and-white rhetoric often seen these days. I was not paid to write this 🙂

  14. “a needy man will expend his effort trying to piece together what her perception of him is and cater his behavior to what he thinks she wants, whereas a non-needy man will focus on what his perception of her is.”

    This is money. It relates to the problem of trying to look cool. You walk around trying to look detached and above everyone else, while in reality your stability revolves around their opinion. Very clear post-I’ll be writing about this soon.


  15. J.D. says:

    It sounds like you’re putting the wrong labels on things. What you’re calling “neediness” is actually more properly labeled “approval-seeking”. Neediness is when a guy needs women in his life to feel happy or complete; when he feels like less of a man without one. There’s obviously a lot of overlap between the two, as most guys who are afflicted with one will have the other as well, but they’re not the same thing.

  16. […] The Belief that Their Problems Are Not Their Fault: The excessive needy behavior of emotional vampires elicits negative reactions from others and drives people away from them. But […]

  17. […] in our subreddit posted a link to a blog post:  Understanding Neediness. It is such a great article that it requires it’s own post here on ShakedownLab. We will have […]

  18. Erika says:

    Hey Mark,

    I like the word “radical” that you’ve added to your site. I consider my approach to all this also to be radical, and in some ways we’ve always had a commonality in the way we think.

    Much of what you wrote I agree with, especially not under- or over-valuing anyone. I tell my clients that the mantra “I am equal to everyone and beneath no one” is the most powerful space to be in for all aspects of life. It also may be my imaginations but I feel like you’ve reached a new center in your writing. Do you feel that?

    I’d like to share something about neediness. Neediness really is fear. And you touch on the issues a man might have with his mother. What I want to share is that the fear and neediness people feel really has very little to do with the present moment (other than major realignments like equality mentioned above). People have stored in their subconscious mind all sorts of unresolved traumas from the past, and they react to the present moment as if it were the past. So if the man received constant criticism from his mother for example, he experiences fear of having the same experience around other women. Recently I see it goes even deeper than that. Just this past week, I had a dream in which I remembered something I hadn’t thought of in years, a woman friend of my parents who died tragically when I was eight years old. She left a husband and three young sons without a mother or a wife. Seems like no big deal, right? But for an eight year old it gets coded as “love and marriage are not safe and we can lose the people we love at any time” and then that creates fear in subsequent relationships until it is cleared out of the energetic system.

    Behavior is important, and I still am curious to read your book. But behavior is driven by forces in the subconscious mind that are so powerful and so unconscious for most people that behavioral change alone is rarely enough to change someone’s life. IMO.

    Have you considered this?

    – Erika

  19. Emily says:

    This is great advice. Women are turned off by approval-seeking, either immediately or after a very short time, because it puts so much pressure on us. Nobody wants to feel like someone else’s ego and emotional stability are all resting on your shoulders, and if you don’t feed them enough validation they’ll crumble and it will be *all your fault!* Especially women, who are socialized to be caretakers and often encouraged to take responsibility for other people’s emotions. Meeting a guy who instantly becomes a stage 5 clinger signals to the woman that she’s going to be spending all her time and emotional energy taking care of his ego. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. That’s why so many women end up appearing to like assholes–not because we like assholes, but because when we’re with a jerk, there’s no pressure to take care of him. In the long-term for a boyfriend we want a guy who is neither a clinger nor an asshole, just a confident and interesting man who treats us with respect. But if I didn’t have any good-man prospects on my radar and I had to choose who to bring as my date for a single evening over drinks, I’d pick the asshole knowing that as long as I didn’t expect anything from him other than his company I’d probably have a good, relaxed time with him.

  20. […] is akin to a technique referred to as “The Filter Switch.”  Author Mark Munson describes a student on a date who focused too much on the girl’s opinion of […]

  21. Jammer says:

    Mine was the second problem, I always believed I was (and I was) a good, generous, smart, easygoing guy who women should be attracted to. My issue was that my mother and other women in my life trained me to seek their approval, corresponding to being either hopelessly single or hopelessly in love with a girl. Back then however I thought I was alone in this, it now seems around 75% of men have this problem and aren’t “getting laid like everyone else”. That’s what’s so fucking enlightening about the seduction community.

    Above all, I think this is a simple child’s model that needs to be corrected around puberty however many men harbour these beliefs and worldview until a much older age, often giving up in the process. My two biggest realisations were 1) It’s no one’s fault, but it’s my life and I need to fix my issues as an adult (preferably with help) and 2) I was a loser. Not in the sense of being hated or laughed at by others or having nothing going for me, but in the sense that I was playing a game run by others called life, which is always a losing game that is unwinnable. I fixed this by reprogramming this “game” in my own style and acting in accordance with these beliefs. I am not perfect, but I am damned close. Nor am I better than anybody else. Kobayashi Maru from Star Trek holds this comment.

  22. […] 143 Understanding Neediness […]

  23. […] Understanding Neediness mods should make this threat sticky, for there are constantly new guys wondering the same […]

  24. Toni says:

    When i think of it, the Solution must be to love yourself. Because that it what we all look for in the end. Love and beeing loved. And when it comes to the abillity to control this proces you are able to control to love yourself (you cant control beeing loved by others)…

  25. […] similar to another article someone posted here when i asked about being needy vs being persistent. Understanding Neediness basically, what you said in the end, the goal of picking up girls is to filter out the ones u like […]

  26. […] placebo effects. They give guys the false sense of confidence necessary to hit on women without being needy or […]

  27. […] things to women and for myself it’s lead to not getting laid. I think I come off as super needy and think I’m much more attractive to women when I act more jokey and sexual. Maybe I should […]

  28. […] what you think of me; this is who I am, and I refuse to be anyone else.” He’s saying he’s not needy and that he’s high […]

  29. Bill says:

    Makes sense that tracking oneself on number of lays, or numbers, etc. would be a downward spiral and self destructive because it creates a goal-based, outcome-based focus, thereby creating a momentum in an outward direction – the focus being exterior to one’s own well being and fulfillment.

    But I would think that rating / tracking oneself on level of genuineness, honesty, or confidence, enjoyment, positive experience, having fun, self investment etc., would be healthy because these are all inward based focuses that are related to well being, fulfillment, and joy.

    Because then it would put energy and momentum inward toward those things.

    So is even that type of tracking would not be good?

  30. […] a guy has spent his entire life being needy (or “beta”), magically transforming himself into an “alpha” is much easier […]

  31. […] done) remain calm and unreactive (pretty hard), and connect with her on a personal level without coming across needy (takes practice), then you have a shot. Again, I say I have limited experience with girls like this […]

  32. […] fact, they’re more of side effect of having a healthy self-esteem and a general low level of neediness with people around […]

  33. […] In fact, they’re more of side effect of having a healthy self-esteem and a general low level of neediness with people around […]

  34. […] Since this discovery I am regularly challenging myself to care more, in as many contexts as possible. As with many things, this care begins with myself: exercising regularly, presenting myself well, investing in my own growth and improvement. If you don’t care about yourself, then you’re not going to be able to genuinely care about others from a place of strength, but rather from a place of neediness. […]

  35. […] on how well they meet the needs of others and not the needs of themselves. This is codependent or needy behavior. It repels people. And it invites all sorts of problems into your […]

  36. […] friend who becomes an asshole when a cute girl is around is actually just becoming insecure and needy. The overbearing mother is actually that way because it’s the only way she knows how to […]

  37. […] then you can pursue sex from a place of power and abundance (attractive) and not from a place of neediness and desperation […]

  38. J.D. says:

    The idea that neediness is the source of almost all male unattractiveness to women is dead WRONG. It is just one of many sources. But it is easy to believe that it is the only one, because of observational bias. Guys who are needy and who don’t do well with women are the ones who complain about it, and they are the ones who seek help for their problem (from people like Mark, among others). Guys who aren’t needy can also be lousy with women, but it’s not as big of a deal to them, so they keep it to themselves and aren’t likely to hire someone to help them with their “problem”.

    Conceptually, what is the opposite of a needy approval-seeker? Is it a high-status, cool guy? No…it is a weirdo loner…the kind of guy who scares the hell out of women. The kind of guy who doesn’t care at all what other people think of him, probably isn’t going to dress cool, and he probably won’t worry about acting in socially bizarre ways, and he probably will choose strange leisure activities. The needy approval-seeker will at least get a sympathetic pat on the head (and occasionally more) from women. But his opposite will cause women to run when they see him coming.

    I know this, because I used to be the needy guy, but as I got older, I became more of the second type of guy. My neediness melted away, but my results with women didn’t improve much. Eventually, I pretty much gave up on women, not because I couldn’t get them (I mostly couldn’t), but because I didn’t want them enough to be worth the effort of making myself attractive to them. I realized that the main thing I needed to do to become attractive was to become more of a conformist…dress cool, adopt a cool lifestyle/leisure activities, etc. But that would have required compromising too much of my identity, so I chose not to. I had the “lack of neediness” thing down. But it wasn’t enough. Don’t believe for a second that getting rid of neediness is all you need to become a stud. It’s just one step among many.

  39. db says:

    Non-neediness is also a ‘result’ of other behaviours. Principally of filling your life with enough meaning and passions outside of purely attracting the opposite sex, its about being passionate about your work and hobbies. Result is you ‘need’ a relationship or ‘other person’ *less* to fill a void of passion and meaning in your life, because you already have plenty.

  40. […] money or their cars or how many digits of Pi they can memorize, so chicks might like them. This is needy and unattractive behavior and reinforces low self esteem as well as sexual anxiety. There’s a reason most guys need to […]

  41. […] Be aware that this isn’t a “game” or some show you put on to look more attractive. You should actually have standards. You should actually prioritize your view of yourself over her view of you. Might I remind you of Mark Munson’s “Filter Switch”: […]

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