The 4 A’s everyone needs: Attention, Affection, Approval, Acceptance

I was made aware during group therapy today by Steve that I was a hungry person growing up (left starving) and now the situation has not changed, after my new phase in life — marriage.

He helped me see that I have been starved of the following:

Attention, Affection, Approval, Acceptance

basic human needs - 4A's

My mom was too busy trying (to use her children?) to fulfill her own needs, and not providing what her children needed. Our needs as children were ignored or put down. And my dad was largely absent, so…

He said I need to be aware and face the reality of the situation. Before I can solve anything, like my feeling of loneliness.

And the reality is that I’m a “hungry person”. Hungering after basic needs of Attention, Affection, Approval and Acceptance. Which I currently still do not get from my husband.

1. Attention

basic human needs - attention

When you do not give a child attention, a child is deprived and starved of any attention, in other words, ignored. We feel like we don’t exist, since no one is acknowledging our existence.

I know I crave for attention. I was in a desperate need of friends. (I was fed up with my current — now ex — group of friends, but that would be another post for another day) I complained to my husband about it. He did encourage me to go out and meet people to befriend if I wanted to. There was the tussle of finding activity partners or people I could have thoughtful conversations with, because these two seem mutually exclusive.

I sought attention via social media. But I didn’t get any/much. I was disappointed, despondent and devastated when I received NO Likes or Comments on my Facebook posts. Yes, it was that bad.

2. Affection

basic human needs - affection

To feel loved by someone, be it emotionally or physically.

My mom was never a touchy-feely person; no hugs, etc. My dad is more physically affectionate, I think he used to pat my (and my sis’) shoulder. It was awkward because he probably did not know how to be affectionate to his little girls. We’re Asian after all; traditional Asian parents are not known to be affectionate. Tough love, as they say. His parents possibly did not show him any affection at all and in turn, he probably did not know HOW to be affectionate, what more to young girls, even though we’re his daughters. As adults now, he shakes our hands as a gesture of affection. It’s really weird. But I guess that’s because he never really learned how to behave around his children.

I do recall there was a time my mom used to call me “darling”. That was eons ago, before I was 10?

My dad does call me and my sis his “Miss Universe”. He does praise us in front of us. I think that is his way of loving affection. 

3. Approval

basic human needs - approval

It’s very rare that I come across anyone saying to me: you’ve done well, you’ve done a good job.

There have been times my husband has said he’s proud of me.

My group therapy mate A did say she prefers the word “validation”. This too is something I crave.

I know very well I did not get this at all growing up. My mom made me feel like an irresponsible, ungrateful, un-filial, dirty (slutty), unsuccessful, etc person (I could go on all day). I did not feel I got her approval for anything. I know I used to (secretly) seek her approval for my past boyfriends, or any of my endeavours. But telling her anything always made me feel defensive. It was like I was ready to fight against anything she might say about me or my decisions. She was/is hyper critical, and always has something to say about everything. There have been times I yelled at her to stop “nagging”, because she went on and on non-stop… Her verbal worrying also did not help.

I was not validated as a child, and I am not getting validation as an adult.

4. Acceptance

basic human needs - acceptance

I struggled very hard to gain acceptance from people, for simply being myself. I always felt misunderstood, or repressed. I felt disliked — but that could have been just my own projection. I dislike myself too; I always talked too much, shoot myself in the feet, am tardy, etc. Feel a lot of shame.

There was a phase in my life that I seemed impervious to people’s opinion of me. “F*ck the world!”, I would think. “F*ck society and their expectations!”

But I think that was simply acting out my frustration of not being accepted, in general. It was a cover for what I was hungering for deep inside.

Only after some time that I realised my self-esteem was in question. I recall some years back a friend said to me I wasn’t who he thought I was, because I revealed to him I was so worried with what other people might think of me. His first impression of me was someone who didn’t give a damn about what other people thought. But when I went to him asking his opinion on certain (possibly inane) things, he was really surprised I was even concerned. That did stump me.

I do think I try my best to be likable now (Codependency 101) and I do hide my real thoughts in order not to offend people, even my friends.

5. My “A”-ddition: Appreciation

appreciation thank you

I do so much for my husband, especially for work. I don’t ask for anything in return but just a word of appreciation from time to time.

I give time, effort, money, etc. He doesn’t have to perform any grand gesture. I just need him to thank me. Just sometimes will do, not all the time. I’m not some megalomaniac.

He said to me once that if it came to issues of work, he doesn’t think gratitude is necessary because it’s all just *work*. I told him that is the furthest from the truth. Being paid does not mean one can’t be grateful or thankful for what someone else does for you. It does not mean you take what they do for you for granted!!!

Even though he was defensive (because he says I mostly point out what’s wrong with him), he has since thanked me, appreciated me, verbally, quite recently. I was touched. And am glad he has learnt how to do so.

A new awareness of my own needs

The sad thing is when the child (me, my inner child) thinks it’s wrong that they have such needs. Since the needs go unmet, they don’t even know they’re being deprived, they continue being hungry/starving and feel bad for having such needs.

Steve said I need to face up to the fact that I indeed have such (unmet) needs, and be brave about admitting it and sharing it with people, like CoDa members.

I was uncomfortable with the idea because, I don’t want to be labelled an “Attention Seeker”!

He said there is no shame in admitting it: –

  1. It may help someone else realise they too have this need and validate their hunger
  2. If I put it out there, who knows how the Universe may find a way to provide!

I’m still taking it all in. I think I will sit with this new awareness for a while, and observe when I’m in need of these 5 A’s as I go about my day.

9 comments

  1. Lauren Kinghorn says:

    Hi Girl, Thank you for your very courageous post. In being so honest about your own unmet needs and unravelling the answers for yourself, you are helping others who are grappling with these same deep hurts. Beautiful, brave work you are doing.
    I read an inspiring book on exactly this subject – I need your love, is it true? by Byron Katie. Have you come across Katie’s work yet? If you google the title of her book you will also find a few excellent You Tube videos that show her work in action on this subject. Hope you enjoy her as much as I do.

    • Girl says:

      Thank you, Lauren. Thank you so much for your warm words of kindness and your encouragement. And thank you for your recommendation. No, I have not heard of Byron Katie, but I will definitely go look her up! 🙂

  2. Apeng says:

    Hi … Everyone needs some measure of all the ‘A’ s you have described. The key is to not get depressed when we do not get enough of it. Simply be grateful for all the A minuses that we have got and keep doing goods things. That will attract more of the A things over to our lives. Good luck .. . Apeng

  3. Runnerboyy says:

    “I struggled very hard to gain acceptance from people, for simply being myself. I always felt misunderstood, or repressed. I felt disliked — but that could have been just my own projection. I dislike myself too; I always talked too much, shoot myself in the feet, am tardy, etc. Feel a lot of shame.”

    I identify with this statement alot and also experience alot of shame in my life. To deal with it i created this perfect persona and hid behind it. This persona is slowly crumbling as its too tiring to keep up and i’m learning to tell myself, it is okay to be me, warts and all. My preciousness is a gift and like a gift, i did not earn it nor can i. Its so simple yet so hard for my ego to accept.

    • Girl says:

      I don’t know if this has anything to do with ego. But I suspect it was not instilled in us (you and I both) during childhood that we are loved, no matter what. It was our parents’ job to impart this to us, to provide a safe environment of “unconditional love”, but we just did not receive this and therefore we subconsciously decide that “working hard” for it is the only way for this to come true.

      Please know that I’m not criticising your parents. This is my observation based on my own experience of self-discovery through therapy.

      Let me know if you agree with my notion… If not, let’s discuss 🙂

  4. Julie says:

    What a heroic journey of self awareness and understanding. Your blog is very well written and has a lovely flow to it.
    I am reminded of the twin men that grew up in a disfunctional home. One became successful, and the other became just like the other unhealthy family members. When asked, ‘ Why did you turn out the way you did?’ they both answered the exact same: ‘What would you become if you lived like that!’ I think the healthy one found awareness-sound familiar? 😉

    • Girl says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Julie.

      And thank you for your lovely comments 🙂
      An increasing sense of awareness is definitely something I strive for!

  5. Ali says:

    I can so relate to your 5As post.
    For me it’s currently validation of my feelings that my priority. I was invisible as a child. No validation.
    Made me angry.
    Next is acceptance as in ‘Love or like me for who I am, not what you want me to be’!
    Keep on keeping on
    Ali

    • Girl says:

      Glad you could relate… I never knew there was anything “wrong” in my childhood per se, never knew I was starved. Funny it takes someone external to point it out, and then it all unravels and makes so much sense!

      Indeed, I’m also learning to seek healthy acceptance from people around me 🙂 Really tough — grappling with acknowledging that it’s ok to need what I need, that my needs are VALID.

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