Do you really need to? How one little word can create anxiety!

August 28th 2020

The words we use are incredibly powerful and can strongly influence anxiety levels and success. Here is a little change you may like to become aware of...


I need to go for a run tonight

Look at that sentence.  How likely do you think that person will be putting on their trainers that evening?

And there is another word that often quickly follows sentences that have ‘need’ in it.  And that is …..But!

“I need to go for a run tonight, but I’ve had a hard day.”

“I need to lose some weight….but I’ll just have that one more chocolate brownie and then I’ll be good!”

“I need to be on time tonight, but I just need get this done.”

Common theme …it’s not gonna happen!!!

What would the impact be if that same person said, “I want to go for a run tonight.”  How likely would it happen then?

Need and Want are both four lettered words but the impact they each have on the mind is totally different.

Need is like a force outside of you.

And now basic physics: Every force is met with an equal resistance.

Think teenagers.  Tell them they need to do something and at best you get Neanderthal level knuckle dragging acquiescence.  More likely, you get to just be labeled a nag prior to doing it yourself!

However, if they WANT to do it……

So the word want changes things from being an external force to an internal force which leads to a much stronger motivation.  Need is like being pulled, want is moving forward voluntarily.

And when you start using want, another significant thing happens – accountability!

Wanting to do something is a decision.  You can make a good decision, or a bad decision, however you are in control of that decision.  And this is where we make the jump to anxiety.

Anxiety is a response to a perceived vulnerability.  The higher the risk, the greater the anxiety.  With ‘need’ being an external force, you have given up a level of control – and in some case, actually handed over that control to someone.

“I need to be at the station at 6″ is a reflection of someone expecting you there and if you are not, there will be consequences – risk of letting someone down.

Let’s take this up a notch….”I need 3 A*s to get into Uni.”  The Uni is the external force, the risk is not getting them, and that student is likely to feel anxious in the run up to exams.

So let’s turn it around.  “I want to go to Uni  so am going to work hard to get the 3A*s.”  This student is going to have a different level of motivation, is making an empowered decision to take action.  It may not guarantee their success but I would favour their chances over the ‘needy’ student.

Are you a need person or a want person?

Becoming more aware of your language can have a big impact on your motivation and your anxiety levels.  You may start to become more aware of which words you favour and if not, perhaps ask a family member or trusted friend to listen more attentively to what you say and see what they hear.  And see if you need to change any words, or if you want to???

Caroline Cavanagh is an anxiety specialist and Salisbury based hypnotherapist.  For help with anxiety issues please get in touch for a confidential chat.

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One response to “Do you really need to? How one little word can create anxiety!”

  1. Judith Reid says:

    Caroline, this ‘need and want article so very helpful. I’m going through a difficult patch and have said, reacted in an adverse and detrimental way to certain situations (some full of emotions jumbled up into a holy mess). The more you climb into this mess the worse things seem, become until you feel totally constricted and strangled in this hole.
    Want is a positive action, a mind set. Today I’m going to be a want person. At least, I going to try!
    Thank you Judith

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