How to Identify Your Current Psychological Needs

Identifying your current psychological needs is extremely important if you want to focus your decisions on the most sensitive or relevant aspects for you. Here, we tell you how to do it.
How to Identify Your Current Psychological Needs
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 20 March, 2023

The psychological needs of the individual change, depending on the time and their circumstances. Although basic needs are maintained throughout life, each person acquires a different intensity in relation to factors such as age, personal experiences, the specific context, etc.

The self-determination theory that proposes there are three basic psychological needs is widely accepted. The three needs are competence, relatedness, and autonomy. For further clarification, these needs can be subdivided as follows: the need for certainty and comfort, variety, meaning, connection and relationship, growth, and contribution.

In reality, although these psychological needs are always present, at each specific stage of life they’re experienced in a different way. For example, at one particular moment, the most important thing might be the need for connection and relationship. However, later, the need for meaning becomes relevant. And so on.

But, how can you identify what your needs are in the here and now? There are four questions to answer that can help.

Many of us, most of the time, do not listen to ourselves, but rather listen to the introjected voices of mom, dad, the system, the elders, authority or tradition.”

-Abraham Maslow-

man thinking

Words of encouragement

Basic psychological needs are always present. That said, at a specific moment, one of them may become particularly important. One of the ways of identifying this is to ask yourself what words of encouragement most touched your soul during the last year.

By answering this question, you open the way up to working on two specific aspects. Firstly, what you’ve been fighting for and what it cost you. Secondly, the relevance that you gave to the support you received in that respect.

The important thing is that you think about why those words were so significant to you. How did they impact you? If you didn’t receive any such encouragement, think of the situation in which you’d liked to have received it.

The compliment you crave

You rarely think about compliments you’d like to receive. At least, you don’t do it consciously. However, deep down, you tend to feel proud of something you’ve done or achieved that you’d also like others to recognize. You may not have consciously considered it, but if you do a little exploring, you’ll soon find it.

In fact, by following the trail of the compliment you crave, you’ll reach your most heartfelt need for acknowledgment. This will also give you an idea of the way you’re projecting yourself and the quality and reciprocity in your relationships with other people.

Why do you think they don’t notice you? What causes this lack of positive feedback? How much does this lack of recognition affect you?

Recorded wisdom

At this point, you must ask yourself what the main lesson is that you learned in the past year, based on a mistake you made. Try not to think about it too much. Stick with the first experience that comes to mind. Clearly, it’s what stuck with you the most, even if you learned more from other experiences.

As a matter of fact, it’s highly likely that your current psychological needs are associated with that event. Try and explore what led you to the mistake, and how you fixed it. In circumstances like this, you usually make quick decisions and don’t always assimilate what’s happened. However, if you dig a little deeper, you can give more solid meaning to what happened.

Woman thinking

The feeling of shame

Finally, you should ask yourself when was the last time you felt really ashamed about something. And, most importantly, why? The feeling of shame is closely associated with the way you evaluate your performance in a situation and the weight that other people’s opinions have in your life. For this reason, it’s important that you think carefully before answering.

In terms of your psychological needs, shame refers to the three basic ones: competence, relationship, and autonomy. It helps you locate the issues that are most sensitive to you, in terms of your relationship with yourself and with others, including any possible imbalances or cracks. What would you’ve needed to feel competent in the situation that made you feel ashamed?

Once you’ve asked yourself the four basic questions, identify which event impacted you the most or made you reflect more. Think about the psychological needs involved and try to specify which of them are a priority for you. Then, make sure you take account of them when you next have to make a decision.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • García-Calvo, T., Marcos, F. M. L., Sánchez-Miguel, P. A., Alonso, D. A., & Sánchez-Oliva, D. (2012). Adaptación a la expresión corporal del cuestionario de Apoyo a las Necesidades Psicológicas Básicas. Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 10(2), 867-884.
  • Gil, V. D. (2017). Necesidad de reconocimiento y síndrome de selfie: un análisis relacional basado en minería de datos. Ingenierías USBMed, 8(1), 71-76.
  • Red Educativa Mundial. (2020, 1 mayo). La pedagogía del error: ¿Cómo aprender de los errores?

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.