80/20 Rule for Emotional Needs

For as long as I can remember, I have looked to other people to meet my needs for acceptance, love, and support.

When I was a child, my parents didn’t have the emotional capacities that little Dallas so badly wanted them to have, and I left childhood with the sensation of emotional impoverishment.

As I got older, I took that hunger out into the world. I’ll let you guess how well that worked out.

The important point here is not that I didn’t get what I needed from my parents in childhood, it is that I did not learn how to provide that acceptance, love, and support to myself as I became an adult.

As you can imagine, I sometimes showed up in the world as a 6’4” man with the demeanour of a selfish 5 year-old.

I’m sorry to… everyone.

And as we learn, we do it differently. I read in a book somewhere, sometime, that we should be able to meet 80% of our own emotional needs.

That means that even if we are in a relationship, we should still be doing most of the work to make ourselves feel loved, validated, respected, and supported.

If we do the best job we can to meet our own needs, and we are single or in a partnership where our partner can’t show up for us very well, it’s no problem, because we’re still getting 80% of our needs met. A totally adequate amount.

And if our partner can do an excellent job of understanding and meeting our needs, then things move from good to great.

I need a reminder to focus on doing my own work sometimes, hence the note to myself on my hand.

To me, that 80/20 is a reminder to focus more on learning to love and accept and validate myself, rather than trying to find those things out of there in the world somewhere.

The more I do that, the better things get.

What do you do to meet your own emotional needs? To be happy on your own? To validate yourself and your work? I’m interested in hearing ideas.

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  • Ethel Mathey

    A solid relationship with our creator can provide the basis for fulfilling our emotional needs. This is shown in many scriptural references such as Psalm 139

  • Gale

    If I live each day not intentionally being cruel to anyone and try to be kind where I can. If I do what I must do to nurture my family then I’m happy with who I am. Some days I choose something I would like to improve on within myself. If I get offended by something, I try to understand why because I feel it must ring true somewhere within myself. I don’t live and die by what others think of me. If I treat others fairly, I’m okay with myself. I’m a believer and pray God will show me where I need improvement. He’s always gentle in reminding me where I can be better.

  • Alexis

    For me, I get this from spending time with God. If you tap into the divine, you get all the love and acceptance you need from the infinite stream of love. I have four little boys and a husband who doesn’t always show his love in a way I want (though he does show it in other ways) and I’ve learned that the only consistent way for me to get what I need is divine intervention.

  • Adrienne

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post. I’m working on this as soon we speak by seeking out things in life that bring me joy. Speaking and being king to myself and focusing on gratitude.

  • Susan Roberts

    Wow! Thanks for stepping forward w this message! It takes courage and self love to be so vulnerable. You’re right on w this and I’m proud of you for sharing this so others can benefit from your experience! Isn’t that what we should be doing? Love takes all kinds of shapes and expressions! Keep it up, keep sharing and moving forward. What lies ahead is an even more loving, caring you from which all of us can garner wisdom! Blessings!

  • Kim

    Hi Dallas, I love this concept. I just wrote it on my hand too. I’ve realized recently that I’m not doing what I need to fill my tank. Things that I took for granted as frivolous or luxury time have now become my foundation. I’ve become more aware of that today as all of my hours are filled with a new job, volunteer work and supporting a family. When I don’t care for myself, I start looking to/expecting others to do something to make me feel better. I become impatient or resentful. I’m not my best self. I stop showing up.

    Basic self-care isn’t a privilege; it’s necessary for me to BE ME. Making sleep a priority. Taking my vitamins. Eating home cooked meals. Drinking my water. Laying off the beer and wine. Walking. Having white space on my calendar. Journaling. Meditating.

    I’m learning to put my mask on first before helping others. <3

    • Kitty

      This is beautifully stated, Kim. You putting on your mask, then telling us about it, has already helped me today. THANK YOU!

  • Glenna

    Lots to consider for myself. I appreciate you and your transparency, Dallas.

  • Sue Armstrong

    This is so totally true. We so often look to others to bring us joy and feel guilty and even extravagant when we practice self care. The saying goes ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and that’s a fact.
    Thanks for sharing this, Dallas and I wish you nothing but love and peace in your life.

  • Lynn

    80-20 is a great idea. I cognitively know it needs to happen, but haven’t been able to get there. Not only am I a teacher who routinely puts in 9 hour days and additional time on weekends, I’m also a caregiver for my aging mother who has dementia. Like you, I grew up without the support I needed in order to take good emotional care of myself. I think I was doing a decent job of learning meditation and doing yoga a year or two ago, but lately, since there’s no one else who helps me care for my mother, I’m underwater. I go directly from work to caring for my family to caring for my mother. Wash rinse repeat! I’m short on sleep, and I don’t know how to stop long enough to get my bearings and breathe.

  • Samantha J Brooks


  • Adelita

    So true! Taking care of your soul is our own responsibility! What a terrible burden to put on others when we expect them to make us happy. No one should have that much power over you, that they control your emotions.
    Ask the Lord who made you and loves you dearly, to help you take your power back, and start making the world a better place, by taking care of you. Then you can reach out to others.

  • Kathie

    Thank you for this, Dallas! I, like you, had (and sometimes still do), look to others for approval and affirmation of my worth. This is a lifelong practice of looking to oneself and loving oneself first. One of my favorite exercises is the following: make a list if all the things you love doing, those things that give you juice, preferably daily, small things. To the right of your list, guestimate, when was the last time you did any of those things? It’s amazing how that awareness, and then acting on things you love can jumpstart any funk you may find yourself in!

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