Most of us believe, at least at some level, that it’s someone else’s responsibility to figure out our needs—and not just figure them out, but also satisfy them. But in reality, if you’re no longer a child, then that responsibility, that privilege, is yours and, to some degree, yours alone.
This isn't to suggest that your needs won’t be taken care of by others. They will be, at times. But contrary to what you perhaps wish were true, and certainly the fantasy you’ve been sold, it’s no one else’s mandate—not your partner’s, friends’, family’s, employer’s, or anyone else’s—to intuit your needs, nor to fulfill them (or to fulfill you, for that matter). It’s lovely when it happens, but the task of taking care of and sustaining yourself ultimately belongs to you.
When you take on this responsibility wholeheartedly, without resistance or resentment and without imagining it should be otherwise, then you are ready to live self-care in its most mature incarnation.
Most self-care strategies focus on action: what you need to do, how you need to advocate for yourself and behave differently in the world—so that you can get your needs met. Action is good and, of course, necessary. But to go straight to action, to start doing self-care before being self-caring, is skipping a fundamental and unskippable step. Until you change who you are on the inside, you’re just practicing self-care-light; you’re taking sound baths and buying yourself flowers when you don’t yet care about yourself. It’s moving straight to the outside experience and bypassing the inner experience. I, for one, don’t want you to skip the step of caring about yourself.
The business of getting what you need is an inside job. In reality, you cannot relate differently to the world until you’ve learned (and are willing) to relate differently to yourself. It’s not possible to be your own advocate until you’ve developed a heartfelt respect and affection for the you that you’re advocating for. Simply put, you can’t get what you need from the world until you can get what you need from yourself.