#34: You are only as needy as your unmet needs

Plus, a love letter to a homeland by Yosr El Sherbiny, the importance of calling people IN instead of OUT, and more...

The Greater Conversation is a weekly newsletter from me, journalist and author Alya Mooro, honestly addressing all aspects of life through the eyes of a Middle Eastern / third-culture / woman / human. Every Thursday, there’s some thoughts from me, along with a guest piece, and recommendations of articles, books, podcasts and etc worth consuming.

Hi friends,

In last week’s newsletter I wrote about starting talk therapy, and joining the ranks of “my therapist says…” I promise not to write about my therapy sessions every week, but for the last few days, the topic of boundaries is one that has been coming up time and again – both in my therapy session, and in conversations with friends. Mostly, the fact that I don’t actually have boundaries.

The realisation came as somewhat of a surprise to me, ngl. There are lots of things I do that I thought were a boundary - not checking my phone for the first hour of my day, for example, and turning off my phone notifications. But I’m increasingly starting to realise that those are not the kinds of boundaries that really matter.

I’ve been feeling particularly *exhausted* this week. It always happens to me this time of year, and 2020, the year that brought us Corona and all that came with it, obviously served to supercharge it. But part of the reason I’m feeling this way, I think, is because I ignore where my boundaries should be – I push, push, push, feel guilty when I try implement a boundary, accommodate and keep pushing, until I inevitably feel resentful and retreat. It’s a pattern I’ve been keeping for years. I ignore until I can’t any longer, and then I often end up ghosting, or slumping, or some other form of overwhelm.

There are so many reasons why people – why I – struggle with implementing boundaries, with being open about my feelings and my needs and the ways in which they are, or are not, being met. A fear of being needy – or being perceived as needy – is one of them.

In truth, having needs has long been portrayed as a weakness. It’s an idea I have more than bought into. Accordingly, there are many, many occasions in which I bent over backwards, bent until I snapped, in order to prove just how little I cared, just how few needs I had. But that did nothing other than allow the other party to do even less; to ensure that my needs were even further from being met.

I’ve been working on implementing some boundaries over the last couple of weeks, and in a long phone catchup with one of my best friends, she told me she too was doing the same. We shared some of our wins; the occasions on which we had stood up for ourselves, spoken our minds, without fear of what the other person would think or their interpretation. For us both, that we could do so felt like a revelation. As did the realisation that “you are only as needy as your unmet needs.”

Comprehending that has been wholly empowering, but implementing it will come with practice, I think and, just like anything else, become easier with time.


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Yosr El Sherbiny, 30, Dubai

Lady Alexandria, I have been writing and throwing away my letters to you, struggling to find the right words.

An elegant hostess, you welcomed tourists with open arms into your tiny urban fabric; from the rest of the Egyptian districts, and from nearby countries, who crossed to you by car or plane. For the past thirty years, I spent my winters waiting to see your wavy blue sea every summer, and to feel the butterflies again.

I look forward to tasting ice-cream from Sultana, walking on the corniche with a temporary lover, getting lost in the books you hold in the great Alexandrian Bibliotheque, spending my days gazing at the Great Palace of the last King Farouk, sleeping all day and staying up all night with family and friends, playing card games on the beach, watching movies in a crowded theater, discovering your hidden Indonesian restaurants under fairy lights, taking the most bizarre modes of transportation – from the minivans to the metro – where I meet your smiling people sprinkled across your ancient streets, those I want to hug and cry to, and to thank, for keeping me grounded, and making me who I am today.

Under years of dust, modern negligence, and multiple revolutions, are thousands of your stories, hidden inside decayed elitist residences with quadruple-height ceilings, wooden parquets, and Victorian windows.

Lady Alexandria, you are a place of firsts. You started as a Hellenistic Megapolis and capital of the world, home to Fouad Street (or Via Canopica) – one of the world’s oldest streets. Home to the ‘Pharos of Alexandria’, a Lighthouse that was built in the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and a lost wonder of the world.

You are a place of my first’s, too. My first karaoke experience, first love and heartbreak, first swim in your salty Mediterranean Sea. In your arms, I fell in love with History, Art and Architecture. In your embrace, I learned the meaning of Neglect, but also Nostalgia and Home.

You will survive this pandemic, and you will be the gracious hostess once again.

With Love,


Egyptian-born Yosr has lived in the UAE for over 25 years. She is currently completing her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol. A firm believer that architecture and storytelling are correlated, she created Wrichitects, a creative and educational platform for Architects, Designers and Storytellers. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.


To contribute a guest piece to The Greater Conversation, email me. You can share anonymously too if you prefer.

This newsletter is sponsored by The Doe, a digital publication which shares unfiltered, anonymous stories in an effort to encourage conversation and engagement with new ideas. This month’s theme is Science and Tech and the narrative I want to share this week is The Harsh Realities of Climate Change and How to Respond.

The author of the narrative is a climate change policy expert who posits that the most important question when it comes to the climate emergency is: “If you knew that climate change was a certainty, what percentage of your current income would you be willing to spend on responding to climate change?”

As always, the answer depends on who you ask. “If your kids are hungry, climate change may not be number one on your priority list,” they conclude. Of course, that makes total sense. But research shows that climate change will affect underprivileged people the most, or at least *first*, so perhaps it’s ever more vital we find a different way to frame these questions; that we stop leaving the burden on individuals, and take collective and global action on an issue that affects every single one of us.

Read the narrative on The Doe

  • I’m currently reading Into the Hands of the Soldiers by New York Times correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick. It looks into Egypt’s 2011 revolution and the events that followed from an outsider / insider perspective, and I’m finding it super interesting so far. Order the book and check out some of my favourite non-fiction reads on the Middle East on Bookshop.org, a new online platform that gives a percentage of each purchase directly to struggling independent bookshops.*as an affiliate I get a commission, too.

  • I am feeling particularly exhausted this week, so really enjoyed this article in defence of being unproductive. Related, in a way, this, on what has become the joylessness of cooking.

  • I loved this spotlight on Iraqi-British creative Dalia Al-Dujaili and her zine, The Road to Nowhere – a sentimental anthology that aims to move us towards a better understanding of the inner-conflicts of immigrants – in GQ Middle East. Check out Dalia’s guest piece for The Greater Conversation, too, and her profile on me which is potentially one of my favourite interviews to date.

  • You may know by now that I love the Kardashians but I can't argue with this read on how Covid19 dethroned them.

  • "Call-out culture has taken conversations that could have once been learning opportunities and turned them into mud wrestling... Why are you making choices to make the world crueler than it needs to be and calling that being ‘woke’?" An interesting and important read on the professor advocating for calling people IN instead of out.

  • Romantic isolation begins the moment we choose the fear of judgment over confiding in our loved ones.

  • "The more you segregate toys, the more you develop different skill sets and funnel them into different ways of being in the world." An interesting (and slightly enraging) read on the heinous impact of having 'girl stuff' and 'boy stuff.'

  • Literally can’t get enough of Michaela Cole, the creator and star of I May Destroy You, what is arguably one of the best shows of the year / ever. This chat with Louis Theroux on the new season of his podcast Grounded, is just absolutely brilliant.

A post shared by Alya Mooro • عليا مورو (@alyamooro)

A few months back, I was commissioned to write a piece for Omneque about jewellery, and I surprised myself with what came out. I found myself writing about how, for so long, I shunned the jewellery handed down through my family - the "endless assortment of glittering acquiescence" - because of what I subconsciously believed they represented, and because I didn't want to be that woman.

Writing my book The Greater Freedom - and bonding with my mum over what I found myself unlocking for us both through the writing - I explain, has changed a lot. This shift was signified in this beautiful choker (pictured) that my mum got my friend and the wonderful jeweller @rrhjewellery to craft for me for my birthday, the last of my 20's, made out of my grandmother's jewels.

Read the article

Thanks for subscribing! I'm Alya, the person behind this newsletter. I am a freelance journalist and the bestselling author of The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes. You can follow me on Instagram here, and Twitter here.

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