“What would you like for dinner honey?”
“Whatever you’d like darling.”
Do you tend to answer those types of question with similar “whatever you’d like” answers?
My husband used to be the king to the “Whatever you like” reply to questions… and this used to annoy me royally. For sure, he had wishes or a preferred food, at least from time to time, so why couldn’t he simply express his wants and needs?
From a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) view point, we are all wired differently, depending on our “culturescape”: our family, culture, religion, our wounds, little traumas, or big Traumas… Some people, like my husband, are wired to see the world through a “second person” perspective (instead of from a first person “I” perspective). He is the type of person that thinks of others first, and had learned from his “culturescape” that selflessness was the right quality to embody, this was his way to feel love and belonging as he grew up… And thinking of others first is not a bad thing at all …. unless it robs you of ever getting your own needs met, unless it starts to crush your own desires and eventually your life force. And unless you start to feel resentful. And you will. Over time.
Most of my clients throughout the years have had similar issues of not being able to ask for what they desired, wanted, needed at least at some point in their lives. Sometimes it can be context dependent: some of us are able to ask for what we want for dinner but would find it very hard to ask for a pay rise at work…
Your ability to ask for what you need is a reflection of what you think about yourself, your sense of self-worth.
Do you feel worthy enough to ask for what you need? Is it context dependent?
Are you even connected to what you need? Sometimes when you set aside your own needs for many years, it can be hard to even recognize or know what you need!
So here are key steps to reconnect and help you build up your willingness and courage to ask for what you need:
1) Connect with what you need or desire or want – You may have been dreading to ask or you may have been lowering the importance so as to actually not have to ask.
2) Write a long list.
Examples could be: A pay raise at work? Ask your partner for support with the kids for time away? Going out alone with friends? More consistency in the frequency of visits from friends or family? Clarification of the status of a relationship?
If you have been wired with this “selfless is good” programming for a while, and have trouble connecting to your needs, just start small, before any small daily task, ask yourself what you need. And build up that list slowly over time.
3) Visualise the conversation of asking for those. What fears are coming up? What has prevented you from asking for those things in the past and what is preventing you from asking for those now?
· Fear of rejection? You might get a “no”? What is so bad about receiving a “no”? How would a “no” make you feel? Can’t you handle a “no”?
· Belief that asking for what you need is selfish? Who is saying this to you? What voice do you hear? Is this always true?
· Belief that asking for help or support or for anything is a sign of weakness. Have you been wired to believe you have to do it all alone and never complain? Who put this belief in your system? Is it always valid?
4) Now connect with how you feel when your needs are not met. How do you feel? Close your eyes and connect to those unmet needs from your list and feel the range of emotions that come with those being ignored: Frustration, rage, anger, resentment, sadness, loneliness…?
Give yourself permission to feel what is coming up… Allow the flow of emotions to move through the body. Take your time.
5) Decide that change is needed. What will happen if you never ask for what you need? Is it time to make a change? Is it time to feel fulfilled? Is it time to grow your sense of self-worth and ask for what you need? Are you ready?
If so, bring an inch of sanity to all those limiting beliefs and fears.
6) Realise that people are not mind readers. They have their own lives and beliefs to deal with, so unless you are very clear about your own needs, they will take your word or silence for what it is - You don’t need anything right now.
7) Start asking for “smaller needs” on your list to build up your confidence and skills. Start by telling your wife what you want for dinner, ask the waiter to add a side of avocado on your plate or to remove the onions from the dish, ask your partner to take care of the kids so that you can go for a run, ask your children to play quietly by themselves so that you can do some yoga at home for a short moment (you might have to ask a few times for this one...).
Whatever the answer is, feel how empowering asking for what you need feels! Build up your confidence and start to ask for bigger things on your list: a day off at work, a 4 day work week, a discussion on the status of your relationship to your date, to stop putting you down in front of the kids to your partner…. And pause and notice how you feel.
There might be a mix of emotions, butterflies in the stomach, fear of rejection, but maybe you can also connect to this empowered part of yourself that finally showed up. That finally spoke up. That finally feels heard and liberated.
8) Be as OK as you can be with a potential “NO” as an answer. A no is OK. It does not mean you are not loved. It does not mean you failed. It just means the other person is not ready for the request yet. You have the option of asking questions after a “no”: what is preventing you from saying yes? What about my request is not OK with you? What do you need from me to say yes?
9) Be ready for a YES! Observe if there is guilt as you asked for something and you get it… some of us have been raised to never ask so guilt might come. It is OK. Breathe through it, let it go. Connect with the empowered part of yourself that was courageous enough to as for her needs.
10) Be brave, trust that you can handle whatever answer you will get. And continue asking for what you need on a daily basis.
Remember that asking for what you need is ultimately a gift for the other person as well. It gives them clarity of what you truly want, and gives them the opportunity to support you, to stand up for you, to help you achieve what you want. Helping and supporting another is a “feel good”, “feel important”, “feel trusted” gift to the person you asked.
Asking for what you need is an example for others, an example of authenticity, vulnerability, and courage, that might light up the same in them. Maybe you will be the seed for them to start asking for what they need.
Asking for what you need will build up your self-esteem big time. Because it is you showing up for yourself. It is you putting yourself first. It is you loving yourself. It will also give you the ability to handle request for needs from others, as you allow yourself to ask, others will too. And this will be the gift back to you.
With some awareness and support throughout the years, my husband has been courageous enough to connect deeply within himself, to heal some past wounds, release some of his limiting beliefs and to reconnect to his needs and desires. He now can be a lot more flexible in his answers and courageous in his requests and can ask for what he wants for dinner frequently. And I love it.
With love and gratitude.
Check-out Dorothee's blissful and transformation elemental retreat at the end of the year.