In this two- part blog post, I’ll be writing about the things that hold us back from asking for what we want. The second part will focus on ways to ask for what you want without it leading to conflict or ill-feeling. I’ve struggled with this and I’m sure that you have too.
It’s no surprise, we all find it difficult to ask for what we want. Even if you believe yourself to be confident, articulate and assertive, there may be areas in your life or people who, for some reason, throw psychological obstacles into your way. It’s probably not even their intention to do so. Instead, it could be about your own upbringing, your cultural practices or gender assumptions.
This post is inspired by a friend of mine. She’s a creative, accomplished and intelligent woman who was negotiating her way out of her employment contract. Although she had a pretty cast iron claim for unfair dismissal, she was hesitant to start negotiations with a settlement proposal that might “upset” her employer. It’s a story I have lived and heard several times over and certainly don’t want to repeat it or hear it again! She was brave enough to push past her discomfort and settled for much more than she believed possible. Not only did she come away with a generous settlement but a sense of personal achievement. What a great result!
I’m not advocating being impolite or disrespectful to your negotiating partner. You’re more likely to encourage cooperation from the other side if you communicate politely. What I hope to inspire in you, is a commitment to ask for what you want without being deterred by your feelings of shame around that. The first step in this process is to become aware of what is holding you back.
Why aren’t you asking for what you want?
- You might fear your own vulnerability. Asking for what you want can be perceived as a sign of weakness. I don’t believe it is but for some people, the idea of needing somebody to help them or expressing that you are lacking something in your life, may symbolise an imperfection, a defect or a failure in some way. This can feel shameful or embarrassing.
- You don’t want to upset anyone. What you really mean by this is that asking for what you want will be perceived as being so outrageous that the other side will instantly disapprove of you. This will be uncomfortable or even painful, because being disapproved of is ultimately, a rejection of who you are. I used to feel this way because society, my culture and to a certain degree, my upbringing, taught me that nice girls don’t ask for what they want. Only bad girls, who are aggressive and therefore undesirable, do this. I was unconsciously taught that my value as a woman is linked to being satisfied with what I was given and not being too demanding of the men in my life. Imagine how that played out working in a male dominated industry!
- You feel undeserving of receiving what you want. That’s a question of self-worth and it’s also entwined with the idea that nice/ good/ acceptable people don’t behave in this way. You may not feel comfortable asking your partner for more intimacy because you automatically believe you will be rejected. This could be linked to a perception that you are undeserving of love. You may resist pushing for a promotion or applying for that job that you really want because you don’t think you are good enough. In other words, because of a conditioned belief that you are undeserving of acceptance, love and happiness, you don’t ask for it for fear of automatic rejection.
Facing some of these reasons is extremely hard. They make you to dig deep and examine some painful realisations. It requires self-compassion and empathy towards your own emotions. You don’t have to do this. You can continue comfortably, as you are.
One thing is for sure, if you don’t start asking for what you want, you will carry on feeling unacknowledged and unappreciated. You can change jobs, partners or friends as many times as you want to avoid this but unless you change your inner beliefs and patterns, you will continue to make the same mistakes. This can impact mental well-being, self-esteem and ultimately, it could lead to conflict.
Everyone deserves to be happy and fulfilled and this is what every human being wants. We all want more connection with others and to have our needs met. This transcends cultures, genders, financial status and background. There is nothing more powerful than understanding who you are, why you behave as you do and what has unknowingly influenced the way you see yourself and others.
If you are still worried about communicating what you want, read my next blog post for tips, tricks and phrases to help you do exactly that.
As always, I’d love to read your thoughts and comments !