It seems, on the surface, like such a simple thing. Want something? Ask for it. Need something? Ask for it.
However, in practice, at least for me, not quite so easy.
Asking for what I want feels scary and vulnerable and uncertain. It gives me a sick pit in my stomach and makes my chest feel heavy and hard to breath. Asking others for what I wanted or needed felt like I was risking the loss of them.
It took me weeks (months?) to figure out where that deep fear of loss was coming from.
Then yesterday it popped out in my journaling practice and sat there staring at me in black and white. A brief, almost forgotten memory from high school.
My school counselor telling me that I expected too much from people and that I had unrealistic expectations of what friendship was. She told me that if I asked “that much” of people, I would be continually disappointed because no one could live up to my standards.
Which is, seriously, total bullshit.
But my 17 year old self didn’t know it was bullshit. I didn’t have the capacity then to recognize that this person clearly had their own issues that were being projected all over my younger self.
Instead, my teenaged self took that to mean that if I asked anything of people, I would be disappointed. That they would leave because I expected too much of them. That no one could be who I needed them to be and so I should just settle for what I got.
Which really explains many of my rather dysfunctional friendships and relationships over the years.
What pushing through that fear of loss over the last weeks and months and learning to ask for what I want has taught me just how wrong that counselor was. It is possible to have friendships and relationships in which all parties feel supported, loved for who they are, valued, and connected. It is possible to have relationships where people do what they say they will do and make each other a priority. It is possible to be loved unconditionally exactly as you are.
I, and you, can have high expectations for people and have them met. We don’t have to settle for less than the best of what we want and need – and deserve.
Is there disappointment in life? Sure. Are there some people who can’t give me what I want or need? Of course.
But, you know what? I felt disappointed far more often when I was settling out of fear than I have since I started speaking up and asking.
Do I get everything I ask for? Nope. At least, not always in the way I expect.
I do get love. I get deep and honest connection. I get support. I get real and raw human relationships.
What my teenage self needed, but didn’t know how to ask for it, was simply permission to be herself. Permission to want what she wanted and need what she needed. She wanted and needed someone to say, “You get to be you. Let me help you learn to navigate life as you.”
So, to my 17 year old self and to you, I say:
You get to be you.
You get to want what you want.
You get to need what you need.
You get to ask for what you want and need.
You get to have people who value you for you.
You get to have people who want to provide what you want and need.
You get to be loved for who you are, exactly as you are.
Let’s help each other find our way.