Week 3! So far, we’ve covered how to set boundaries to let others learn from their mistakes and how to be fully present in relationships. This article is part 2 of being authentic: Asking for practical needs and desires.
My client models this well. Here is her story:
My birthday is right next to a holiday, and for the past 40 years I have not felt fully celebrated. Instead, my birthday was just lumped in with the holiday year after year, leaving me feeling disappointed and hurt, thinking my family didn’t care. As I began learning how to ask for my needs I decided that this year would be different.
I would tell my family what I wanted even though I was terrified of how they would respond. I feared that they would be polite but inwardly roll their eyes thinking it would be too much work- maybe I wasn’t worth it.
With encouragement, I decided to take the risk. Nervously I made my request to each child asking them to dress up, share what they loved about me, and share memories about me. I created an invitation for my own birthday detailing how I would like to be celebrated.
When the day came, I was deeply moved and cried as my kids dropped balloons from the balcony, wrote a song for me and shared meaningful stories of how I had impacted their lives. My family had gone above and beyond what I had asked for.
Because I was able to push through my fear of burdening my family, I learned that they loved me and believed I was worth extravagance. All along my family never knew that I was disappointed each birthday, but when I finally communicated my needs, it opened the door to feeling loved.
Statistically, a communicated request is more likely to be granted than a thought. However, there is a common myth nowadays that “You should know what makes me feel loved or you must not have cared enough to figure it out.”
This belief often leaves people hurt, interpreting others’ inaction as a lack of love. Instead, people love and feel loved in different ways; so others may be trying to love you but in a love language you don’t recognize.
Ultimately, your satisfaction in relationships will be dependent on your ability to let those around you know your unique needs.
Another myth is “If I have to ask for it, it can’t count as love - it's obligation.”
I used to believe this. I even declined people’s offers of food or help, afraid that they came from a place of obligation.
The more I learned to value myself, the more I began to expect that others wanted to love me too. How much do you care about yourself? Are you willing to advocate for your own needs?
I challenge you to consider instead that telling others your desires gives them the tools to love you in the best way possible. We all want to love and be loved. Sharing with someone your needs and desires helps set others up for success and ends the guessing game.
Through counseling over the years I decided that I wanted to practice asking for things and create opportunities to receive love. I remember journaling “I am loving asking for things! - People do them! I don't know why I didn't figure this out sooner.”
I asked for massages, for help cleaning and even for a friend to wash a shirt for me and it came back clean! Each time a friend responded and met my need, I felt cared for and loved.
To the extent you communicate your needs will be the extent you feel loved. I choose to live loved. I challenge you this week to ask for what you want. You just might be surprised.