As a child, teenager and young adult, I found it hard to ask for what I wanted. It was difficult for me to believe that my opinion matters enough to do that. I had wants and feelings but believing that anyone wanted to hear them was a different story. I was afraid that if I asked for what I wanted that the other person wouldn’t give it to and/or they would be angry at me. I’m not sure why I thought this, but because I had this core belief I held my wants and needs inside. I swallowed them, literally, and it ended up resulting in me getting an ulcer. I realized that this wasn’t a sustainable way to live. If I wanted to be healthy I needed to change how I was communicating with the people in my life. As hard as it was for me, I started (little by little) to express my feelings.
It was hard at first because I was afraid. I was fearful that they wouldn’t care about how I felt or that they would be upset with me. The hardest part of this process was accepting whatever the reaction the person had. I had to mentally prepare for them to be angry or sad. Mostly the thing that scared me was them being angry. I practiced grounding myself before the person reacted to what I was expressing. When I first started expressing my feelings to people I cared about it was difficult because I used to keep that stuff locked up tight inside my body. It almost felt wrong. You don’t talk about these deeply private things. It was like I was revealing my weaknesses to an opponent that I was fighting in a boxing ring.
It did get easier, and I’ll tell you what helped me: being in a romantic relationship. When I had a long-term romantic relationship I wasn’t able to hide my feelings from my partner, whether this was in therapy with each other or at home together. He always knew what I was feeling even if I didn’t say anything. He would ask me what was wrong. So, after he created an environment where I felt safe to share my feelings, I started doing something even crazier: asking him for what I wanted. For me this was revolutionary. I was used to believing that my wants didn’t matter, but now I realized that I had the right to express my feelings AND ask my partner for what I wanted from him and needed from him.
When I began practicing this technique in my relationship, I realized that I could apply it to other areas of my life. I started telling my family how I felt. The honesty made me feel so much better. I was finally able to be myself. If you’re reading this and you’re having trouble expressing what you want from your partner, remember that if that person cares about you, they will want to give you what you want and need.
So what about you? Do you have trouble asking for what you need?