asking for what i want

from evy's notebook

Recently, I've been getting better at asking for what I want. It turns out this results in getting more things that I want, and this has made my life a lot better. It's taken a while to make the progress that I have, and I want to share some of what I've learned.

It's been helpful to think of asking for what I want as several phases, each with its own challenges to work through:

phase 1: notice when I want something

To notice that I want something, I need to be aware of my mental and emotional state. Sometimes I notice I'm sad or anxious and realize someone could do something to help me feel better. Sometimes I notice a sense of desire or jealousy, and realize I want to ask for something -- which can be as simple as desiring some fries from someone's plate. Sometimes I don't realize I wanted something in the relevant moment, but reflect on the situation afterwards and discover something that I might ask for in similar situations in the future.

Being in touch with my mental and emotional state is something I've worked on for years through a mood tracker, regular journalling, and intimate conversations with friends. Noticing how I'm feeling and if I want something is important even if I don't end up asking for anything -- getting better at this phase makes the next phases easier to work on.

phase 2: feel safe enough to ask

It's easiest for me to feel safe asking for things when (1) I trust that the person I'm asking won't get mad at me for asking, (2) I trust that the other person will say no if they don't want to fulfill my request, and (3) I feel like I'm able to receive a no gracefully. If I'm scared about angering or coercing someone, it is way harder to ask for what I want. (Though sometimes I'll still muster up the courage to ask anyways!)

I've helped create this comfortable environment by explicitly telling friends that I'm practicing asking for what I want and explaining how they can helpfully respond to my requests. I've also removed myself from several contexts where it didn't feel safe enough to ask for what I want. Part of asking for what I want more has been changing things about myself, but part of it has also been changing the environment around me such as a job, friendships, or just one-off social situations.

phase 3: ask!

This is the big moment! If I know what I want and feel safe asking for it, I might still find it really hard to ask. This is usually due to shame or fear.

Even if I don't think someone will get mad at me, I might feel like my request is silly or inconvenient or not worth asking. Part of unlearning this has been asking anyways and seeing that things often work out fine. Another part of unlearning has been regularly telling myself "what I want matters" and practicing believing it.

In the end, I'm often still scared to ask for things! And I do it anyways! Doing scary shit is thrilling and has changed my life, and now I get excited to do scary things that might make my life better.

I try to be clear and direct in my requests, without hedging or self-deprecation. I celebrate that I asked for something by writing it down in a log I've been keeping for the past few months. I give myself bonus points if I'm told no.

phase 4: feel awesome

I've been feeling like a badass lately. I'm more confident, I communicate my desires, and I have more of what I want in my life! Several people have thanked me for asking for things, since they get to do something for me that they know I'll appreciate. I'm grateful to everyone who encouraged me to ask for what I want more, and who have supported me in this practice.

examples of things I've asked for