Asking for what I need used to feel hard and so-damn-scary! Now it just feels uncomfortable and mostly freeing. But for most of my life it was so scary that I simply wouldn’t ask, instead I would sit in disappointment and resentment. It seems crazy now- but that felt easier to me than the vulnerability of asking for what I needed.
I grew up believing the cultural lie that “nice girls” don’t ask. That “good girls” don’t have too many needs or take up too much space. On top of that, early in life I constructed a belief that people already had all they could handle, so it was my job to keep from adding to their load. That meant not having needs. Oh, I could be fierce and w/out apology in fighting for my beloved’s need. And you best not get in my way when I was advocating for my client’s needs. But my personal needs...uh no, that felt very different. It was okay for everyone else to have needs….but not me.
This belief robbed me of so much for so long. It makes me sad now to think about all the years I chose to abandoned myself in big and small ways because I thought I had to choose between being nice, being good, or having needs. There’s a time that stands out most because it almost cost me something so great, so irrevocable, that I would’ve spent forever carrying the pain of it.
I grew up believing the cultural lie that “nice girls” don’t ask. That “good girls” don’t have too many needs or take up space.
I was 34 years old sitting in a hospital room in Seattle as one of my most beloved people on earth- the one who’d been the girl I’d shared every single part of life with from day one, who knew me inside and out, now a woman with 4 babies of her own, was dying of cancer. And I found myself too afraid to ask for what I desperately needed….one last time alone with her- like it used to be, our own little world of she and I…team Sandi & Renee. I needed to pour out my heart, say the words, kiss her head, feel the warmth of her touch, burn every wondrous little piece of her into my memory. This was my last, my only chance….but I couldn’t speak the words. I just couldn’t. It felt too selfish, like too much of me to ask for myself. In a moment I will be eternally grateful for, my sister noticed and said to me….”Do you want some time alone? It’s okay if you do.” If she hadn’t given me permission – I would have lost that moment forever. Instead of carrying the hard but beautiful treasures my time alone gave me, I’d be carrying the tragedy of regret. That’s been 20+ years and it still feels like a gut punch when I think about what I almost gave away…all because I believed a lie that it wasn’t okay to ask for what I needed. That my needs were too much. That I was too much.
I wish I could say that was the moment of my great awakening…but not so. Because I still had to learn I was living under a lie. I had to root it out and discover what was driving it, then replace it with truth. I had to learn that asking for what I need is not only okay – it’s necessary if I want to have a healthy relationship with myself and others. To learn to trust that the people in my life- the ones that are meant for me – that truly love me, can in fact, handle all of me. And that maybe I hadn’t been giving them enough credit. I had to learn to give myself permission to be fully human. That it’s no one else’s job to make sure my needs are seen and know- it’s my job to be emotionally honest and to ask. I had to decide to value the courage to ask more than I feared the discomfort of asking…to value being brave, being honest, being authentic over being nice. And most especially, I had to learn that I am worthy of the space I take up in this world…period…and that includes space for my needs.
What about you? Do you see any part of yourself in my story? If you’re shaking your head…please don’t feel bad and don’t feel alone. After doing this work with women from all over the world - I’ve learned that it’s a universal struggle for most of us. It just is.
That’s why I decided to write about it. Because I want you to know what it took me way too long to learn. Because I don’t want you to give away your needs in the name of a lie. And I especially don’t want you to give away treasured moments and live with regret like I almost did. So listen up beautiful…I really want you to you to hear this….
IT’S A LIE. You don’t have to choose between being ”nice” or “good” and having needs. Good people – all people- have needs. It’s part of being human. And it turns out, we all get to be human…YOU too.
You’re not alone. You’re not broken or stupid or weak…like so many of us, you’re simply believing a lie.
You can get curious about what you’re believing and why. Then choose differently. Because just like somewhere along the way you picked up that lie and decided it was true for you – you can undecide. You can choose to lay it down and pick up the Truth. The truth that it’s okay to ask for what you need because YOU ARE WORTHY OF THE SPACE YOU TAKE UP IN THIS WORLD….period.
Last – You can and will survive the fear and discomfort of asking. Your asking muscle will get stronger. Then one day you’ll realize you’re no longer feeling terrified…you’re feeling FREEDOM!!