I scribbled this question in my notebook after an attempt at setting a boundary and coming up gasping for air.
What happened? I knew I needed to ask for it — I felt I had to. So why did it feel like I had just been submerged underwater against my will?
It happened on Mother’s Day, too. I was like Cher in the scene of Clueless when she’s parading in front of her Father’s office not asking for what she needs.
I didn’t want a gift but I wanted breakfast that I didn’t make and yet I waltzed around the issue for a week ‘till my husband gave up and bought me gifts, made a card, and took me out for breakfast.
He threw spaghetti at the wall hoping something would stick because me? I just wouldn’t come out with it.
When the opportunity presents itself the debate in my head goes a little something like this:
Ask for what I need or suffer in silence?
Sacrifice a willingness to ask for help. Sacrifice boundaries.
So, what to do about it?
Figure out what you want (what you really want)
I always say this to people I coach: If you know what you want you’re a hell of a lot further along than the rest of us.
You can figure out what you want using a few techniques: Brainstorm what you don’t want or write a list of what you want more of.
If your instinct is, “I don’t know.” You can trick yourself by asking, “What if I were to guess?”
Sometimes when I am choosing between alternatives I like to force a choice on myself and if I’m disappointed then I know what to do next.
Draw a Line, Feel Fine
I didn’t make up this genius mantra, my wise friend did and it’s dope.
The word boundaries is brand new to me but the concept I’m well familiar with. Boundaries are all about allowing enough personal space so that you can feel safe in every variation of the word.
When I had the chance to set a boundary with someone recently, well technically I set it with eight people, seven of them were amazing about it. The eighth though…
When I had the chance to do it I felt frazzled, anxious, and scared. Did I deserve special treatment? Is this even special treatment? In other words, am I worthy of this?
I proceeded ahead and asked for what I needed. This is before I read that most requests for boundaries are met with anger, so says psychology.
But I prevailed because…. Boundaries.
Because I have to protect what is sacred and guess what is sacred? I am.
Hold yourself accountable (‘cuz no one else will if you don’t)
The other night I wanted to cry about something and whine a bit and I was craving T.L.C. Not waterfalls, tender, love, and care.
Instead of asking for what I needed, which in this case was help, I sat there and thought about it. I recall gazing longingly at my husband thinking I want to tell you what I’m thinking but instead I sat there thinking about it and not talking and then two things happened:
I got into a total funk and by funk I mean irritable, bad mood
I DIDN’T GET WHAT I NEEDED
What the hell was I waiting for? My spirit guide to tap his spirit guide on the shoulder and do it for me?
When I felt the funk I invited my husband to sit next to me and all was well. We watched an Office rerun and giggled and all the stuff melted away.
The awareness is how we can help ourselves. Recognizing I was not speaking the words I longed to speak and becoming aware that my mood was changing as a result is a facet of emotional intelligence (EQ for the win!!)
How to actually do it and not feel like you just drowned (like me)
Know what you want and get clear on your personal values. Your values will create a circle of integrity — like a sandbox — for you to live within. It’s clear what’s in the box and what is not and so when someone pushes it, you’ll know.
Practice asking for what you need and when you don’t, do it belatedly.
It’s totally cool to say something like, hey yesterday I didn’t ask for what I needed and I felt badly. Would you be willing to listen to me now? Tip: soften your word choices with words like ‘willing’ or ‘consider’ Vs. should. Should makes everything shittier.
Finally, listen to your E.Q. and try acting on it. When you feel a funk coming over you analyze it: Do you just need to ask for help? And then ask, what are you sacrificing by not asking for help?
Photo credit: Diana Feil