Asking for what we want is powerful. And hard. Here’s why.

I teach workshops on consent, boundaries, and touch. Whether the context is for parents, business, or romance I love helping people learn to ask for what they want in clear and respectful ways. My participants are often surprised at how hard it is to ask for what they want yet also empowered once they do.

About half-way through the workshop, we’ll do an exercise where I ask people to share with me all the reasons why they don’t ask for what they want, why they don’t set boundaries, and (the game-changer) what they do instead.

The following is a verbatim list from one workshop. In reading them, you may notice that shame and fear of rejection are stated over and over again with slight variations for both “why we don’t ask for what we want” and “why we don’t set boundaries“. Both actions involve speaking up for ourselves and possibly disappointing someone else. Challenging stuff.  It’s no wonder that our reasons for not doing each are similar.

“What we do instead” is a humbling view of ourselves.

The first time I did this exercise in Betty Martin’s Like a Pro workshop, the list of “what we do instead” is what brought it all together for me. I realized that I became my least favorite version of myself – passive aggressive, resentful, feeling like I don’t belong, feeling not good enough – when I didn’t ask for what I want and when I didn’t set clear boundaries.

The moment I realized that my failure to own my desires and boundaries was causing me to become my least favorite version of myself, my world changed. I suddenly had a clear road map for being a “me” I like and respect. That road map? Asking for what I want plus setting and keeping clear and authentic boundaries.

And since I’m someone who just can’t keep good things to myself, I’m helping all my clients learn these skills too. They are much easier to practice when someone you trust is cheering you on and keeping you accountable. I’m happy to be your coach. Call to get started 720-340-2246

Why we don‘t ask for what we want:

  • They might say no.
  • I’d feel rejected.
  • I’ll feel hopeless if I don‘t get it
  • I’ll feel shame (for having needs or wants)
  • I don‘t know what I want
  • There are a limited number of asks – don‘t waste them
  • It’s not okay (asking means I’m selfish which is wrong)
  • I don‘t want to be “high maintenance” and make others give beyond their ability or willingness
  • Real men don‘t have needs
  • Wanting means I’m weak
  • I don’t trust the other’s boundaries. They might overgive and guilt me later or get sick or be hurt in some way.
  • I might not like the answer
  • if I hear “yes” it means I need to be worthy of the gift
  • I might owe something in exchange/strings attached
  • What I want is unreasonable. There’s no way I’m going to get it and I’ll look stupid if I ask.

Why we don‘t set boundaries: 

  • I’ll lose the good thing I’m getting if I ask for something even better
  • Real men (or women) don’t say no.
  • I’ll be judged as selfish (by myself or others)
  • I don’t know what my boundaries are.
  • It’s pointless. My boundaries won’t be respected anyway.
  • I only get a certain number or type of boundaries. I don’t want to waste them.
  • I’ll be “high maintenance”
  • If I say no to this, I’ll be abandoned.
  • I want to be liked/accepted and seen as easy to get along with
  • It’s easier and safer to be small and not draw attention to myself
  • There’s nothing worth protecting here.

What we do instead:

  • blame them  and pick a fight 
  • hint
  • resent/get pissy
  • get really quiet/pull away
  • stop giving
  • stuff it (food, alcohol, drugs, crazy-busy)
  • ask for something safer (what you think you can get)
  • create bad art aka channel the feelings into another medium
  • Give them what you want and hope they get the hint
  • distractify/sublimate aka try not to notice that I had a want or a boundary
  • try to figure out what’s wrong with me and become a better person
  • cry/yell about it
  • blame self as not worthy anyway
  • endure
  • play victim

 If it’s setting boundaries and asking for what we want that stops us from “what we do instead” then fantastic! Let’s do the hard work of rewiring our brains for pleasure, owning our own desires, articulating them clearly and respectfully, and learning how to hear “no” with gratitude. Nobody (including me) said it was easy, but it’s worth it. Want more? Reach out for a free half-hour consultation with me. We’ll spend most of the time talking about your goals, desires, and boundaries. Then if I feel like I can truly support you in reaching your goals, I’ll invite you to become a client. I work with clients over the phone and Skype unless you are in the Boulder/Denver, CO area in which case you can choose to work in-person if you prefer.

Note: This is a modification of an original post by Kassandra Brown that originally appeared on parentcoaching.org

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