It’s so hard to use your voice sometimes. Love me like this. Treat me like this. Respect me like this. It’s difficult to ask for what you need. There are so many things wrapped up in those feelings. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being valued. Fear of asking too much. Fear of being met with anger, resentment, apathy. So much fear. Instead, we quiet our voices. Stuff it down.

And we give and give and give, hoping that it will somehow fill in that space. That if we can just love enough and give enough it will be reflected back to us in just the way we need it.

It doesn’t work like that.

I am learning how to ask for what I need.

There was a time when I was so afraid to speak up. I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed without fearing that I would come off as selfish, or unthinking, or high-maintenance.

All of those things seemed worse to me than feeling deprived, depleted, and sometimes empty. I would rather hide inside of my shell of unworthiness than come out and risk being hurt. I put so little value on my wants, needs, and feelings that going through all of that was better than facing those feelings.

I was afraid that no one would care enough to give me what I needed.

Not being able to ask for what I need nearly destroyed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. It put me in bad relationships and it landed me in situations where I was taken advantage of it. It put me in this mindset of never wanting to rock the boat and it made it so hard to enforce boundaries in my life, even with strangers.

It made me terrified to ask for help.

It made me incredibly angry.

It made me feel alone in the world.

It convinced me that no one cared about me.

Ten years ago I was going through a heavy period of depression and feeling suicidal. I stayed up for two days straight, crying my eyes out. I felt so alone, so empty, and so unloved. I eventually called a hotline and it gave me direction and helped me to feel better. I told a friend at work about it a few days after the fact and then suddenly I had this whole group of co-workers tell me that if I ever needed to talk, they were there for me. I could have asked for a shoulder, used my voice to say I am lonely and struggling and I need someone to listen. I think back to those two days and I know that they didn’t need to happen.

Asking is powerful.

I realized a pattern through out my relationships. I was always the giver. I let myself be treated how they wanted to treat me. I accepted the love they had to give me and I didn’t ask for more. Until I did. In huge explosions of anger and rage. Emotional meltdowns full of accusations and an attempt to verbally strip away love and affection because if they couldn’t give me what I wanted then they didn’t deserve what I had already given. I would let resentment build and build until I exploded, felt better, felt mortified, apologized, and then started the cycle all over again.

I’m learning how to ask.

Ask: When I need something, I ask for it. I may not get it. I may not get it in the way that I want it. But I’m allowed to ask. The world is not full of mind-readers. I can not expect to get what I want unless I am brave enough to speak those words out loud.

Ask for what you want in relationships, in friendships, on social media. Ask people for advice, or love, or to listen without judgment.

Be Vulnerable: Open your heart. Wide. Broken. Light shining in – open. Ask your partner, family, loved ones for what you need. To respect those needs if they aren’t in a place to honor it. Speak from that heart of yours. Hold nothing back. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you’re too sensitive or needy, embrace it. Your feelings are valid.

Communicate: This work is hard and sometimes we immediately go on the defensive, waiting for, even anticipating, rejection. It’s fear. That’s your fear talking. The best way to ask for what you need is to do it in a way that honors everyone. Use “I feel… I need… I want…” Don’t let it come out as you “You never… You always… I hate it when you…”

Good communication comes with practice.

Be Specific: “Right now I feel ____ and I need ____.” Explain your feelings without placing blame. Go into every conversation with the goal of a resolution that makes everyone feel better. State what you need but also leave room for heartfelt discussion and compromise. Listen back.

Turn it to yourself: Practice self-care. Check in with yourself when there are demands on your time and ask yourself what you need when you are upset. Be aware of and genuinely care about how you’re feeling mentally and emotionally.

Not everyone will be able to give you what you need when you need it. However, they should always respect your needs. When people ignore, belittle, or meet your needs with anger – it’s time to analyze the part they play in your life. I have learned that most people will love you and want to make you happy. You won’t be putting them out or asking too much because the people we love want us to feel loved.

Are you able to ask for what you need?