A powerful perspective on asking for what you need or want
How do you feel about asking for what you need or want?
Despite being familiar with the concept that “no man is an island”, so many of us still dislike asking for support or help (yes, including me sometimes) .
There are so many reasons we resist asking: we’re afraid of being a bother or a burden, we’re uncomfortable being rejected, we don’t want to look incompetent, we worry we can’t repay the favour or kindness and don’t want to ‘owe’ others, we’re embarrassed about appearing needy, we don’t want to seem greedy or entitled, and so on.
But if you think about it, every single successful person has received help along the way. Literally no one has done it all alone.
Brené Brown observed in her book The Gifts of Imperfection,
“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone’. Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help’. The truth is that we are both.”
So rather than believe it’s a sign of weakness, what if we view asking - and receiving help - as an entirely practical move and a necessary part of being human?
Have you noticed that genuinely confident people aren’t scared to ask for what they need or desire? They don’t see it as a failing - they are comfortable owning their strengths, realistic about their abilities and workload, and matter-of-fact about when or in what area of their life it makes sense to ask for help.
As Kemi Nekvapil points out in her book The Gift of Asking,
“Whatever we want to achieve in our lives, there will be a certain point we get to where we have to ask for support – if we do not, we cannot move forward. And in asking for support from another person, we expand who they are – we are able to validate their gifts and their unique contribution.”
Brené also reminds us,
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help.”
The thoughts above may have opened the possibility for a change in perspective for you, but there is one more idea that recently transformed the way I think and feel about asking.
a game-changing perspective on asking
Kemi highlights that many of our fears around asking relate to our sense of self-worth. We don’t want to ask because we don’t feel worthy or deserving. Or we are afraid to ask in case we’re rejected, because we interpret that as a signal that we are not worthy.
But your worthiness is not - or should not be - determined by the judgment of others in your life.
And this idea from The Gift of Asking has radically shifted the way I think about asking:
“We will not always get what we ask for – and sometimes that is for the best – but we will always build our worthiness just by taking the action of asking in the first place.”
So your worthiness doesn’t lie in the answer you receive after asking. It lies in you honouring your needs and desires by voicing the request, rather than you denying or rejecting them before anyone else can. It lies in you valuing yourself and deciding you are worthy enough to ask. The act of asking increases your sense of worthiness and reclaims your personal power.
With this shift in perspective, my goal is now to say ‘yes’ to myself by asking, rather than focus on getting a ‘yes’ from others. I tell myself: Whether I ask is a better signal of my worthiness than whether they say ‘yes’. I’ve found that embracing this perspective has enabled me to feel less attached to the answer and more ease around asking. Give it a go and see how it works for you!
overcoming the fear of ‘no’
There is certainly an art of asking to increase the chances your request will be well received. But ultimately, it helps to remember that a ‘no’ is never 100% about you - there are so many factors that influence the response you receive.
If you’re afraid to ask because you might hear a ‘no’, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” When I work through this question with my clients, often the worst case scenario is a temporary bruise to the ego, or staying in the status quo – i.e. a ‘no’ means your situation remains as it is. So if you’re already living your ‘worst case scenario’, there’s usually only upside from asking!
In addition, Kemi suggests to keep in mind that you’ve heard ‘no’ for an answer before, and you’ve survived worse.
What are you not asking for in your life?
P.S. You can find out more about The Gift of Asking here and even download the first chapter for free.