Asking for What You Need

Asking specifically for what you need in the moment is something I have struggled with throughout my life. At first, I wasn’t sure that I actually had physical or emotional needs; I just assumed they were wants and it was ridiculous of me to bring them to the attention of other people.

Human connection, reassurance, support–those are needs. Sure, you can exist without them, but what kind of life is a life of complete solitude? There are things you cannot rely solely on yourself for, things you are not able to give yourself, especially when you’re struggling with caring for yourself.

The process of learning how to ask for what I need was riddled with self-destructive, attention-seeking behavior. I’m not proud of that, but I know now why I did so. I didn’t understand that I could simply ask with my words, in a direct fashion, for what I needed in the moment. I thought that using self-depreciation or dangerous behaviors were the only ways to get people to pay attention to me and how I was feeling.

Of the self-depreciation and dangerous behaviors, it is self-depreciation that I still find myself struggling with occasionally. It feels easier to make negative comments about myself and have people correct me than to directly ask for reassurance, support, or addressing the issue at hand.

Recently, I’ve been actively practicing asking for what I need, instead of using self-depreciation to get it.

Last week I texted a friend who is on a research project with me. The text stated that I needed validation that putting my edits and ideas into the project was okay, because I was working through a case of Impostor Syndrome. She was able to validate that for me, and I was able to send off my edits to groups as a whole.

When my mom calls, I frequently will say mid-conversation that I don’t want to problem solve whatever I’m talking about, I just want to talk about it. It took time to get to where we are now that she won’t problem solve, but we did get here. I talk, she listens and offers empathetic responses, and I go on with my day having been able to discuss whatever was bothering me.

I asked my very close friend if we could just chat about life on the phone for a little while last week, because I wanted to catch up with him and we are both very busy people. I was needing social, human connection, and I met that need by asking for it.

It’s still a work in progress to get away from self-depreciation in order to meet my needs. However, sentences like:

  • “I need _______ if you are able to validate/offer that!”
  • “Can we ____? I need socialization today.”
  • “How are you? Would you like to chat about life?”
  • “Let’s go do something when we’re both free!”

have made it much easier to achieve this. And I have been a much happier and healthier person for it.

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