In the last few weeks, I’ve begun to notice a trend in a few of the conversations I’ve been involved in. What I’ve recognized is that the people I’m talking to have been able to say what they need. Impressively, one of those conversations took place with a female adolescent. I was amazed at her ability to be aware of and share what she needs as she was discussing a disagreement she’d had with a friend. She was clear and definitive about the fact that she needs “open, honest communication and closure” in interactions with peers. This resonated with me. I don’t think I began to learn this lesson until I was in my 30’s!! And I’m still trying to figure it out at times.
Then a few days later a colleague was sharing about a business opportunity and was hesitant about what an organization was proposing for her. Rather than ignoring her unsettled feelings and just jumping at this opportunity to make money, she was honest with them about her reservations and what she needed to feel good about accepting the job. As things would go they were responsive to her requests and it looks like it will be a good prospect for her. I love when the universe honors us when we speak up.
I haven’t always been good at this and I’m still practicing but I’ve learned that it is essential if we are going to take care of ourselves that we have to say what we need. I grew up conditioned to think about others and their needs before my own. In fact, it took me a long time to feel ok about even recognizing and admitting I had needs in the first place, let alone communicate them to someone. I used to feel that having needs and expressing them was selfish. I know of others who can relate to that feeling as well.
Often times, it may seem easier to just focus on other people and take care of them instead of slowing down and reflecting on what we feel or need. It’s easy to stay busy and ignore ourselves. The challenge with that is that we can’t ignore ourselves for ever. A therapist once told me that “our feelings will not be denied”. We can repress them or pretend they don’t exist but they will eventually come out. They may make a grand entrance in an emotional explosion (that is often triggered by a small incident). Or perhaps they will appear in the form of a physical ailment (illness, ulcer, digestive condition, headache, etc.) I, for one, do not like being sick, I’m assuming you don’t either. So think about how beneficial it could be to say what you need (or want or feel) as it surfaces. It is ok to say “no” or “yes” or “maybe later” or “no thank you” or “I need a moment” or “I need a break” or “I need a nap” or “I need help”…etc. Those things are not always easy to say, but again, it’s ok to say what you need. As I write this, lyrics from the song by Sara Bareilles, Brave, come to mind.
“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I want to see you be brave”.
It may take an act of courage to say what you need but you owe it to yourself to take that step. I am confident that it gets easier the more you practice doing it, it has for me. I’m glad I’m learning to stop and check in with myself to see what I need (or want) and then voicing that need to others. There are still times as I’m growing, that I have to say “I’m not sure how I feel or what I need. So let me take a minute to think about it and get back to you”. This allows me to check in with myself first rather than going into my default mode which is to quickly do what everyone else wants or expects from me.
My hope is that each of us can continue to practice taking care of ourselves, being “Brave”, so we are whole enough to then help those around us.