4 Ways to Say What You WantI now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. ~Brene Brown
Do you ever fear that voicing your needs and desires —saying what you want — makes you selfish and will cause people to dislike you?
I used to be terrified of taking a stand for myself — saying “no” or “I don’t want to” or “I disagree.” I was so desperate to fit in and please others that I’d completely forgo my own wishes and innermost needs.
This denial of my truest self probably led to the anorexia I developed at the age of 10 — a disorder that I wouldn’t be able to shake off for 14 years.
Even when I got married, I did so despite my inner voice urging me to wait. Again, I listened to someone else’s wants at the expense of my own. So I said ‘I do,’ feeling slightly sick and knowing that I was walking down the wrong path.
I tried to be happy — and sometimes I was — but deep inside I was filled with extreme guilt, shame and doubts. I was determined to be in it for the long haul, but the inner conflict sapped my energy and brought me closer to the edge of self-destruction.
When I narrowly escaped death from my anorexia by only a few short weeks, I knew I needed to start being myself with all my own needs, wants and opinions. I needed to speak up, stand my ground and deal with the consequences.
The process of transforming into the real me was difficult, and — I have to admit — it did come with many hurt feelings and a lack of understanding from some of the people in my life.
But slowly, gently, I became myself for the first time in an eternity, and the freedom and peace of mind I experienced was, and still is, beyond anything I had ever felt before.
Voicing your needs takes courage, but it’s worth the effort. I know I’ll never return to a place of self-negation again. Ever.
But how exactly do you muster up the energy to stay true to yourself and your needs?
1. Learn to Love Yourself
I’m starting with the most difficult part, aren’t I? Well, the truth is that this is the most essential part of all. You will never fully stand up for yourself and be courageous enough to voice your own needs if you’re not comfortable with, and proud of, who you are.
Get to know yourself as you would a new partner or friend. Be curious about your wants and needs and don’t judge what you discover. Accept yourself fully — flaws and all — because everyone has them.
Commit to practicing self-care, using positive affirmations and giving yourself the credit you deserve on a daily basis. The longer you practice these things, the more confident you will be — and the better you’ll be able to say what you truly want.
Voicing your needs will come with setbacks. Some people won’t understand the changes or simply won’t want to accept them. You may even have to face the end of some relationships. If you don’t have a really strong relationship with yourself, it’s going to be hard to stay authentic.
2. The Reaction of Others is Not Your Responsibility
I had to learn this the hard way. From an early age, I always blamed other people’s moods on my actions. I believed I had done something wrong whenever they were mad, or grumpy or sad.
We’re only responsible for our own lives, moods and reactions. The way people react to you is not your responsibility. It’s completely out of your control. It’s also influenced by many factors that have nothing to do with you at all.
Some people will show grace and love when realizing that you’re finally starting to be yourself. They’ll understand that your needs are a reflection of who you are. They’ll see that saying what you want doesn’t mean you reject or judge them in any way.
Others won’t understand, but that’s OK. Don’t let that pull you down. You have just as much right to live your life the way you want as they have to live theirs.
3. Practice With Small Things
Take baby steps, practicing with someone you truly trust. Say no to going to the movies when you feel like staying at home. Pass up dessert if you’re already full, even when everyone else is having some. When someone asks your opinion about something, speak up.
Once you start to listen to your inner voice and give yourself permission to articulate what you want or need, your comfort zone will begin to expand.
4. Say Yes to Yourself
Voicing your needs always comes with the benefit of saying yes to yourself. When you need some time for yourself but your partner wants to be with you 24/7, explain that you need to recharge your energy.
When you want to go on a weekend getaway but your partner doesn’t, go alone. When you want to end a relationship because your partner doesn’t enrich your life anymore, don’t apologize. Relationships are a lot of work, and when they’re not worth it anymore, they need to end.
Once you know yourself inside and out — and truly respect yourself for who you are — this will all be easy. However, while you’re on the journey, it’s important to get a bit of perspective from time to time.
Remind yourself that you are perfectly fine just as you are, and your needs are not selfish, bad or too much. You can recognize that the other person’s needs are important as long as you are comfortable accepting the fact that yours are important too.
In the end, I left my husband. He couldn’t deal with the real me — the one who knew that she deserved to say what she felt and ask for what she wanted. I wish I had listened to my inner voice long before, but I’m more than elated that I’ve learned to do so now.
Voicing your needs will be scary at first, but it gets easier the more often you do it. Eventually, it will come naturally. I hope you’ll try it, because I promise you:
You’ll never want to go back to the self-negating you again.