How to ask for what you want

I was at the 24-hour grocery store with my boyfriend late at night, loitering in the baked goods section as we do, and I saw an absolutely hideous cake. It was bright yellow, all melted-looking, brown smudges all over the top of it. Right beside it was a similarly bright yellow cake, but with intentionally-placed strawberries, as well as the word “Mango” handwritten in brown icing.

I mean the second one was pretty stupid-looking too, but something wrong had definitely happened to the other one. The first thing I thought was that maybe I could get it for free! I picked it up and told my boyfriend that I’d take it to the cash and ask if I could take it home. He hated the idea. I told him I wouldn’t be stealing it, I would only be asking, and if they turned me down I would leave it, but it made him super uncomfortable that I would ask to take something home for free that had a price tag on it.

At the cash, I said “I found this in the fridge. It’s not looking very good, if you don’t think you’ll be able to sell it, can I have it?”

And guess what?

It didn’t work. She said no. She was a bit snarky about it actually, but that’s okay. In hindsight, that kind of call probably wasn’t the cashier’s to make anyway.

I’m not like, trying to say I’m wise or anything (also not saying I’m not…), but my boyfriend always tells me that this moment stuck with him, because in his mind, getting what you want involves a sort of dance where you try to manipulate someone into willingly giving you something without ever asking for it. Or something like that.

What if you just asked? What if you trusted other people to tell you the truth, and what if you made it okay for them to turn you down? What’s the worst that could happen?

Asking for what I want is basically a daily practice for me. I live in a shared home, so there is ample opportunity for communicating needs, which is ultimately what this comes down to (like the need for cake, obvi).

People can’t read your mind, so it’s up to you to communicate what you want. It’s also important because if you’re not careful, you’ll relegate things that seem too big to ask for to the “impossible” file in your head, and you don’t want to do that to your dreams.

 

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Happiness and social significance

I was reading this article by Tony Robbins the other day. He says that every person has 6 basic needs, and these are what motivate us. If we are present and know ourselves, we will seek to fulfill these needs in healthy ways; if not, we might use means that get the job done, but create new problems.

“Significance” was one of the needs that he listed. It was interesting to me that he treated this need as one equal to something like “love and connection,” because in so many personal development and spiritual teachings, the idea that we may need to feel significant is the mark of a greedy ego. We understand through these texts that self-worth, value and importance are inherent and so because they are ever-present we shouldn’t try to cultivate them, yet it’s something that so many of us simply don’t feel.

Therefore, though some of us still have a desperate need to feel big, valued, important, the most useful advice we’re given is to quiet down and meditate, because we should know that we already are.

Even though that can work, it avoids the acknowledgment that feeling important is a valid reason to do things.

Why is this so hard to admit?

Because of an internalized belief that being important may belittle someone else, and you are not supposed to be better than the other. Even in this age of embracing individualism, there remain loud whispers, relics from childhood traumas, that tell us not to feed our egos, that we should be small, pleasant, agreeable, and that no one likes a show-off. That we shouldn’t do anything for attention.

Learning that feeling important is essential to happiness can not only attribute a reason to some of our behaviours, but it can allow us to let ourselves off the hook for them.

An example from my life:

For the past few weeks I’ve been practising yoga every day, and it’s really helped how I feel in both my mind and body. I have, however, contemplated the possibility that I would feel differently about my practice, or maybe wouldn’t have one at all, if I didn’t think that I’d gain some sort of social benefit from it. For better or for worse, yoga is trendy, and even though I genuinely love it, and even though my practice isn’t really something I talk a lot about, it’s possible that I envision myself as held higher in others’ regard for doing it.

Though initially the thought of this did not feel good, ultimately, I think it’s totally fine that this factors in to why I feel motivated to practise every day. I’m getting stronger and I feel happier.

But I do believe we should be aware of it. There are three reasons I think it’s always worth considering whether or not a behaviour is partly or only serving the need for significance:

  1. The requirements for social significance can change, and you want to be prepared for it. What if people stopped venerating yogis in popular culture? My need for significance would not be served and I would need to find a different avenue for it. I’d much rather do this consciously than risk engaging in rash or unhealthy behaviours.
  2. Significance can be found in healthy and unhealthy behaviours. If you are aware that a behaviour is serving your need for significance, you can better evaluate that behaviour independently of whatever significance you think you’re finding from it, and determining whether you should try to find significance elsewhere. Yoga is good for me, and doesn’t hurt anyone else, and so I don’t see a downside to using this as a means to feel significant.
  3. You might be depriving yourself from experiencing something wonderful because you don’t want to allow yourself to feel significance from it. Or, in the inverse situation, you turn down opportunities because, subconsciously, it doesn’t serve your throbbing need for significance; but if you were to have that need met, you would be able to open yourself up to experiences that met any of your other needs. You’d be able to trust the nudges that you get without first judging them for how much recognition they will get you.

It’s important to draw a distinction between searching for significance and searching for self-acceptance, but finding significance can be incredibly affirming on the journey to discovering your intrinsic value.

 

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Arrive

I was doing a yoga video the other day, and the teacher instructed viewers to “arrive” on our mats. This idea has stuck with me since, even though it’s a concept that, really, we’ve all heard over and over. “Be present.” “Be in the moment.” “Your power is in the now.”

But that day, I really heard it. If you’ve decided on a course of action, it’s because you think you’ll receive some payoff from it. But if you don’t “arrive”, you block yourself off from the very thing you wanted from it in the first place.

I wasn’t going to feel the benefits of my practice if I was still fighting against the idea of doing it. If I was thinking about the dishes I still had to wash when I went back to the kitchen, or the phone call I missed while I was in the shower. Even innocent thoughts would cause me to miss out on the entire point of what I had chosen to do.

What’s the point of doing anything if you haven’t arrived?

Pretty much across the board, it feels worse to fight against what is currently happening, and it’s foolish to take yourself out of something you’ve specifically chosen to feel better.

Simply allowing your mind to catch up with your body, to arrive, allows your alignment to click into place. It takes one moment of intention and it makes all the difference.

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Thoughts a single person might find annoying

I’ve felt a range of different ways about myself while being in a relationship with the same person. And so, being told and shown that I am loved has made me feel a range of different things.

I have been shown love and it has bounced right off me because I didn’t feel it. I have been shown love and it has comforted me in the same kind of addictive way ice cream does, and I’ve gobbled it down hungrily instead of facing what was actually bothering me. The first situation is a bit of a tragedy, because something is being offered that isn’t being received, and the second has the potential to get unhealthy by creating a giver-and-taker situation, because the taker doesn’t have the capacity to give anything in return.

It’s something of a cliché, but I think that the really wonderful thing about having a partner is not that you get to be loved, but that you have the opportunity to love. It’s in moments of loving, of simply imagining them and enjoying the sensations, that you realize you’re not thinking about yourself anymore, you’re thinking about them. And that feels so damn great, especially as someone with depressive and anxious tendencies.

If you’re able to get to a place where you feel whole, and genuinely happy with who you are, as infrequent as it may be, it expands your capacity for loving others. How you feel when you are being loved by someone is so dependent on how you already feel about yourself, but in the warm fuzzies of loving someone else, being loved back is just extra.

I’ve been in a place where my primary desire was to find a great romance, for myself. Which is fine, and there’s nothing wrong with human desire, but I just find it interesting now that the best thing about my relationship is being able to love my partner.

But like, if loving is the best part of a relationship, and loving is free and loving is legal and loving can be done from great distances, you could teeeeechnically do that without being in a relationship, right?

Mmm, too far.

K bye.

 

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I do not apologize.

I got this idea from Courtney at The Rule Breaker’s Club. This is so cathartic, a highly recommended exercise.

I do not apologize for being tender.

I do not apologize for being sensitive.

I do not apologize for being afraid.

I do not apologize for being weird.

I do not apologize for being the weirdest person you’ve ever met.

I do not apologize for not liking myself.

I do not apologize for loving myself despite not being loveable.

I do not apologize for loving myself despite not being who I want to be yet.

I do not apologize for being patient towards myself.

I do not apologize for not being there yet.

I do not apologize for being daring.

I do not apologize for putting myself in difficult situations.

I do not apologize for feeling everything deeply.

I do not apologize for being human.

I do not apologize for panic attacks in the middle of a conversation, even if they make me seem like a crazy person.

I do not apologize for needing to learn lessons the hard way.

I do not apologize for trusting the wrong person with my heart.

I do not apologize for not being the strong woman of my dreams.

I do not apologize for being weak.

I do not apologize for being in transition.

I do not apologize for being different than you thought.

I do not apologize for changing.

I do not apologize for getting worse.

I do not apologize for getting better.

I do not apologize for being me, every version of me.

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My emergency toolkit for anxiety. This, too, shall pass.

The goal here is to get out of your mind when your thoughts are racing. Try these:

:: Get on the floor. Do a plank for as long as you can.

:: Do some relaxing yoga, or some intense yoga.

:: Run or exercise for as long as you need to. I’ve stayed out running/walking for 3 hours before.

:: Play a game. Disney trivia?

:: Check things off your to-do list. Just get stuff done.

:: Do before you think.

:: Listen to this. Here’s why. (In a nutshell, scientists are involved, it’s meant to slow your heart rate and induce sleep. I listened to this NONSTOP during my most recent–and worst–anxiety spell, and credit a lot of my recovery to it.)

:: Or this. Cry a bit.

:: Or THIS.

:: Write! Journal!

:: Scream. Hey, don’t knock it. It works. Use a pillow if you don’t want to freak people out.

:: Call a crisis line if you even think you might need to.

:: Slow your breathing.

:: Do some deep belly breathing or breath of fire, which is the breathing shown in this video. Also, do that meditation, it’s great.

:: Meditate. Watch your thoughts. That’s all they are.

:: This one I got from a therapist, and it isn’t that bad. Name 5 things you can see, then 5 you can feel, then 5 you can hear. Describe. Repeat.

:: Find sunshine. Bask in it.

:: Clean something.

:: Create a small, actionable goal and achieve it. Or do something for which focus is absolutely necessary, and then give yourself a treat.

:: Swear.

:: Watch intensely as the seconds go by on a clock. Count slowly. Try to sync your breathing to your counting.

:: Watch some comedy.

:: Watch Harry Potter.

:: Find some puppies and cuddle. Or just Youtube them.

:: If you like to drive, drive somewhere. Anywhere. Preferably somewhere new. Play some music. Chase a sunset.

:: Drink lots of water.

:: Ask your angels for support. Release your burdens to them. They want to help.

:: Postpone your worry. Designate time for worrying, and time for relaxation. Create strict timeframes. That way, you can rest assured that if something needs worrying about, you’ll get to it.

:: See a therapist.

:: Read and learn about relaxation and thought control.

:: Do something that scares you a little bit (but would be good for you), like an open mic, for example. The adrenaline will get you RIGHT out of your current cycle. Sometimes even just thinking about realistically doing this is enough to break the pattern.

:: Cry it out. All of it. Watch some sad movies, if that helps.

:: Give yourself somewhere to go, something to do or collaborate on, and someone to report back to.

:: Paint.

:: Play guitar, or other instrument.

:: Climb a mountain.

:: Watch children be children. Or sing. (This is another one I’m so thankful to have found. The song is about 3/4 way through.)

:: Read this.

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Regrets? Stop it.

This certainty that if you could, you would magically transport yourself back to the moment you made the decision you question today. You would be different than you were.

You think that somehow, you are capable of willingly doing something horrible.

But really, the feeling of regret is not an indication that you’ve done something wrong. You feel pain because you can’t accept that at the time, you did exactly what was best for everyone involved.

Regret means you’re ready to be forgiven. It is a call to forgive yourself in this very moment.

No matter what your belief system, you are always doing the thing you think will help you feel better than you currently feel. Either that, or you are testing the waters of unhappiness, discovering whether or not they are bearable, and if happiness is really worth the effort. Even then, though, you are weighing discomfort of unhappiness against the discomfort of effort, deciding which one will make you feel better.

Fake cliché story I will invent now:

You’ve been cheated on. Do you trash his car, or do you move on, and “be the better person”? Which one will make you happier? Which one will feel better? For some people, the answer is clear. For others, it isn’t. Maybe both seem equally satisfying. Maybe both options feel terrible.

Maybe you think you probably shouldn’t destroy his car because you might feel a little guilty later, but maybe the ecstasy of payback will drown it out. So, you trash it. It turns out it was his sweet old mother’s car, which she had spent her life’s savings on. You feel terrible. Birth of regret.

You find out the cheating story was a rumour. Worse.

Or maybe it was his car, and he did cheat on you, but you feel so much worse than you thought. It wasn’t worth it. Birth of regret.

In any of these cases, your knowledge of what it meant to feel guilty was not clear enough to motivate a decision you wouldn’t regret. 

How do we know what a “good” decision is, without knowing what a “bad” one feels like? Stories aren’t enough. We learn through experience. What does a “bad” decision mean, if it is, itself, necessary for “good” ones to exist?

Who you were is not a story, a decision, or the product of an outcome. Who you were, are, and will be is always a moment. The present. Regret is self-punishment, but the one you are punishing is the person you are NOW, not who you were then. You are punishing the person who has grown, evolved, become greater. Doesn’t seem very fair, does it?

Regret is an opportunity to accept that you did the best you could then, just as you are doing now. And we all know that we are who we are partly because of our mistakes, aches and pains. You needed (and wanted) the lesson in exactly the way you got it–and if you are feeling regret, then you did get it.

Forgiveness is practice for the next time you mess up.

It’s a penny in the bank.

It’s betting on the process of life. Which, by the way, is the only way to feel peace.

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