So, I have a flaw. Yes, I have more than one, you smart asses — but this is the one I am choosing to talk about today. And, I think that the revelation of this flaw and the proposed solution might help you. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that you, my loyal readers, possess the same exact flaw. At least to some degree.

My flaw: I don’t like to ask people for things. Period. End of story.

There are multiple reasons why.

  1. Sometimes the “giver” in me is at odds with the “getter.” I enjoy giving much more than I enjoy getting.I have a hard time meshing the two.
  2. Basically, I don’t like to inconvenience people. This is the most popular reason.
  3. I think that subconsciously, I view asking for help as a sign of weakness. I am an independent adult and independent adults don’t ask for help. Or do they?
  4. Occasionally, I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings — because, let’s admit it, sometimes my needs/wants are in direct conflict with your needs/wants.
  5. I avoid conflict as much as humanly possible. If I think that requesting something of you (even if it is just asking you to be quiet) might hurt your feelings or make you angry, I probably won’t say anything.

Although the reasons are as varied as the day is long, I can say with unequivocal certainty that my occasional inability to let people know what I need (or don’t need) from them backfires on me a lot. I am sincerely trying to get better at this because I truly believe that when I am happy and my needs are being met adequately, the people around me are happy and I am better equipped to be the best person I can be.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

Occasionally, I crave complete solitude. I have a busy schedule. My husband has a busy schedule. Our kids have busy schedules. We, like most other people I know, cram an inordinate amount of “stuff” into every day. There are meetings, play-dates, family gatherings, work, chores, etc. etc. There are very few moments where I am not engulfed by the ceaseless chatter of my children (and other people’s children), the needs of my team and customers at work, the nurturing of the relationship between my husband and me, the problems/challenges of friends who are looking for advice, and the drone of everyday life (food shopping, doctor’s appointments, laundry, etc). Sometimes I just want to be by myself. Because ocasionally that is good for me and it helps me be a better mother, wife, mentor, friend, and family member. But, when word leaks out about a free block of time in my calendar — I suddenly end up with people who want my company or have needs. Right then and there. My mom wants a day at the beach. My kids want to go to the movies — or better yet, want to invite 5 of their friends over for an afternoon. My team needs a coaching call. My in-laws want to have dinner. Oftentimes, I end up filling in my blocks of solitude with other people’s “stuff” when I know damn well I would be better off keeping my “me” time reserved on the calendar. I do that because, as I stated above, the giver fights with the getter and I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. Not fair to me though, right?

In neglecting my needs to cater to the ongoing needs of others, what am I doing? I am preventing myself from being at my absolute best. If I don’t get my needs met (even if they are basic and simple), how can I effectively meet the needs of others? How can I be a better wife? How can I be more influential at work? How can I lead by example for my children?

Sure, there are other examples and I know you all can relate: staying home to help with a last minute school project when what was originally on the calendar was a trip to the gym, volunteering (or being volunteered) for a task when you are already over scheduled as it is, not asking your spouse for help around the house because he works hard and is tired (like you aren’t), going to that get-together that you have no desire to attend but you don’t want to hurt the host’s feelings, asking someone to just listen instead of always talking over you, admitting that you have a challenge and you need people’s support. The list goes on and on and I know I am not unique here. How do I know? Because I have had conversations with many of you about this — or I have heard your occasional grumbling firsthand.

I’ve come to a conclusion. I’ve decided that the people who know me and love me and are involved in my life need to know how I feel more often. I believe that there are people who want to be better at the role they play in my life, and I have been begrudging them the opportunity to be better. If they don’t know what is on my mind or what I need, I am taking away the opportunity to let them be their best as well, and that really isn’t fair. It’s really not fair to tell my husband that, “No, it’s alright. I’ll do the dishes,” and then stew at him for not helping. It’s not fair to my children to say yes to that last minute play-date and then nag at them later because I truly wasn’t up for it. I am denying my team the opportunity to effectively problem solve when I agree to bail them out over and over again.

I think this realisation might help you, as well, so that is why I am sharing with you today. Ask for what you want. Tell people what you don’t want. Don’t be afraid of hurting people’s feelings. Don’t sell yourself short. Be your own best friend. You are important, too, and when your needs are met you are much better equipped to help the ones you love the most.

Charlie Brown therapist

Have a great day! XO