I’ve never been the assertive type. I’m more the wallflower, the people pleaser, the one who wants to keep the peace. I like harmony; if it’s there, I like to keep it; if it’s not, I like to create it.
I have rarely asked for what I want in life. It’s partly because I a) automatically assume it’s too demanding b) don’t think that it’s really of value and c) I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. So, for years I’ve just stuffed my own needs down into an invisible pocket, pushing them out of sight, and ignoring that little voice in my head that was quietly saying, “But wait, that’s not what I said! THAT’S not what I want!”. I’m really good at squashing and silencing that voice.
Slowly, I’ve been learning to express my own desires. It’s not been easy. My instinct is to run and hide from them. To push them down so that I don’t put them on anyone else, so I don’t become a burden. But gradually, that tiny voice is learning to escape, to make itself heard, even if it’s just a whisper.
I can’t really pinpoint when it started or exactly how. But I can say that as I have become more clear about what I want, I have developed less tolerance for hiding that.
Returning to work from maternity leave was arduous. I was miserable. I was barely sleeping, and my emotions were all over the place. I was constantly on the verge of tears, and felt as I was just one crisis away from a meltdown. My son was still recovering from colic, and I was really grappling with spending so much time away from him.
I dreamed of working part time, but assumed that it would never be allowed. I was struggling so intensely, but it never occurred to me that there might be another way. I just assumed that it would be too much of a burden to even ask!
Ten months later, feeling more emotionally stable and slightly less sleep deprived, it occurred to me that being away from home so much was not what I wanted. I had stewed on it for months, and finally realized that I needed learn from my past mistake and at least ask for what I wanted. The worst that could happen was that they’d say no.
So ask I did. They wondered why I hadn’t asked sooner. At that, so did I.
Then something totally unexpected happened. My boss came back to me, about a week later, and said that I could do it. That I could work four days a week. I was astounded, flabbergasted, so incredibly surprised that I had actually gotten what I asked for.
I’d been so busy assuming it was impossible that I wasn’t able to imagine it might actually be an option.
I realized that all the pain and torment I had put myself through had
mostly been my own doing. That if I had really valued what I wanted, and believed that my needs and wishes were important, I could have saved myself a lot of mental anguish.
I always thought that saying “Ask and you shall receive” was too good to be true. But here’s life, tearing down my assumptions once again. Are you good at knowing what you want? Do you ask for what you want? Tell me a little bit about it in the comments!