I stood in line, waiting my turn to weigh in, impatient.
I glared at everyone in front of me, including the Weight Watchers staff members. Fuming at how long it was taking, this ridiculous weekly weigh-in session at seven in the morning. Usually a time of the day I don’t willingly acknowledge. And the insufferable and endless chatting! Just step on the scale and be done already.
Clearly, I had not had coffee. Everyone knows that you don’t eat or drink anything before weighing in, because a full bladder could be your doom.
Finally, I was next to endure the chirpy questions and numbers on the scale when a lady wandered in front of me, waving a paper and needing assistance. She was new to the program and registered online and now had this paper and didn’t quite know what to do. The leader placed her in front of me in line so that she would be next, and it was made clear that this lady’s registration would take a long time to process.
And I fumed some more. Silently.
Suddenly, I had an important choice to make. I could somehow advocate for myself (and my hijacked place in line) and get coffee that much sooner, or I could suck it up and shove down my frustration and wait my turn. (A third option – start yelling and throwing elbows – was clearly not appropriate.)
“Excuse me,” I said to the lady. “I have an important appointment after this (with my coffee), and I was wondering if I might just weigh in before you so I can get going.”
“Oh, absolutely!” she said. “I’m retired, so I can take all the time I need.”
She waved me in front of her, and I stepped up to the scale and felt… weird. And awesome. Not only had I advocated for my own needs, but it had worked!
Putting My Needs First Felt…Strange
I reflected on that moment for the rest of the day, wondering why I had felt so hesitant and awkward, and surprised that not only had I identified my own needs, but I had asked for what I needed and that it felt so strange. So many times, I find myself putting the needs of others in front of my own.
Finishing up that last project detail before leaving work for the day. Staying up late to finish laundry or dishes. Trying to get a meal on the table that isn’t hot dogs or spaghetti. Feeling like I am the only one who is doing anything around here
I end up silently resenting everyone else, stuffing down my feelings, and quite possibly adding to the ulcer that may or may not be blooming in my gut.
Women especially in our culture have been trained to put their needs behind those of family, work, and household, so much so that advocating for ourselves feels, at best, awkward. Practicing the art of asking for what we need is essential for good mental and physical health. And it is definitely easier than you think.
Believe What You Need is Important
As women, we often use the word “deserve” when it comes to getting our needs met. Do we ever once think, “I will listen to my children’s needs today, because on this day, they deserve it.” Or do we think the opposite, which is, “I won’t respond to my children’s needs because they do not deserve it.” No, we simply respond to their needs because we love them.
We are worth that same kind of love. We can’t ask for what we need when we don’t believe that we’re worth getting those needs met. The foundational secret to getting our needs met is to believe that – “deserving” or not – we are valuable. Worthy of love. Important enough to consider and be heard
Our ideas and thoughts and voices matter, and too often we are convinced that they do not. Write it on the mirror or your forehead in permanent marker if you have to – “You matter, simply because you are.”
Practice Identifying Your Needs
Many of us have been trained since birth to be coy, that it isn’t polite to be direct, that if others “really loved me, they would know what I need.” This robs us of both our responsibility and our power. We have the ability to figure out what our needs and feelings and thoughts actually are, and we have the power to communicate them.
If we are tired, maybe we need a nap, or we missed lunch, or we need to stop and take a breath and sip some water. Knowing that we need to do these things is half the battle
Simply Take What You Need
This might seem like a road straight to Jerkville, but taking what we need doesn’t mean that we have to be aggressive or angry. Once we have identified what we’re about, we can simply take that which makes us flourish.
I like people, but I have a definite cut-off point and sometimes I need to be alone. I can now identify that and separate myself. Other times, I feel a bit depressed and need to snuggle with my kids; I can take time with them, too. Treat yourself with activities and time and special gifts so that you can be simply who you are, not just who you are to other people.
Ask for Help to Get Your Needs Met
When I first started asking my partner for what I needed, I felt awkward and even guilty. We started joking around about it, adding the word “Respectfully” to the beginning of every sentence. This basically provides the freedom to say whatever you want – “Respectfully, I need you to get off your butt and help with dinner.
It broke the tension and helped me feel less awkward, but the point is that I started asking for what I needed and it worked. My family responded to my requests because now they had valuable information. Clearly, this idea had worked its way outward to other parts of my life, especially when I need coffee and someone hijacks my spot in line.
Practice Asking Others What They Need
One of the best ways to keep on top of your own needs is to ask people about their needs. My best friends and I often contact each other when things aren’t right, during those days when you haven’t been able to get a shower and one of the kids is puking and you’re behind at work and everything is overwhelming and emotionally charged. Once the venting has been done, we ask each other, “What do you need?”
This is probably the best question in the history of earth, and it continually reminds me that I can also ask myself this question when I start to spiral and feel out of control and resentful.
I am worth the time and effort it takes to figure out what I need.