Say What You Need
I grew up in an enthusiastically loud and beautifully large family. I am wholeheartedly and eternally grateful for each one of my siblings. When you grow up with a lot of brothers and sisters, you naturally have to sacrifice some of your own wants and desires. Sharing clothes and shoes and rooms and cars is the norm.
And in many ways, this is a really good thing. It teaches you not to be possessive or selfish. It pulls you out of yourself and allows you to focus on others.
But I think it can potentially cause you to subconsciously, or sometimes consciously, stop speaking your needs. When I was young, this wasn’t much of a problem because that third chocolate chip cookie wasn’t so much a need as it was a want.
As I walk through the different seasons of my twenties, however, I am learning that the needs of my heart are exactly that: they are needs. Not wants, but needs for my emotional and spiritual well-being.
Now maybe it wasn’t your family or your upbringing that made you neglect voicing your needs. Maybe it was a toxic relationship or a difficult work environment. Maybe it was someone who told you that your needs were selfish or that the desires of your heart didn’t matter.
Whatever it was, I urge you to identify those people or experiences or situations and start using that knowledge to change.
I was at dinner one night and my friend looked at me across the table and asked me, “What do you need?” I was taken aback. No one had asked me that in a long time. A really really long time.
People tend to ask questions such as, “What do you want?” and, “What can I do for you?” and, “What makes you happy?” But how often do we look at one another, truly look, and ask, “What do you need?”
At the time of that unexpected question, I couldn’t answer it with any certainty. I didn’t know what I needed.
But since that dinner conversation, I have begun to think more and more about what it is that I need. I spent some silent time pondering the depths of my heart and the fears that I tend to suppress on a daily basis.
I am not perfect at it by any means, but I am now much more likely to speak my needs. If I am having a rough day, I will text a friend and ask for a word of encouragement. If I am unsure about a decision, I will speak up and say that I need some time to discern what is best. If I am holding onto some hurt, I will tell someone that I need to talk it out. If I am proud of an accomplishment, I will ask my family and friends to celebrate with me. If I need a quick break at work, I will ask a coworker to help me. If I need a hug, I will ask my sister (fun fact: according to some therapists, you need at least three hugs a day to function as a normal human being).
So this is an invitation and an encouragement for us all: let’s think about and speak our needs. Let’s take time to ask ourselves what we need in order to be fully alive and fully present and fully ourselves. And when we figure out what it is that we need, let’s have the confidence to say it.
Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.
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