Taking Care of Yourself 101: Asking for What You Want
It seems like every day I run into someone who doesn’t take care of themselves. This has become an epidemic, and I believe that it has dire consequences for our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.
Jodie works for a small company in the marketing department. She has worked there for 5 years and feels that she deserves a more substantial raise. Her boss tells her how the bad economy has impacted their business but she is starting to feel resentful and angry. Why doesn’t her boss see how hard she is working and what a great job she is doing?
Mary and Sarah, recently married with two young children, struggle with household chores. Mary feels like she does most everything. Sarah “helps” when she asks but doesn’t seem to “see” the things that need to be done (you know the drill—laundry, dishes, and everything else). But Mary doesn’t know how to get Sarah’s attention. She is starting to feel bitter.
Marie is 80 years old and she has two daughters. Her youngest daughter is 55 and doesn’t visit her very often. Marie feels hurt and angry. But she is reluctant to ask her daughter to come to see her more frequently.
All of these adults share two characteristics. They are reluctant to ask for what they want and as a result, they feel resentment.
Resentment is anger that we hold on to. It’s bad for you! It is like putting oil in your gas tank. Everything gets gunked up! It can over stimulate your sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight mechanism) and can lead to high blood pressure, chronic muscle pain, and headache. It can also depress your immune system and make you more prone to catching colds and other illnesses. It can lead to depression. And it makes you tired and tense.
So what stops Jodie from asking for a raise? What keeps Mary from talking to Sarah about how to organize housework differently? What prevents Marie from asking her daughter to visit more often?
This is what they think:
“The other person should know what I need.” Many adults who are pretty good at perceiving others needs are particularly prone to thinking that everyone “should” be just like them. Human beings, as a species, are pretty bad at mind reading! Most people are not so great at sensing what others need. Sure we might be pretty tuned into our kids, but may not be so much to others.
“If I have to tell them what I want, it doesn’t count.” At the end, if others give you what you need, they are being there for you; whether you asked them or they figured it out on their own.
“What if she says no?” What if she does? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Sure if you don’t ask for you want, you won’t be disappointed. But you also may end up feeling resentful.
“I don’t want to be selfish.” Asking for (and sometimes stating it strongly) doesn’t make you selfish! Being selfish is never giving to others! It has nothing to do with asking for what you need.
Asking for what you want and need is taking care of you. When you are a child, it is your parent’s responsibility to take care of you. But when you are an adult, it is your job to take care of yourself—no one else’s. Don’t blame others for not being able to read your mind.
Be persistent. Sometimes, it takes more than one conversation for others to get the message. Frequently, adults give up to soon (while teenagers, of course, don’t give up soon enough!). Change takes time.
Make your case. Be direct. Let the other person know why it is important to you. Let them know how important it is to you. Taking care of yourself by asking for what you need is healthy. It means that you are taking care of yourself as well as you take care of others.
Do you take good care of yourself?