My palms were sweating on my keyboard and my heart was beating fast. I was taking quick breaths and trying desperately to slow it down, while at the same time keep my words light, quick and snarky. I couldn’t believe that replying to an email could make me so anxious, but it did.
I read what I wrote. I re-read it. I changed the snarkiest line to make it lighter, then decided to be brave and changed it back. Then, before I could think any more about it, I clicked “send.”
You might think that I was signing my life away, telling someone off or serving someone with a lawsuit.
Nope, I was simply replying to a newsletter I subscribe to. I wasn’t even asking for anything. I just wanted to tell the author I thought she was incredible and how grateful I was for what she wrote.
It might sound funny, but the thought that I could matter to someone on the sending end of a fabulous newsletter was a foreign concept to me. I’m one of thousands, I thought. My mail would just be like junk. I would probably be adding to their already overfull inbox. I don’t want to be a burden.
If that’s not self-deprecating talk, I don’t know what is. Even as I re-read those words I think, fuck. Right?
A good friend and I were talking business one day and she casually mentioned how she often replies to the newsletters she likes from people I consider to be really big and famous. And I was like, You do that? While even more deeply, I was thinking, That’s a thing that I could do? It had never crossed my mind that it would be at all appropriate to hit the reply button and put a few words out there in response. (Not only did I not think it appropriate, I almost didn’t think it existed. Like, an email from a friend would have a reply button, but an email from a super successful entrepreneur? Mind blown).
The more we talked about this, the more I realized:
I have a problem asking for what I want in any situation in which I feel like asking would place an undue burden on the receiver.
And if you’re reading this, my guess is that you, too, may struggle with this.
Now, I’ve gotten better at this over the years. I’m good at asking my partner what I want (but it took several partners and a first marriage and divorce), I can ask my good friends for things, I can even approach someone with a big ask when I feel I have a benefit to offer them in return. But to just . . . ask? Ask someone I don’t know to pay attention to me? To give me a chance? To read my stuff? That scares the hell out of me.
And, from what I gather, this is very common for us highly sensitive people. We tend to be so giving, so serving of others, so accommodating to other’s needs that ours don’t even register. We get our toes stepped on and then we apologize. We have lots of big and perfectly reasonable feelings and beat ourselves up for “over-reacting.” We want to please. We don’t ever want to create conflict, and we sure as hell don’t want any criticism or rejection coming our way.
Asking is scary.
It’s also necessary for important life things.
Like creating and living in a conscious, loving relationship. For having friendships that don’t suck all your hard-earned energy out of you. For working your dream job. For designing your own career. For getting all of your needs met. You have to ask. You have to have a voice.
Often times, we don’t have a voice because we are scared of what other people will say because at some point sometime someone yelled at us. Or told us we were stupid. Or chastised us for causing trouble or getting involved. But, as the yoga sutras teach us, when avoid situations that scare us out of fear of something that happened in the past, we make that fear stronger, not weaker. When we avoid facing our fears and moving forward, not only do we make that fear stronger, we miss out on opportunities.
What have you missed out on because you’ve been too afraid to ask? What relationships have crumbled because you just couldn’t share your feelings and your needs? Your voice matters. It matters in the world, it matters to me, and I sure hope it starts to matter to you.
You can start now. Click over to the contact page and tell me what you think – tell me anything that’s on your mind. It can be about me and my offerings, or your dog and how muddy she got at the park. Your words matter. Your story matters. Your voice matters.
Need some courage? Try this series.