Asking for things, stating my needs, being clear about what I want: these are things that make me nervous. In fact, historically, I have often been pretty bad altogether about being honest about what I want or need.
When I think about why this is so, I realize it is because I somehow picked up the message that asking for things is selfish; that needing things is weak; that wanting things is too demanding and a burden on other people.
So instead of asking for things and stating what I need, I have often turned inward. I have often adopted a completely stoic stance towards life that causes me a lot of suffering. I have often repressed my desires and sometimes my dreams.
I know I am not the only person who struggles with stating needs. I think a lot of us struggle with this. Recently I realized that when we constantly fail to express this aspect of ourselves, it is a way we deny our ability to be ourselves fully and to be fully human.
Having needs is a normal and good part of being human. In fact, it is because of our unique personality and situation that we have the needs and desires that we do. For example, perhaps we need need deep conversations with people because we have a deep desire to find out answers to philosophical questions that haunt us. Or perhaps we need a lot of verbal encouragement and assurance because we suffered bullying instances when younger that shattered our confidence.
The point is that our needs are part of what makes us unique and original. There is nothing wrong with them, per se. It is in expressing them that we express our personhood more fully. As I have realized these things lately, I have been working on expressing my needs and desires more.
This can be really scary sometimes because there is always a chance I could express my needs, and the people I express them to may not be able or willing to meet them. I have learned that this is okay, too. Being willing to state our needs is one way we express our humanity fully. Having the right to set limits and boundaries (i.e. deciding not to meet people’s needs) is another way we express ourselves fully, too. We must grant these important forms of self-expression both to ourselves and others.
I have certainly had times when I expressed needs and people did not listen to me. This was hard. But I am so grateful because many times recently when I have expressed my needs to friends and loved ones, they have responded by showing me kindness and love and by meeting these expressions of myself. Every time this happens, it heals that wounded, raw part of my soul that whispers, “It is dangerous to need.”
This brings me to my recent adventures with expressing my needs to the Universe (which is really expressing my needs to friends, loved-ones, God, and all the other folks listening). The other day, I was hanging out in a hammock at my friend Luella’s house.
Luella has a really cool deck on the second floor of her house, and it set up so that you can hang two hammocks out there. So we were hanging out in hammocks, enjoying the beautiful trees and weather and chatting about life.
I felt so relaxed and peaceful, and I thought, “I really want a hammock.” I took a picture of my hammock adventures and posted it to Instagram. I wrote “Hanging out in a friend’s hammock and I never want to leave. Please buy me a hammock for Christmas. I am sending it out to the Universe.”
I wrote this as a joke, but I also thought to myself, “Well, you never know.” I promptly forgot it.
And then a day later, a friend wrote me and said, “Shelly, what is your favorite color?” (It is dark purple and blue.)
She told me that a present was on the way. Today it arrived, and it was (you guessed it) the most gorgeous purple and blue hammock. I couldn’t believe it, and I could also totally believe it. (Thank you so much, Hammock Friend. You are amazing!)
Here is something I forget sometimes that perhaps you forget too: There are certainly a lot of bad things in the world, but there is also so much love in the world. There are so many people that want to show us love; that want to help us make our dreams come true; that want to tell us the words we need to hear. One of the ways we find them is by asking, by expressing what we need and desire.
I know asking is scary—especially if you have had people shame you, bully you, scold you, neglect you when you expressed your needs and desires. I am so sorry this happened to you, Friend. I have had this happen to me, too.
I am not saying that it is easy to express this aspect of ourselves. I just want to say it is okay, and you are worth it.
 I understand that we could have distorted needs and desires that could lead us to engage in self-destructive behaviors or to dominate and hurt other people. I believe these are unhealthy needs and desires and have to be worked through in therapy or other healing ways.