How I learnt to ask for what I want

by | Feb 7, 2023


I was raised to be the typical good girl, not just with my parents but with school, family and any ‘authority’. I heard familiar phrases like ‘Saying ‘I want’ gets nothing’, ‘so-and-so‘s children don’t ask all the time for things they want’, ‘nothing in life comes easy’, ‘no pain no gain.’ All of these messages emphasised that what I wanted wasn’t ok or was ‘too much’ and that anything I wanted will be hard work to get. 

I understand the well-meaning intentions of these statements, however they were like cages that I locked myself into. Coupled with an emotionally abusive relationship in my teenage years, it left me with little internal connection to what I wanted because what I had chosen had ended up in such a disaster.  I didn’t trust myself. 

When it came to intimacy, I clammed up if a partner asked me what I wanted. It was like there was an invisible hand over my mouth. That invisible hand was so strong. When a partner asked what I wanted, I would shake my head in a timid ‘I don’t know’ gesture. I couldn’t even say ‘I don’t know’ because I felt so stupid. If a partner asked if I enjoyed something, I would nod, even though I might not be enjoying it as I didn’t know what else to say.  Or, I thought I ‘should’ be enjoying it and I would question myself. 

I would lie in bed and have sex when I didn’t really want to or I wasn’t ready but didn’t know what to say. Even in my 20s, the messages of ‘lie back and think of England’ during sex were floating around in my mind. I didn’t realise that I had needs and that they mattered. I didn’t realise that I had a right to experience pleasure as much as the man I was with. 

I didn’t know this at the time but looking back I was terrified of intimacy. I didn’t know why I was so stuck. I remember a partner saying to me once – ‘why is it that you can’t communicate about this.’ Again, I just shook my head feeling so embarrassed and stupid. I know this was part of the reason the relationship broke down as it became a growing and awkward chasm between the two of us.

I can see now that one of the reasons I took to alcohol and drugs in the way I did was that they helped to release me from the cages I had built around my voice. Although this was not healthy or sustainable, my soul was searching for freedom and for a while it did help.

I thought there was something so wrong with me and I thought this was a situation that I just have to live with. Thankfully, something in me knew I had to face all of this. Understanding why I didn’t know what I wanted, exploring the dynamics and the patterns that I was experiencing has been one of the most rewarding and liberating things that I have ever done. It’s why it is always my joy to support clients to do the same. 

Here are some of the key things I have learnt on my journey to asking for what I want:

  1. I didn’t really know what I wanted. I had to create space and time to get to know what I wanted. It involved questioning everything. Where had I adopted other people’s beliefs about what is good for me? Why was I believing X or doing Y? Do I really want to do these things? What am I saying YES to that I would love to say NO to? What would I REALLY love to be doing/experiencing? I examined everything in my life – my relationships, friends, work, everything. 

This is an ongoing journey of tuning into what I want, what matters to me and what lights me up; from the bigger picture of how I truly want to live my life… to moment to moment decisions of what do I want to do today. 

One of the most important things I did was I committed to one year of not doing the things that I felt I ‘should’. There were so many things I believed I ‘should’ especially when it came to work. I quickly realised that no one even noticed when I stepped out of meetings or said ‘no’ to the things I didn’t want to be doing. I saw how many stories I had created in my mind. I cannot express how powerful and liberating this was. Since then, I examine everything I feel I ‘should’ do and 99% of the time I do not do it. 

  1. I had to understand the dynamics of why I didn’t express what I wanted. Why didn’t I say NO and what did I do instead? Usually I suppressed my feelings or felt resentful.  Being the consummate people-pleaser, I was scared of ‘upsetting the apple cart’ and being ‘too much’, which is the message I got regularly as a child. I was scared of being bossy or greedy or demanding so I learnt that it was better not to ask in the first place. I was scared of doing things out of the everyday ‘norm’ as I was afraid of being the black sheep (something I happily now claim and many of my clients would describe themselves as this too). I didn’t want to upset the relationships that I had and thought if I said NO to things, I would alienate everyone in my life and end up on my own. This kept me locked in the dynamic of people-pleasing. Understanding this was so liberating and I was able to create space to find a new way. 
  1. I didn’t know how to express what I wanted in a healthy and positive way.  I didn’t know how to ask cleanly and clearly. I felt that if someone said no to me, I wouldn’t be okay. I would feel as if I was being totally rejected. And if I did ask, I would do so in a really apologetic way. I used to hint or suggest my request, assuming that if the other person really knew me, they would know what I was really asking for! Such games I would play! Though I can see now, with compassion, why that was the case as I didn’t know how to ask.  I learnt and practiced how to ask and how to be ok with rejection.

In the book ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz, one of the agreements is to not take anything personally. I took every ‘no’ deeply personally. I took a ‘no’ as a total rejection of me. I spent a year learning not to take anything personally. If someone was in a bad mood, I might take it personally. If someone wanted to talk to me about something, I would assume I had done something wrong. If someone didn’t respond to my call, I worried about what I might have done. It was crippling. My practice was that if any of these happened, I would pause and take a breath and ask, ‘what if this is about the other person?’ Such as, what if they are not returning my call as they are busy or what if they are in a mood because something has happened that they don’t want to share? This created space between my automatic response that was paralysing me and I started to see that so much of what I was telling myself wasn’t true. I even got brave and asked people about their experience, which validated more concretely that what I was believing was a story I had created. 

  1. I also learnt that if I made a request of someone, I didn’t owe them anything. That I could receive without always feeling that I need to give something in exchange. That was key in my pleasure. If I received I would expect to give in return and pleasure was a stilted dance which stopped the natural flow.

This is an ongoing journey for example in a new relationship or a new friendship, new dynamics and patterns can come up but I now spot them more quickly and have way more tools to move forward with them as I see them for what they are. It still takes courage at times and I still wobble. 

5. Honesty is one of my most important values. This has totally changed how I experience intimacy. I used to hide so much and with that came dishonesty and withholding. Not from malicious intent. It was because I didn’t know any other way. 

In my relationship, I am able to make requests and discuss things that in previous relationships would have festered and grown into something way beyond what they actually were.  I would avoid sharing anything that felt difficult. I would withhold my feelings or pretend things were ok when they weren’t for me. Now being truthful is so important to me. Even if it something that can feel scary to voice, I cannot bury it inside. It has been another liberating step for me as I have learnt that the truth really does set you free. 

My partner and I have grown to deeply trust each other. We are able to really listen to each other and to honour each other’s needs and requests. We are able to say no and for that to be ok. To say yes and to be seen and received in our desires. Every day I give thanks for the most incredible relationship, which I can truly say gets better and better. I would not be in this relationship if I hadn’t learnt to ask for what I want and all that I have shared here.  

I want to honour two significant influences on this journey. Firstly the work of Betty Martin, the Wheel of Consent – the wheel of consent is a powerful model to help understand our patterns around knowing what we want and asking for it. It also provides profound practices to unlock these patterns and explore new possibilities. I bring it into all my client sessions and highly recommend it. 

Secondly, Human Design – Human Design is a system I have been working with, combining modern astrology, the I’Ching and the chakra systems together to give you an insight into your blueprint for this lifetime. Amongst many other things, it shares how we are uniquely designed to make decisions and how to connect with what lights us up. I have found it to be so profound on my journey and now with my clients. 

I love to share what I have learnt through my 1-1 programme for women, Pleasure Mastery. I love to support my clients to get to know what they truly want and how to ask for it. This work ripples out into all aspects of life in beautiful ways. One of my clients described how her life went from ‘black and white to multi colour’!  If you are feeling the calling, email me for more info on how I can help you whether you are single, dating or in a relationship.

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