Image: Two women lying on their backs on the hood of an old truck, their hair dangling over the grill, talking and laughing.

It seems like it should be so simple to ask for something we want. If you watch children, they will walk up to relative strangers and make demands of their time and attention.

“Play tea with me!”

“Read this to me!”

“Come over here!”

They are so fully engrossed in their own desires that they haven’t yet found the capacity to worry first about how that request or demand will be received.

Can you remember the first time you asked for something you really really wanted and the person turned you down? I can remember when I was in school, I used to always raise my hand to answer questions. I’m someone who loves thinking out loud and asking and answering questions gives me a sense of accomplishment and helps strengthen my learning. I can remember the first time a teacher told me that they wanted me to stop answering questions because they wanted everyone else to get a chance. The feeling of that denial, that rejection, rose up in me with shame and embarrassment and disappointment and I suddenly started to develop a new awareness of how others might be looking at me or judging me for my enthusiasm.

I think most of us can remember a time when we asked for something important and were denied. The memories of those experiences can often follow us like ghosts, whispering into our ears “but what if they say ‘no’?” as we form the words to voice our desire.

I’ve talked in a previous blog about how important it is to say “no” and how loving it is to say “no” when you really mean “no” so let me be clear, I am not suggesting that what my teacher told me was the wrong thing to say. I am also not saying that every denied desire is heartbreaking or gut wrenching or that we all don’t need to learn to embrace and celebrate the “no”s that others feel empowered to give us. What I do want to talk about here today is how those fears and anxieties can stop us from feeling the freedom of asking for what it is that we want.

Most people, when getting ready to ask for something that they want, feel a bit of anxious energy rise in them as they wonder how that request will be received. If it’s a small ask, that anxious energy is usually easy to push aside and forget about – we’ve got our ghost repellant on and they can’t get close enough to really shake us. However, as the level of need we feel around that ask gets bigger, or as our vulnerability around it grows, that anxious energy can start to feel like it’s too much. We can find ourselves wondering whether the Ghostbusters are actually real and if so could they come get rid of this spectre. We can find ourselves falling into the ghosts’ trap as we decide to NOT ask because we don’t want to burden the other person or hurt their feelings or open up ourselves enough for them to hurt us.

And yet . . .

When we ask for what we want, we open ourselves to joy and fulfillment at least as much as we open ourselves to pain and rejection. After all, a partner/friend/co-worker cannot give us something we never ask for. If I never ask my friend to go ice skating with me, I never get the chance to feel the cool air rushing by my face and to hear their laughter as we zoom.

Recently, I’ve been making a point of asking for what I want and need, even (or perhaps especially) when it scares me. What I’ve found is that I don’t always get what I want but I do get to know and to move past that worry. And, in reality, the “no”s I’ve gotten haven’t been nearly as hard as my ghosts tried to tell me they would be. No one died of mortification. No one lost their mind because of shame. It hasn’t ended friendships or relationships (though it may have created the need for some transition).

Perhaps most interestingly, I’ve found that it has brought me deeper in the relationships in which I’ve asked for my desire. I now feel like I can trust myself and that person to both ask for what we want and to set good boundaries with each other by using our “no”s. I’ve also felt a deepening relationship with myself. I feel as though by honoring the toddler in me that wants to run up and just say it, I’ve felt less ashamed of what I want and more happy with the congruence I’m displaying.

I know it’s hard to ask, especially when you don’t know the answer will be yes. This isn’t an easy path and it isn’t easy work.  That being said, I encourage all of you to give it a shot and see whether you can join on the path that will one day let each of us say “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”

Want some help learning how to fight your ghosts? Click Contact Me and let me know how I can help you.