Why Don’t We Ask For What We Want and What We Do Instead (it’s not pretty so let’s change it!)

I teach workshops on consent, boundaries, and touch. Whether the context is for parents, business, or romance I love helping people learn to ask for what they want in clear and respectful ways. My participants are often surprised at how hard it is to ask for what they want yet also empowered once they do.

About half-way through the workshop, we’ll do an exercise where I ask people to share with me all the reasons why they don’t ask for what they want, why they don’t set boundaries, and (the game-changer) what they do instead.

The following is a verbatim list from one workshop. In reading them, you may notice that shame and fear of rejection are stated over and over again with slight variations for both “why we don’t ask for what we want” and “why we don’t set boundaries“. Both actions involve speaking up for ourselves and possibly disappointing someone else. Challenging stuff.  It’s no wonder that our reasons for not doing each are similar.

What we do instead” is a humbling view of ourselves.

The first time I did this exercise in Betty Martin’s Like a Pro workshop, the list of “what we do instead” is what brought it all together for me. I realized that I became my least favorite version of myself – passive aggressive, resentful, feeling like I don’t belong, feeling not good enough – when I didn’t ask for what I want and when I didn’t set clear boundaries.

The moment I realized that my failure to own my desires and boundaries was causing me to become my least favorite version of myself, my world changed. I suddenly had a clear road map for being a “me” I like and respect. That road map? Asking for what I want plus setting and keeping clear and authentic boundaries.

And since I’m someone who just can’t keep good things to myself, I’m helping all my clients learn these skills too. They are much easier to practice when someone is cheering you on and keeping you accountable. I’m happy to do that for you!

Why we dont ask for what we want:
  • fear of rejection
  • fear of disappointment
  • fear of punishment
  • fear of feeling hopeless if you dont get it
  • shame (for having needs or wants)
  • dont know what I want
  • there are a limited number of asks – dont waste them
  • it’s not okay (asking means I’m selfish which is wrong)
  • I dont want to be “high maintenance” and make others give beyond their ability or willingness
  • real men dont have needs
  • weakness
  • not trusting other’s boundaries/fear of what happens if they say yes
  • I might not like the answer (no, or a boundary)
  • if I hear “yes” it means I need to be worthy of the gift
  • I might owe something in exchange/strings attached
Why we dont set boundaries: 
  • fear of loss (I’ll lose the good thing I’m getting if I ask for something even better)
  • fear of being shamed for having a boundary
  • fear of being judged as selfish (by self or others)
  • Dont know what they are
  • Pointless (they won’t be respected anyway)
  • fear of being “high maintenance”
  • I want to be liked/accepted and seen as easy to get along with
  • not wanting to use my big voice – easy to be small and not draw attention to myself
  • lack of self-worth “there’s nothing worth protecting here”
What we do instead:
  • blame them  and pick a fight 
  • hint
  • resent/get pissy
  • get really quiet/pull away
  • stop giving
  • stuff it (food, alcohol, drugs, crazy-busy)
  • ask for something safer (what you think you can get)
  • create bad art
  • Give them what you want
  • distractify/sublimate
  • try to figure out what’s wrong with me and become a better person
  • cry/yell about it
  • blame self as not worthy anyway
  • endure
  • play victim
 If it’s setting boundaries and asking for what we want that stops us from “what we do instead” then fantastic! Let’s do the hard work of rewiring our brains for pleasure, owning our own desires, articulating them clearly and respectfully, and learning how to hear “no” with gratitude. Nobody (including me) said it was easy, but it’s worth it.
Want more? Reach out for a free half-hour consultation with me. We’ll spend most of the time talking about your goals, desires, and boundaries. Then if I feel like I can truly support you in reaching your goals, I’ll invite you to become a client. I work with clients over phone and Skype unless you are in the Boulder/Denver, CO area in which case you can choose to work in-person if you prefer.
Kassandra Brown is a coach based in Boulder, CO.