Image by Mark Robinson. used under a creative commons license
I used to wonder why things didn’t work out for me in the way that I wanted them too, why other people didn’t seem to ‘get me’ and why I was often left frustrated.
I expected people to know what I wanted. I expected them to know my preference for everything: activities and locations, food choices and needs. I wanted them to help me out by allowing me some space to complete an important piece of work and exactly how many emotions I was feeling at that moment through the expression on my face. But I didn’t SAY what I wanted. I just kind of hoped they would KNOW. Which, on reflection, was quite an ask.
Why don’t we say what we want?
We don’t know what we want.
It may be that we are so used to being told what to do, being swept along in the wake of someone else’s energy (from one of our parents perhaps or a long-term relationship), that we forgot to ask ourselves what we wanted. Perhaps we are taught that ‘I want, never gets’. That it’s wrong to want. There is a difference between wanting something and pushing everyone else out of the way to get what you want, but you’re not going to achieve that deep contentment if you don’t KNOW what makes you happy.
If you don’t know what makes you happy, I would suggest you’re not on track to a life filled with the things you love. The first step in Know, Grow, Give is knowing about yourself: who you are, what you love and what makes you dance around the room like an excited 6 year old. And not only knowing, but knowing without self-judgement. When you start this process, remind yourself that whatever you love is ok.
We are fearful of rejection.
When we put our desires out there, there is a moment of vulnerability. Will the other person laugh or scoff: do our wants sound a little bit (or a lot!) crazy?
We want to be accepted and loved for who we are, but if we throw a bit of a curveball - something that other people don't know about us - when we say it out loud, there will be a pause while they react. This pause is terrifying, because it’s the unknown.
My advice is, say it anyway. Say it gently and choose the time and the place (especially if you’re expecting a bad reaction from someone you’re close to). Why is this my advice? Because if you don’t articulate your desires at some point, you are essentially rejecting yourself, which I believe has far, far more disastrous consequences overall.
When we know what we want from our lives and begin to articulate it, choose it and live it, it actually makes it easier to be ‘us’. Confidently speaking about what you want often produces the exact opposite reaction to what we expect is going to happen. Rather than ridicule, they smile. It’s a powerful thing, living your desire. And we change. We don’t need their approval because we have our own approval system going on inside. We are more pleasant to be around because we love what we do and we can feel it in ourselves.
We are scared someone is going to say we can’t have it.
I love this quote: "Be happy for this moment, this moment is your life”. Every time we make a choice to not speak up for what we want, to let it go into oblivion, I believe we are moving away from being our most true selves. These moments add up. The moments become months and years and then that's it - your whole life. Yet the good news is: the reverse is true. We can choose to move towards or away from what we really want, every time we choose, well, anything! And we can start now. Today.
I’ve read that when people say you 'can’t have something’ it’s generally a way for them to feel better about their own choices of not going for what they want. Think of all the stories you’ve heard about people doing extraordinary things. How many people do you think told them they couldn’t have their dream? How many of them decided to go ahead and try anyway?
I’m hearing you say: “But Claire, we can’t always have what we want. Life just doesn’t work like that.”
So I would have said a couple of years ago. I wanted to have more freedom in my work, have control over my routine, live somewhere warm, beautiful and eat delicious food every day. At that time, I was commuting for 2 hours a day, in a stressful job in London, eating ready meals and shivering in a cold flat with uninspiring decor. Now, I’m living in a beautiful apartment in Italy, feeling the warm sun on my skin every day, savouring the perfect combination of a divine mango and strawberries for breakfast.
I know how it feels to not know what you want. Have a go at some exercises to find out (start with my ebook or someone else’s - there’s hundreds to choose from). It’s worth it.
I know how it feels to be fearful of rejection. Say it anyway. However big it is. You’ll feel better once it’s done. It’s worth it.
I know how it feels to worry about not getting what you want. But if you don’t try, you’ll feel worse after a while. It’s worth it.
What do you really want and who are you going to say it to?