Express Your Needs to Express Yourself

Express Your Needs to Express Yourself

I don’t like asking for help. My initial reaction is to try and figure it out by myself first. Sometimes, I figure it out on my own. Other times, I struggle with it until someone notices or until I feel like I’m forced to ask for help.

I consider myself a strong advocate for advocating for yourself - and I’ve learned how to do that. However, I’m also the first person to admit that I don’t always practice what I preach. It’s hard for me to verbalize my needs, or to ask for help because I always put other people’s needs before my own. I’m not alone in this. In fact, almost everyone I know struggles with asking for help or putting themselves first.

You might know the phrase, “fill your own cup first before feeding everyone else the overflow” - or at least some version of that. This means to put yourself first by making sure your needs and happiness are met, before you start serving others.

Yet there is so much guilt and shame associated with expressing your needs, and putting yourself first. The reason behind this is because there is a misconception that if you put yourself first, you’re being selfish and inconsiderate of others.

If putting yourself first makes you selfish or inconsiderate of other people, then does that mean that putting yourself first makes you inconsiderate towards yourself? As someone with hearing loss, I need to be very explicit and clear with my needs to make sure that I can hear as best as I can in any environment, because otherwise, I frustrate myself, and also other people
(because I’m asking them to repeat themselves more often than necessary).

I’m better at advocating for myself and expressing my needs, but there are still moments where I don’t do it because I feel a sense of shame or guilt behind asking for help. I’ve had it ingrained in me to be independent, and to solve things on my own first before bringing other people into it. That attitude bled into how I advocated (or not advocated) for myself.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely get rid of the niggling feelings of shame and guilt whenever I need to express my needs, but I can manage that feeling, move past it, and advocate for myself.

Everybody has needs. That will never change. Our needs are a part of who we are, and what makes us human. The question to ask is how can you surrender the feelings of shame and guilt for having those needs in the first place?

When I try to surrender those feelings, I try to ask myself these questions:

  • What will happen if I don’t state what I need? 
  • If I do state my needs, what is the worst thing that can happen?
  • What good thing will happen if I state my needs?

Once I apply logical thinking to my initial emotional reaction, asking these questions helps me acknowledge the emotions I felt, while also taking into consideration the emotions I will feel if I don’t advocate for myself - which will be annoyed and upset at myself for not advocating and taking myself into consideration.

If you find yourself feeling any shame or guilt the next time that you need to express your needs or need to fill your own cup first…what are some things you can do to surrender those feelings, and to make sure that you express yourself and your needs clearly?

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