Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
When we don’t ask, we are limiting ourselves as well as limiting those around us, we’re limiting our connection with our loved ones as well as strangers, all of whom have something to give.
We may expect or want people to know automatically what we need and want from them without us asking. This can cause us to feel disappointed or resentful when they don’t read our minds and do what we wanted, what we expected.
This is why the art of being able to ask is so important. You have to own your needs and wants wholeheartedly without feeling shame or guilt, without apology. Get honest with yourself and those around you, get a little humble, admit vulnerability, admit when you struggle to do something and in the process, show your authentic self to others.
Relish the connection that forms within yourself as well as with those around you as you learn how to give and receive fearlessly.
When you start asking for what you want, you step into the driver’s seat of your life.
Asking can feel counter-intuitive, it’s not an easy thing to do. It makes you feel vulnerable and criticism can and will happen, especially from people who see the exchange of asking and receiving as unfair.
How can you get over these feelings and ask anyway? Don’t think of asking as risky, think of it as a trust exercise.
You may think that the online world has caused disconnect but it’s actually made it easier to ask for what you want. Think about the online platforms that we have available to us now – Couchsurfing provides travellers with a couch or bed for one or a few nights whilst creating connections and, most often, forming friendships at the same time. Trusted Housesitters allows home and pet owners to feel safe in the knowledge that someone is at home looking after the pets, the plants, and the post whilst giving sitters a free place to stay.
Crowdfunding platforms allow people to ask for money whether for their business, a personal project, or a charity. Selling pages on Facebook allow people to ask for what they want, and give what they don’t want. The list goes on…
Street artist / musician Amanda Palmer discovered that people were only too willing to help when she took to Twitter to ask for what she needed; a piano to practise on, a hat and crate for a street performance, advice on where to buy something, an impromptu gig space… She discovered that people, strangers who followed her because they liked her work, were all too happy to provide her with what she needed.
After eventually signing with a record company, Amanda felt disconnected from her fans and decided to give her music away for free, actively encouraging people to share and torrent her work. But at the same time as this, she asked for help and turned to crowdfunding, asking for $100,000 and trusting that she would be caught. Roughly 25,000 people backed her by giving almost $1.2million combined.
She notes that there’s a difference between making (or even expecting) people do something and asking them to do something.
Don’t wonder how you can make someone do something for you, work out how you can let someone, how you can ask them. How can you let someone love you instead of forcing someone to love you? How can you allow someone to help you, rather than forcing them into doing something against their will? What can you ask for, that they are able to give?
Think of something practical yet slightly outrageous that you think you simply couldn’t ask for… Think along the line of asking your partner to surprise you as he/she used to do in the beginning of the relationship. Asking your mother-in-law to clean your kitchen whilst you catch up on sleep whilst your newborn sleeps too. Asking your best friend if she could cook you a home cooked meal as you’ve eaten rubbish the last few weeks due to not having time to cook for yourself. Ask a teacher to spend some extra time helping your child with a subject they struggle with.
Why can’t you ask for these things? What’s the worse that can happen, the person says No?
By asking people, you allow them to experience the joy of giving whether they’re able to give their knowledge, talent, insight, wisdom, even their energy or money.
Most of us have been taught that we must be independent and should not overly rely on others, that asking is a sign of weakness. It’s time to get over that way of thinking.
Despite being taught that it’s better to give than receive, receiving is anything but selfish as it allows the other person to feel acknowledged and worthy.
Get over the niggling voice in the back of your head that’s asking ‘is this right?’ and accept what people want to give, even if it feels like they’re giving you everything they have. Simply stand there and take it, no matter how undeserving you feel, because people are giving you a gift, and to reject that gift will be detrimental to the other person.
You may be the type of person who is always there for others whether you’re a shoulder to cry on or can be relied on in more practical ways such as sorting out leaky pipes, driving someone from A to B, or babysitting.
But how often do you ask for help yourself? Does it make you think you’re weak if you ask for help in return? Do you think you’re not capable of helping others if you ask for help yourself? Do you think asking makes you needy? This is wrong – By not asking you’re not allowing the other person to experience the joy of giving.
Don’t you think that the other person feels bad, or even useless, when you deny their help saying that you can manage yourself or that there’s nothing you need?
How much you’re willing to allow yourself to receive can reflect back on how much you love and value yourself, your sense of self worth. Deep down when you reject someone’s genuine offer of help it may be because you don’t think your deserving enough, important enough.
Think about the last time someone complimented you. Did you feel uncomfortable and brush it off or did you accept it and say thank you?
Think about a friend or neighbour popping by your house to show their appreciation for something you did whether they say it in words or with a physical thank you gift be that a bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers, or a homemade cake. Your first reaction is probably ‘Oh you shouldn’t have – It was nothing’. How about when you hosted a coffee morning or a dinner and one of the guests offered to help you do the dishes / tidy up? Did you allow them to help you or did you push them away saying ‘no, you’re my guest, sit down, I’ll do it later’.
You think you’re being polite, generous, a nice person but saying No repels the whole act of giving and receiving – You’re actually being selfish by not allowing people to express their gratitude towards you. You’re saying you don’t want the person’s kindness/thanks.
Instead of saying ‘No’, ‘it was nothing’ or ‘I’d do it for anyone in need’ receive gracefully and gratefully, say ‘thank you’ or ‘Yes please, I’d love that’.
The phrase ‘give and take’ exists for a reason as giving creates connection whilst on the other hand, not receiving creates disconnection.
Unfortunately, the givers in life are often the ones who find it the most difficult to receive, and the takers in life are the ones who don’t know how to give!
When you give too much you can become resentful, feeling empty and unfulfilled – The problem here is not in allowing the other person to take, but in not allowing yourself to receive – Your give and take scales are not balanced.
If receiving makes you feel uncomfortable yet you’re always the first to offer help where it’s needed, you may have low self-worth, a niggling inner voice that says ‘I’m not worthy enough’ or ‘I’m not good enough to receive that’.
We will often shut down our receptiveness to receiving so as to keep ourselves safe – An event in life may have forced you to take control and become too strong, doing everything yourself, relying on nobody but yourself so that when you haven’t ‘earned’ something, struggled for it, worked hard for it, you find it near impossible to accept. No one wants to be seen as weak when they ask for help, and certainly not a victim, which is where people get stuck – Feeling that you haven’t ‘earned’ something, struggled for it, worked hard for it, can make it difficult to accept and receive.
Your childhood could also be the reason that you have difficulty receiving, whether because a gift came with string attached or your religion taught you that reward comes only after you suffer. You might think that you have nothing to give or that if you give an inch, the other person will take a mile and you’ll be taken advantage of so it’s better to safeguard your so called gifts be it your time, money, or energy.
Work through whatever limiting beliefs you have and trust yourself to give and receive and others to do the same – See where you can take baby steps each day in accepting easily and gracefully, even if it’s just acknowledging someone who lets you in at a queue of traffic or accepting that offer of a lift home in the rain.
If you feel that you have nothing to give, first of all, give yourself a stern talking to about how great you are and how much value you can provide to the world and then, stop thinking about giving as being an exchange of time/money/energy. You can give compliments. Give someone a hug. Give someone your attention. Make eye contact with people. Offer a smile. Offer companionship. Give a telephone number or website link. Offer a helpful hint or tip. Give forgiveness.
If you think of a set of old fashioned scales with Giving on one side and Receiving on the other, your aim should be to keep the scales fairly balanced. Sure, if a friend or family member is going through a rough time the scales are going to tip – but when the time comes, allow that person to repay the kindness (without expecting it of them), or, allow yourself to balance your internal scales by receiving from another.
Giving should not come with strings attached – Let go of any ‘If I do x, they can (should) do y’ thoughts. Don’t expect people to repay you, for expectations and force are where giving and receiving get out of alignment. Let the give and take flow – Give with one hand, receive with the other.
Give often in ways that fill you with joy and happiness rather than giving because you think you ‘have to’ or that it makes you a better person and always say ‘Thank You’ when a gift is being offered to you, whether you asked for it or not.
Giving is an action of love, it’s an exchange, a connection – Let it flow both ways and remember that giving more, asking for more, and receiving more is a never ending cycle of abundance.