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On Asking

Asking is hard because it’s dependent on a sense of self worth.

A person's hands are raised in the air against a dark background. The skin is a little wrinkled, the knuckles a little swollen. There are silver rings on two of their fingers. On one wrist, a watch with a brown leather band is visible. The cuffs of a long sleeved shirt in a brilliant green can be seen at the bottom of the photo.

I have to believe I am worth your time, expertise, and insight before I can ask you for those things.

I have to believe that we are equals in order to make a demand on your time, however small it may be.

I have to believe that in the grand scheme of things, you and I carry the same weight, merit the same attention.

I have to believe, as a piece of this Universe, that I am here for a reason and I am worthy of the tools to accomplish that purpose.

We often fail to realize that asking is also a gift — to the other person. By asking, we are saying, “You are valuable, you are vital. I need you.” We offer that person stakes in the game, a chance to build up their own self worth.

It’s Kinda Not Really Our Fault?

Asking is hard because of our programming. We’ve come to associate needing help with weakness. Whether it’s cultural, familial, academic — we’ve learned that our vulnerability is distasteful.

Asking is childlike.

But through school, through puberty, we’re charged with taking responsibility, acting like an adult, shedding childish things.

Formal education drills you to think for yourself, to take responsibility for your learning or be punished.

Corporations reward “self-starters” and “self-motivated” employees who are good at independent contribution. There’s less push to collaborate, to share, to lean into each other — just “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

When we do ask, we apologize for the imposition on someone’s time and resources. “I’m sorry to interrupt — I have a question.” Or we struggle too long, and ask too late.

Learning How to Ask

Get clear on your self worth: you matter. You are here for a reason. Your voice deserves to be heard as much as the next person’s. There is nothing about the rest of us that makes us better than you — we all breathe the same air, we all require the same basics to survive.

You matter.

Get clear on the thing you need. A general ask for help can be left open to interpretation, and I find I’m often disappointed with the help I receive when I ask vaguely.

For example, asking for insight into how to measure success in a text-based survey is far clearer than asking for help measuring some things. And if you can ask a specific that taps into that person’s expertise, it’s even easier for them to agree to help you.

Asking the Universe

This is the big part for me. I’m relearning how to ask people for help, information, guidance. But I’m also relearning how to ask the Universe for the big things, for everything.

This is what I know: don’t worry about “how.” Ask, and open your hands to receive. Don’t ask with conditions or requirements. Don’t ask on a timeline. Say aloud the thing you want. Be specific.

Then play with it — dream about that thing. Talk like you already have it. Imagine how good it will feel to be there, see that, touch that. Expect it. Make space for it — literally and emotionally.

Post-divorce, sitting on a downpayment, living in a friend’s spare room, I asked, “Show me what home looks like.” I had a dream about this house:

A drawing notebook is open on a white table. There are pens and pencils and an eraser around the edges of it. The drawing page shows a rough sketch of a house.
"It has horizontal siding, two pillars in front, a pitched roof, and a pine tree to the right."

I told my realtors. I told my friends. I told my family that I knew what home would be. I imagined the light coming in the windows, the coziness of the rooms, the yard with space to play and trees to play under.

Two months later, I closed on this house:

A photo of a blue house with white trim, two white pillars on the porch, and a big pine tree looming to the right of it. A small dog jumps down the porch steps.
Horizontal siding. Pillars. Pitched roof. Pine tree on the right.

It’s hard to stay open. It’s hard to not put timelines or specifications on how something should come to you. It’s hard to ask and then do the work of upholding your play, living in your vision and imagination. It’s childlike work.

Asking is childlike.

Asking takes forgetting — forgetting what people say you should do or how you should behave. It takes unprogramming all the things you learned as you left childish things behind and started accepting adult expectations and boundaries.

Thank you to my life coach, Stacey, for helping remind me of how to ask and how to receive and how to unprogram a little more every day.


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