Volume 2, Issue 3: On Asking For What We Want

Hi friends! Today’s newsletter marks the one-year anniversary of Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this newsletter for a year already. Thank you all so much for reading, sharing, subscribing, and tipping. Sometimes you put a thing out into the world and you don’t know if anyone wants to read it but you do it anyway because there aren’t enough voices like mine being heard, especially in the self-improvement sphere. The reception you’ve all given me and this newsletter has been well-beyond my expectations and I am so happy to be connecting with all of you in this way. Thank you. Thank you so, so much. You’re all amazing!

So, my wife has been following Dana St. Amand, a badass, trans blacksmith on social media and recently Dana posted some special openings for hand-forged goods. You pay a set amount of money and she will make whatever SHE wants and surprise, you’ll get a unique handmade dagger or ax or hammer or something in the mail, like a commission but a surprise because you don’t necessarily get to choose what you get. She only posts a few open slots at a time and they go quickly. Well, Nicole was able to grab one of them so we are currently waiting for a surprise in the mail.

When checking out, there was a space for notes to the creator. Nicole noted she would be happy with anything while I know full well that she would be happiest with something sharp and pointy. I told her this and said, “It’s okay to say, ‘I’ll be happy with anything but I’ll be most happy with something pointy.’” This sparked an interesting conversation about asking for what we want that I wanted to bring to this newsletter.

Before I dig in, here is a photo of my plumeria which is steadily getting out of control:

Real talk: we all can stand to be better at asking for what we want. I’m talking about clearly and specifically asking for what we want. I don’t mean in the praying-to-a-god or wishing-on-a-star or putting-vibes-out-into-the-universe kind of way. I mean asking for what we want when we are actually interacting with other people.

One example I find myself doing is asking, “How do I do this thing?” when really the question I want to ask is, “Will you please do this thing?” Mind-reading is not real and the answer I’m given will be in direct response to the question I ask. If I ask, “How do I do this thing?” then I’m going to be told how to do the thing and that is not actually what I want. I am not allowed to be salty that Nicole didn’t “do the thing” because I did not actually ask for that.

I’m going to say that again:

I do not get to be upset that someone doesn’t do something if I don’t actually ask them to do it in the first place. I do not get to be upset that someone doesn’t read my mind.

This has also come up around deciding what is for dinner. There are time when I very much want pizza (all the time, actually) but I don’t ask for it. I instead do something like, “Can we get takeout tonight? What sounds good to you? We can do pizza or ramen or burritos…” when I legitimately only want pizza. And then I’m okay-but-disappointed if we have something else. This is another situation where I am trying to be better about being specific and clear about what I want.

One of my mom’s favorite sayings is, “You don’t know if you don’t ask.” It’s a phrase that I have carried with me for years. For example, on the last day of 7th grade, I marched myself to the principal’s office and asked, “I’m going to be in 8th grade next year. Can I be the person who does the morning announcements over the speaker for the whole year?” It was always the adults that did the announcements and apparently, I asked something that none of the students had ever asked. They had no reason to deny my request,  so everyone from Kindergarten to 8th grade heard me over the loudspeaker every morning that year and it was great! 10/10 would totally do it again.

Another one of my mom’s favorite related sayings is, “The worst they can do is say no.’” Rejection can be super scary! I get it! But also, you’ve probably been told “no” plenty in your life thus far and it hasn’t killed you to hear it. If you don’t ask for what you want at all, then it’s a guaranteed, “No.” But if you do ask, there’s potential for a yes.

Recently I was asked to give a talk at the international virtual conference for what I do in my day job. One of my intentions this year is to do my best to make sure that all the content I put out into the world is accessible. That means I will not talk at conferences that will not have captions for my talk and I expressed as much in my response, that if I was going to do this, then I need to be assured that my talk will be accessible.

Friends: THAT WAS ONE OF THE MOST TERRIFYING EMAILS I HAVE EVER WRITTEN OH MY FUCKING GOD. I almost cried. Absolutely terrifying.

I, like many cis women, especially those of us from Asian families, was raised to be accommodating. I was raised to be grateful for opportunities and consideration and if I questioned anything that was supposed to be a blessing or asked for something more, then that was an indication that I was NOT grateful. Being “ungrateful” was a huge sin in my Filipino Catholic family.

Note: Being grateful doesn’t mean allowing people to shit on you but that is a whole other issue of this newsletter for another time.

Anyway, the lovely person who asked me to speak got back to me and I will pre-record my talk and there will be captions and we came to this agreement because I asked.

The tl;dr of all this is: Ask for what you want because you just might get it.

Now, many of us may have issues with asking for what we want, from not thinking we are deserving or worth getting what we want to flat-out fear of rejection. Or maybe even, ironically, fear of actually getting what we want.

For the self-worth portion, I don’t know how to convince you that you deserve to get what you want (as long as no one is harmed, etc. etc.). You deserve to be heard and acknowledged. If getting what you want will bring you joy then you deserve that joy just as much as anyone.

For the fear of rejection, I want to go back to the conversation I have with myself when I come up against something that I am resistant to but know would be good for me: “Will you die? Will getting a ‘no’ actually, literally kill you? No. It will not. You’ll be fine. You’ve survived every no you have gotten in your entire life thus far.” Of course, your mileage may vary with that conversation. 

I also want to share one of my favorite TEDTalks about rejection. It’s only 15 minutes long and I’ve watched it multiple times and it makes me laugh every single time.

Related to that, consider asking for what you want for things you absolutely know you’re going to get. I know my wife will never say no to a hug from me. I know my friends will never say no to receiving snail mail. Work on building your confidence with easy yeses.

Asking for what we want takes a lot of practice. I’m certainly not perfect at it. Notice I don’t mention asking for HELP because golly wow I am absolute shit at that. We all have work to do and I hope that you, like me, realize that it’s worth it. That YOU are worth it.

That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at The Infophile’s Bookshop and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you enjoy this newsletter, please subscribe, share it with a friend, and/or give me a tip!

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