A few years ago, I was walking out of our then-house to meet Brian for his birthday dinner. I was distracted and looking down at my feet, walking toward my car. Suddenly, I saw a thick, long multicolored snake in the grass.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a palpable fear of snakes. I can’t even look at their pictures. (Seriously.)
I stopped, and started walking, slowly, back toward the door. But I kept stopping and hesitating.
I remember trying to will myself to step to the side of the snake. I remember berating myself for being so silly. You’re scared of everything! It’s just a snake! The car is so close! Only you would react this way!
But I was too freaked out. Once inside the house, I texted Brian. The restaurant was only a few minutes away, so he came to pick me up. By then the snake was gone. I still felt silly (shaky and freaked out).
Now thinking about it, I’m glad I got scared and walked away. The snake was clearly poisonous (and big). It could’ve lunged at me. It could’ve bitten me. My fear was a natural reaction. My fear was there to protect me. And it did.
This, of course, is an extreme example. But there have been many times in my life when there were snakes — people, circumstances, habits — and I ignored my inner voice. The inner voice that said I’m scared! I’m unsure. I deserve better. This isn’t right. This person really doesn’t have my best interest at heart. Why am I friends with them? Why am I dating them? And I let them — the people, circumstances, habits — strike and bite me.
Weeks ago Sas penned a brilliant post about a related topic: asking for what you want. Sas ordered a cup of black coffee at a new favorite cafe. Instead, she received coffee with milk. It’s a small thing, and yet it isn’t. She writes:
But here’s the lesson from a perfectly good coffee, ruined by warm frothy milk:
How we do anything is how we do everything.
Frankly, if I can’t get the coffee* I want: I’m screwed.
So I just said, ‘oh thanks, but I ordered it black’. And he said ‘not a problem, I’ll be right back’. And BAM: in moments I had my coffee. With a side-order of enlightenment.
Since then, I’ve said no to a potentially lucrative collaboration that didn’t feel right, I’ve let go of a research project that I wasn’t digging. I’ve unfollowed and unsubscribed. I’ve had several difficult conversations. And I’ve asked for help. Twice.
Let me repeat this because I love it so much: “How we do anything is how we do everything.”
My snake example was similar to how I used to navigate life — with hesitation, no regard for my needs or wants (let alone actually asking for them!) and silencing my own voice (a self-created muzzle).
It’s hard because asking for what we want also feels scary, uncomfortable and maybe even dangerous. But we first need to listen to ourselves. We first need to take the muzzle off and listen closely. Fully. To carve out the time to check in with our thoughts, feelings, needs, desires.
We do this by creating a safe space for ourselves to open up. A space where we can be vulnerable and tell the truth, even if, and especially if, it’s I’m scared! I’m unsure! This isn’t right for me.
Give yourself the safe space to explore your feelings, thoughts and desires without shutting them down. Without sweeping them away. Without judging yourself for having them.
Give yourself the safe space to listen, to whatever arises.
It’s the beginning of everything: self-care, self-acceptance, a positive body image, healthy relationships, genuine fulfillment.