Written by Guest Contributor, James-Olivia Chu Hillman
All opinions expressed in this article are the sole perception/experience of the writer, and may not necessarily be shared by Michelle Lewis – The Blessings Butterfly. All Rights Reserved.
If you’ve ever been in a conversation I’ve facilitated, you’ve probably heard me encourage you to show up with what you have and go after what you want. I say it a lot. Your wants are precious and worthy of regard. This idea can be a bit scary for some folks, and for good reason.
More than a few of us have been raised to disregard our own desires, to caretake, to people- please, to be “good,” to not disrupt, not make a scene. When we want something—resources, material goods, delicious food, satisfying sex, emotional connection, enjoyment of our own bodies, pleasure, success, power, authentic self-expression—we are labeled any number of things: greedy, irresponsible, undisciplined, wanton, immoral, needy, shameless, vulgar, bossy, pushy, weird, ugly, high-maintenance… I could go on.
Many of us were taught, either explicitly or through socialization, that only bad, careless, and harmful people are free to go after what they want.
When our own desire is disobedient, punishable even, we learn to hide and suppress what we want. If desire is bad and being bad is dangerous, then we’re safer and better off being good and keeping our desires to ourselves—or keeping them from ourselves. Going after what we want can be, initially, a massive undertaking that requires us to take the radical first step of knowing what we want. It can be a big, uncomfortable deal, and it can be courageous AF.
The Skill You Never Knew You Needed
Wanting is a skill. (This is great news, since a skill can be learned and you can get better at it with practice.)
Relationally, if we’re unskilled at knowing what we want, we’re probably even less skilled at asking for it… and even worse at relating when we don’t get it. Some of us can get up to some funky and woefully ineffective strategies (i.e. relational fuckery). We demand even though a request would suffice. We manipulate when we’re afraid to invite. We coerce, punish, or pretend we don’t have any personal power. We say nothing at all and expect people to magically know what we want and how we feel.
We shut down, roll our eyes, judge ourselves, talk to anyone but the person we have a message for, pretend a command is an invitation, diminish our own requests, pretend we don’t care, enact emotional violence—anything to avoid feeling our feelings and taking responsibility for our own needs and desires. The maneuvers are exhausting.
So what does it mean to show up with what you have and go after what you want in a way that regards both yourself and the other?
Since I don’t (and cannot) have your answers, I’ll share a few questions that guide me when I want something and the stakes feel high:
- What do I want? Am I being clear, honest, and specific—especially with myself? (Have I given myself permission to change my mind or want things I might not ever decide to pursue?)
- Am I open to the possibility that getting what I want may look different than I initially imagined, or am I attached to a prescriptive “how”?
- Am I willing to share my want with others… without placing responsibility on anyone else to make it happen for me? (Am I informing? Requesting? Demanding? Inviting?)
- Am I satisfied with compliance (e.g. delegating a task), or do I want enthusiastic consent (e.g. sharing a desire for intimacy or collaboration)?
- Am I willing to receive a “No” or “Not now” from another… without making it mean anything about my (or their) worthiness, goodness, or lovability?
- How will I tend to my feelings & experience and also get my needs/desires fulfilled in another way without punishing the other if they are unavailable to be a participant or resource for what I want?
- Have I decided to be the person I want to be whether or not I get what you want in this moment?
I’ll say it again (and again and again). Your wants are so very precious and worthy of your own regard. You are responsible for tending to them. You are responsible for being the person you have decided to be in the world. And you are responsible for your relationships—the primary relationship being the one you have with yourself.
If you’re unskilled or out of practice at knowing your own wants or going after them in ways that honor everyone involved, know that you’re not alone. We come by it honestly, and we can learn new skills and practices for being in joyful connection and right relationship with ourselves and the people we care for most.
Desire holds possibility. Right relationship nourishes. More you is better.
If you’re willing to share, I want to get to know you and hear what wants you’re willing to own and invite others into, and which relating skills you want to learn and practice. You can message me on Instagram (@inquisitive_human) or email me at email@example.com.
James-Olivia Chu Hillman is a facilitator and enthusiastic advocate of necessary, uncomfortable, and life-changing conversations. They have a passion for asking squirmy questions that point us back to who we are and what we care about most. They spend most of their days knitting and talking with humans who want more joyful connection and less suffering in their relationships with themselves, the people they love & lead, and the world… and spend their nights with Ben (the human) and Lucy (the dog).
You can find James-Olivia at www.inquisitivehuman.com and on Instagram (@inquisitive_human)