In case you were wondering: asking for what you need is not selfish! So why does it feel that way sometimes? How can you express your needs, when doing so gives you anxiety?

Why It’s Hard To Ask For What We Need

Asking for what we want, need, and desire can be a downright daunting task. But why?

One of the main reasons is anxiety! Anxiety can occur we feel worried about things that haven’t happened yet. For that reason, anxiety is also super good at creating worst-case scenarios in your head. Likely, if you feel anxious about expressing your needs, you are afraid that the other person won’t take it well, and it could cause a fight or, even worse, end the relationship. 

Here are some other (totally normal) reasons why we may have trouble speaking our needs:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Not actually knowing what we want/need
  • Fear of seeming selfish 
  • Shame/judgment from others
  • Having what we want feels impossible 
  • Prioritizing other people’s needs 
  • We would prefer not to ask for help 

3 Ways To Handle Your Anxiety About Speaking Your Needs 

So what can you do? How can you get past all the challenges, in order to communicate?

1. Sit down with yourself and have a conversation about what you actually need and how you want it to be fulfilled. 

Lots of your anxiety is coming from your uncertainty! So ask yourself the tough questions. Maybe you need to get more physical attention and want to hold hands more or spend more time cuddling. Perhaps you feel like you’re spending too much time addressing issues in the other person’s life, and they don’t listen to you. What behaviors could correct that? Do you want them to make a conscious effort to inquire more about your life? Do you want to set some time apart each week to vent or discuss what’s going on for you? 

Determining the difference between what you need and the behaviors that can fulfill your needs is key! Everyone has needs, but they don’t manifest the same person to person. Get clear with yourself about what you need and what needs to change for you to feel like you’re getting it. Then write it down, so you have notes when you initiate the conversation! Some of your anxiety will ease when you’re clear on what you want and how to make that happen. 

2. Take a deep breath and H.A.L.T. 

Before managing your anxiety, you have to manage your self-care. Anxiety is a tricky emotion that can be even harder to handle if you are experiencing other heightened emotions. Remember the acronym H.A.L.T. Ask yourself: are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? 

If you are hungry, have a snack; if you are angry, give yourself some time to cool down. You will feel more confident about having difficult conversations if you address your emotions first. 

Breathing can also do wonders for your anxiety. When you take a deep breath, you increase the oxygen going to your brain and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This actually makes you feel calmer! Breeeeaaaatheeee

Often when we’re anxious, we are wrapped up in our own heads, so you can also try some things to get out of your head. Many people have luck with the 333 method.

  • Name three things you see
  • Identify three sounds you hear 
  • Touch or move three items (limbs, external objects) 

This can help you loosen up and ground yourself in the present moment. 

3. Choose appropriate circumstances and conditions to ask for help. 

  • Let the person know you have something important you want to talk to them about so they don’t feel bombarded. 
  • Be in a safe space where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Discuss how they successfully support your other needs before highlighting what needs to be added. 
  • Come from a place of vulnerability, not ego.
  • Use “I” statements, “I would love to have more physical touching in our relationship.”
  • Tell them why! “Because I feel like we never hold hands.”
  • Be clear on the need. “I want to cuddle more while we watch movies and hold hands in public.”
  • Invite them to collaborate on a solution. “Would you feel comfortable doing that? Or what would you feel comfortable doing?”
  • Express gratitude for the opportunity to have the conversation with them and ask if they have anything they want to talk to you about. 
  • Remember that not every conversation has to be “make or break,” and no one can read your mind; they won’t know unless you tell them!

What Happens When You Confront Your Fears and Stand Up For What You Want

When you gather the courage to speak about your needs, you show the other person and yourself that you are worthy of having your needs met. Also, you show them that you trust them.

Healthy relationships thrive on trust and communication. If you are in a relationship that is not meeting your needs, and you do not feel safe expressing those needs, it is probably time to leave the relationship. You deserve to feel happy and cared for–nothing less!

If you have a good partner/friend/parent/coworker on the other side of voicing your needs, they should be more than happy to put in a little effort, to help you feel heard.