If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen that I have recently joined #AskTheQuestion, an email series ran by author, blogger, columnist and my all round writing idol Laura Jane Williams. Each week she shares a story from her life, an interview with a smart and inspiring lady, and a core question for us to ask ourselves and reflect on.
You can find out more about #AskTheQuestion here, although as this season has already started, unfortunately you can’t sign up. However I highly recommend following Laura everywhere, especially if you’re into writing, thinking and being your true self – and, you can buy her first book, Becoming, here. I’ve nearly finished it, and can confirm it’s excellent.
I’m also attending a writing workshop with Laura at the end of November which I’m practically giddy about. Yep, I’m pretty much a legit fangirl about this woman.
I wanted to share my thoughts on the questions each week via a blog post, here on this site, because I want the series to help me improve my writing and trigger stories to share.
So, without further ado – week 1’s email was titled MILK, and talked about Laura plucking up the courage to confront her housemate when she used all her milk, ask her to replace it, and how too often we overlook our own needs so as to please others or avoid an awkward conversation.
The question was, “What do you need, and when are you gonna say it?”.
Needless to say, it got me thinking.
I’m a massive introvert, a very passive person, and have always been hugely averse to confrontation, and being that person often comes with the cost of denying your true feelings about a situation, or not speaking up when you’re unhappy. Looking back, this was particularly the case when I was younger, going through the hell that is school and adolescence.
When you don’t know yourself all that well, as we so often don’t when we’re young, it’s easy to ignore what you really want just to go along with the crowd, to fit in, to get by.
There might be a voice present, in the back of your mind, telling you ‘I’m uncomfortable with this’, but you’re either not fully tuned into it, or you ignore it, squash it down, just to feel part of something.
And you know what? I think that’s okay when you’re a teenager. That time, back then, it’s every man or woman for themselves, and sometimes you do what you have to, just to get through it. That’s how it felt for me, anyway. People tell you to always be yourself, which I wholeheartedly support, but sometimes it’s just not possible, or it’s not your time.
As I left university and went out into the world, I started truly getting to know myself, what worked for me and what didn’t, and why I thought differently or reacted to things in ways that other people didn’t. Once you find that out, it becomes harder to fit into other people’s boxes or expectations.
It’s incredible, but the moment I started honouring my preferences, the weight of life on my shoulders was immeasurably lighter.
I know what I need now to be happy in my everyday life.
I need interaction with others to stay sane, but also plenty of time on my own or with my closest people to recharge.
I need to be mindful in my eating and exercise choices. Mentally, I feel so much more positive and guilt free when I know I’ve tried my best, eaten well and been active.
I know now that I don’t really enjoy drinking, or clubbing, or the culture associated with that. So, I don’t really do it any more, except for the odd occasion, and that feels good. Drinking was always such a peer pressure thing for me, but now I accept that it’s not what I want and don’t let anyone make me feel bad for it.
When someone upsets me, especially those closest to me, I often have to force myself to confront it, to get it out, and it always works out better in the end.
Here’s the thing – when you start being open and honest about what you really want and need, guess what? Nobody dies. The world doesn’t end, the ground doesn’t open up beneath you. Sure, it might take an uncomfortable conversation, but no one ever grew and developed by staying comfortable.
Consciously not being yourself causes an internal and spiritual discomfort that becomes hard to live with after a while.
So thank you Laura, for helping me to ask myself, again, what do I need, and when am I going to say it? Isn’t it funny what a carton of milk can get you thinking about?
The answer is, I’m learning everyday what I need to live my happiest life, and I’m getting better at letting the world know about it too.
Now, I pass the question on to you, lovely reader! What do you need? Do you have trouble saying it? Do you find yourself going out of your way to make life easier for others instead of listening to your own needs? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!