Learning to ask

I wanted the egg and bacon roll special. But without the bacon. And maybe with tomato or avocado instead. So we might call that an egg and tomato roll, if you’re keeping up. Quite simple. Not something outrageous or hard to construct. Not illegal or dangerous. Not something likely to overly challenge the culinary skills of the sandwich hand making it.

So I walked right up and asked for it.

That is, I said ‘can I have the roll without bacon and maybe with something else instead, if that’s alright?’

She said ‘sure. How about double egg?’

I looked horrified (how boring! What a missed opportunity for flavour! And how would I eat such a roll with two slippery eggs fighting it out to remain between bread?).

She said ‘cheese?’

I said ‘OK’. Thinking of how slimy such a combination would be. Of what an odd, pale, bland, slimy combo that is. And said thanks, and paid her.

Do you see how this coud have panned out differently? They had tomato, they had avocado, I was just vaguely scared they’d say no.

Sounds silly when you say it like that right?

I was too scared to ask for tomato.

In case I couldn’t have it.

So I hinted and left the decision with someone else. And didn’t get what I wanted.

I may as well have walked in and said ‘give me anything other than avocado or tomato, because I don’t think I deserve them or that you would be kind enough to let me have them’.

Which is really like shouting to the universe ‘I don’t think what I want matters, I don’t think however this whole thing works involves me getting to have what I want… And I think everybody else’s mild disapproval or inconvenience is much more important than my strong wishes.’

And if this is how I behave when the stakes are about as low as they can get…I mean seriously, we are talking about a slice of tomato… how would I behave if the stakes were high and I REALLY wanted something and REALLY didn’t want someone to tell me no?

This reminds me of two things. Firstly the very good book ‘Art of Asking’ by Amanda Palmer, which I found deep down to my toes inspiring, and recommend you read if you haven’t yet, and secondly the idea that sometimes we are so tied to our view of how the world works that we would rather see it unchallenged more than we would almost anything – even more than we would like to be happy.

So if you find it hard to ask, it might be worth digging around and shining a light on the foundations of yourself. Are there some ghost rules or declarations about the universe slinking around and whispering in your ear?

Do you think there’s no use asking because no one will help you?

Do you think what you want doesn’t matter?

Do you think it’s rude to disrupt the status quo and someone will get angry with you if you’re not grateful for what you’re given?

Do you think it’s selfish and bad to want things or to ask for them?

Do you think you’re not worth a piece of tomato?

At some stage we need to step out of our old beliefs that no longer serve us. We need to practice our asking skills.

Naming our wishes is so important – EVEN THOUGH it makes us feel vulnerable, even though we may not get them, even though people may say no. Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, it is really important to work on our asking muscles on the little things, so we can use them to lift the really big wishes and ask for them too.


Work with me:

I currently have some spaces becoming available for one on one coaching and art therapy clients.

  • In coaching I support you to work towards your goals, making changes that you want to make in your life. In coaching we look at the underlying mindset issues as well as approaching the practicalities of getting things done – with clever tricks to get around anxiety and lots of support and encouragement (aka a personal cheer squad) so you feel less afraid to tackle the difficult tasks. See here for more information.
  • In art therapy I help you process and express feelings in ways that let you see yourself and your situation in new ways. We make room for the feeling dimensions of life and explore your inner world using symbols and metaphor and creative expression. We can do art therapy face to face if you are in Sydney, or by distance if you are elsewhere around the world. See here for more information and contact me here to get in touch.

6 thoughts on “Learning to ask

  1. Totally agree Jade. It is often very hard to ask for what we want. Coaching can really help with this. Cheers, Maggie ☺

  2. Thanks Jade for a very inspiring opinion piece.The challenge I find is to ask for what I want with a light touch and with humour. and without making anyone wrong:)

  3. I’ve been thinking about this ever since you posted a while back. My first reaction was you don’t get too much sympathy from me with this since we know you can ask HIM. And I don’t have too much problem asking, (although I can’t complain when something is cooked badly. ) However, I tend to keep going back to the same eateries in our small town, first because I don’t want to be disappointed by bad food, but also because I expect they would’t mind if they see me often enough. The second last time I went to my absolute fav, I asked if the portion of a new-to-me dish was too big for one person, (it was so I ordered something else,) but I think they were kind of busy and I felt bad even about asking nicely.

    • Ah yes good point. Maybe it’s easier when we are in familiar places where we have built up some ‘social capital’ and feel like we are on good enough terms that we can ask. It can feel harder when we are asking a complete stranger or out of the blue. And I’m interested in whether how we feel about those types of small ‘askings’ reflects how we feel about asking life/people/ourselves for bigger things.

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