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Recognize and Ask for
What You Want

Hillel the Elder, a famous Jewish scholar who lived more than 2000 years ago, told people to ask themselves, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”

These wise words still ring true today.

When we don’t speak up for what’s in our best interest, we are likely to miss many potentially life-changing opportunities.

For example, think of all the people who:

  • …wouldn’t be together if they hadn’t risked saying hello or asking someone out for coffee.
  • …wouldn’t have discovered a talent or a passion if they hadn’t tried something new.
  • …would have less money and less job satisfaction if they hadn’t asked their employer for a raise or a promotion.
  • …would have risked a medical emergency if they hadn’t asked questions and demanded solutions for a health problem.

And if we keep waiting for the ‘right time,’ the opportunity to speak up may never come.

If we don’t ask for what we want, the answer is almost always going to be ‘NO,’ because other people cannot read our minds.

Speaking up takes courage because we are risking rejection, disappointment, disapproval, embarrassment, and a host of other uncomfortable feelings or negative reactions.

If you don’t apply for a job, you’re definitely not going to get it!

And if you give up applying for jobs even after many rejections, you are going to stay unemployed.

The same concept is true in relationships, getting something published, and in helping a cause you believe in.

The ways to move forward and overcome obstacles are to:

  • Identify your goals.
  • Explore options for what you need to do to achieve these goals.
  • Write down your plan of action as specifically as possible.
  • Get help from people with useful expertise or experience.
  • Ask for support when you are feeling discouraged or frustrated.

You can learn more about advocating with and for yourself in ‘Elaine’s Five Magics for Success.’

For an example about how to advocate for something important in a challenging situation, see our article, ‘Relentless Cheerful Persistence for Child Protection: Overcoming Overwhelm to Keep Kids Safe.’

For more, visit our Mental Health resources page.

Focus on what you CAN do

Constantly thinking and worrying about big problems outside your control can make you stressed, anxious, and distracted – without making anything better.

Focus instead on small, positive steps that you have the power to take.

Even one small, positive action can help replace isolation and despair with connection and hope.


Make self-care a high priority

Most of us know that getting the rest, exercise, connection, nourishment, and care we need will make us calmer, happier, and more prepared to do our work and help others.

The problem is that making enough time for self-care can feel impossible with work, school, and family responsibilities.

It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we can get by with far less self-care than we actually need.

Without investing in ourselves, we are harming ourselves.

This is why it’s essential to make nurturing ourselves a top priority in our daily lives.


Develop & choose positive beliefs

Beliefs are thoughts we have over and over until we become convinced they are true.

Some are empowering. Some are limiting. All are changeable. Just deciding to change a negative belief probably won’t work at first because it won’t feel true.

For example, going from “I hate my body” to “I love my body” doesn’t happen just because we decide we want a new belief about our body.

Instead of trying to make a big leap that doesn’t feel true, you can use a strategy to change a negative belief in smaller steps, gradually, over time.


Protect your feelings

Have you ever felt miserable because of something cruel that someone said or did to you? Has this experience made you miserable over and over again every time you remember it?

You have the power to protect your feelings so that you can stay safe emotionally.

Here’s how.


Create safe and strong relationships

Developing safe and strong relationships helps us to reduce isolation, protect our mental health, and add joy and purpose to our lives.

Even one strong connection with a caring person can help to replace despair with hope.

Times of transition often lead to the loss of ongoing close relationships. Even if you don’t have someone you can talk with on a personal level right now, brief, positive exchanges with strangers and acquaintances can brighten our whole day. A smile, a wave, or a short chat about the weather can help us to feel more connected and less alone.

Here are some ways to meet new people and improve your relationships.


Set & respect boundaries

Do you ever feel misunderstood, taken for granted, or disrespected?

By speaking up clearly, respectfully, and powerfully, for what you DO and DO NOT want, you can reduce stress, improve communication, and prevent and solve problems.

Setting boundaries can help you to protect your time, your feelings, your body, your safety, and your mental and physical wellbeing.


Support others

Have you ever seen a friend or family member struggling emotionally? Maybe they were depressed or anxious or very sad because of a loss?

Many of us really want to help, and we aren’t always sure how. We might feel that whatever we do just isn’t enough, or we’re worried about doing the wrong thing and making someone feel worse.

The simple things can make a big difference.

Helping someone in need can improve your mood, your sense of wellbeing, and your sense of connection.

Here are some ideas of how to help others while still taking care of yourself.


Get help

Do you hate asking for help? Do you want to solve problems yourself instead of leaning on other people? Have you had bad experiences where the help you got made things worse?

Unfortunately, many cultures view asking for help as a weakness or as being selfish.

Some families see getting professional help such as counseling or therapy as being a personal failure, and associate mental healthcare with being ‘crazy.’

Getting help when you need it takes courage and strength.

Here are some ideas for how to overcome obstacles to getting the right kind of help for YOU.


Protect your personal safety

Too much misery, suffering, and trauma are caused by abuse, bullying, and assault.

The good news is that you have the power to protect yourself most of the time.

Here are some ways that you can develop the confidence and skill to take charge of your personal safety at home, at work, online, and in public.