No, it’s not a review of Amanda Palmer’s book. (Which I might read. I think it would actually be really appropriate to do so but I do tend to find myself disagreeing with her as much as I agree with her; while that opinion matters not a jot to her or hers, it is sort of important when you’re deciding what you should spend your time and attention on.)
But, this year, I’ve decided, will be my Year of Asking.
I’m one of those people who lives with a foot in two different cultures, and sometimes I don’t necessarily mine the best of both. Forgive me for resorting to some tongue-in-cheek stereotype here but I love that I enjoy wonderful Mediterranean foods and nurse a fabulously British passion for tea. I love an orderly queue, and also shouting at then television as if they can hear me. I love a bloody good
argument debate, holding court on my favourite subjects and also glaring withering glares at people (*cough* my husband *cough*) who try to talk to me in the cinema. I sit poised between Greek drama and British reserve, and that can be a wonderful thing.
But it can also be an obstacle. For example, I’m really quite bad about asking for things. Not so much at work where the last few years have seen a continual and steady growth in confidence and that just goes from strength to strength – and thank goodness for good management continually prodding me to speak up and demonstrate my worth, with the result that I was promoted this year and actually felt I deserved it. And in the past few years I’ve got a little bit better at complaining – politely, of course – but it’s the proactive asking I still get super hesitant about. But in the (IRL) social world, even something as simple as suggesting a meeting with someone I don’t know can have me second-guessing myself and worrying that I’m somehow taking up too much space in people’s minds.
Some of this is probably leftover socialisation from growing up as a fat kid and literally worrying I took up too much space (tip: please don’t feel the need to tell me I’m not fat now, as a) yes I know and b) still kinda big though and c) that just encourages people to think fat is bad and thus the evil cycle of mental pain continueth). Some of it is probably because several generations of women in my family have very much been the type who worry what other people will think and say if… Some of it is because, resorting to stereotype again, British good form is really not to shout too loudly about oneself or be too proud of one’s accomplishments – and isn’t making your presence known basically a way of doing that?
I sometimes find myself wincing when people self-publicise or repeatedly tweet the same posts with “ICYMI!”. But honestly, why shouldn’t they? They’ve come to the point where people are waiting for their updates, and why shouldn’t they recognise that? What is so wrong with saying “I am here, and I am asking for your attention, because…”? And honestly, waiting in the corner for the Powers That Be (from the brand you want to work with to the person you want to make friends with or the company you want to notice your complaint) to notice you is several times more pathetic than just sticking your hand up and giving a little wave.
I’m sort of a believer in defining years by words because when I do it seems to work out for me as an excellent mental reminder to hop to it. 2013 was Decisiveness; I changed jobs, though I was a scared, and surprised myself regularly throughout the year with what I could set my mind to. 2014 was Creativity, and #100forchildsi seriously unlocked or unblocked something wonderful. 2015 is my Year of Asking – and I guess it started with asking you to read this.
Thank you for your time.
I cannot preach about this, but I try to ask myself something like, “Am I allowing the other person, within the bounds of politeness, the option to ignore me?” People who truly take up too much space are those who cannot bear to be ignored. The sort who tweet @ you with their post, asking for feedback and an retweet, every time they post. The sort who nudge you about it when you don’t promptly comply.
Another thing to consider is what’s the very worst you can do. So I’m guessing that, in most of the contexts you mention, the worst outcome is that you are utterly forgettable. You want to work with a company, but your correspondence or conversation doesn’t stick in anyone’s mind. You want to be closer with someone but you’re not really on their radar.
The instinct (mine anyway) is to fear that I’ll be hated. But in truth, this is extraordinarily unlikely. People I approach for professional help or friendship might be mildly annoyed by me, they might think I’m a bit of a twonk/ up myself/ needy/ whatever else. But that’s not a lot of space in anyone’s mind; they’re not going to lay awake at night, consumed by loathing for me.
And thus, it’s always worth a gamble. Not that I’m any good at this, but I support the principle; the risks of asking are considerably lower than the potential gain.
Sorry for the ramble! I wish you every success in your ambitions for the year. 🙂
Not a ramble at all – it gets right to the heart of it. Somewhere in the mix is I think the combined fear of being hated or ignored – they’re both unsettling ideas but the former is a) worse and yet b) considerably less likely.
Happy New Year! 🙂
(I hope the way I phrased that doesn’t suggest that you, Alexandra, are at particular risk of being forgettable. You’re certainly not!)
Ha! Not at all, but I think everyone risks it to some extent! 😉
I have been thinking about this post for a couple of days now, the bit about reposting links to posts in particular. I’ve always found this so difficult, when it came to review posts I could happily post the link a second time but if it came to more personal posts it has always felt very awkward to post about it after the first posting (incidentally, linking my blog to post to my Facebook nearly finished me off – just felt like a step way too far).
I love that you’re having 2015 as your Year of Asking, and I wish you the very best with it 🙂
Thanks so much for this, Jenni. It’s something I think I’m going to have to practice doing and work up to. It still doesn’t exactly come naturally, but I’m getting there. I really appreciate the support of friends like you! x
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