Every time I went to the dentist as a kid, I remembered seeing a stack of movies to my left, presumably for the television above me.
I had this thing for “The Secret Garden,” and with each visit, I saw that VHS just sitting there, waiting to be played.
Even though I knew the length of my appointment wouldn’t get me far enough to the point of technicolor in the film, I still really wanted to watch it while I got flossed.
But, I never asked.
That wasn’t the only time I talked myself out of speaking up and asking for what I wanted. In fact, it happens nearly every week.
The kind taco shop employee forgets my side of guacamole, and I decide it’s not worth it.
Or what about the time I spent two years with a man, only to find out he never felt the same way I did about him?
I was too afraid to ask, and as a result, I had to receive that dreaded phone call, blindsided.
I can only describe it as a lump in your throat, like the freedom that asking gives is literally crawling up your trachea.
But you shut it down before it's given a chance.
You've sat on the visions of a kinder future for quite a while. But in the moment, you quickly deny yourself the option.
Why are we so afraid to ask?
Simply put, asking is scary.
Maybe it’s because we liken ourselves asking to children, and adults don’t ask.
Or maybe, it’s because we fear the skewed impression it could give of us to the recipient of our request: greedy, entitled, undeserving.
Most times, I think we’re just terrified of the answer we could potentially be met with: no.
The inability to ask for what we want must be one of the most significant shames wrapped up in the human experience.
Regardless of whatever self-dialogue takes place for us to avoid the act, when we don’t ask in advocacy of ourselves, we lose (specifically in ways of knowledge) opportunity and accommodation.
Have you ever thought about how your life might be even the slightest bit different if you had asked for that one thing?
Reading the question alone likely prompted some kind of visual to enter your mind.
What is that thing? What could happen if you decided to ask for it today?
Need some inspiration?
Let me help you out with some examples:
1. The College Student
The four-year college stint has become more of a legend than reality.
While you may feel like you don't have much agency with each tuition payment or ill-scheduled course, you hold the power now, not just in four, five or six years.
Asking for financial assistance or that coveted research lab position, or even requesting more online courses from the department chair can help you design your education how you want it.
Then again, college isn't just about the academic hustle.
You know that woman or man you've been eyeing three seats to the left of you for almost a semester now?
Well, you've got about a month left sharing this particular classroom's air. So get to it.
Try asking this person out on a non-threatening study session before finals at the campus coffee shop.
Finals-induced misery loves company.
Or, how about dropping this person a sassy little note before class?
Asking can be strategic, after all, and it allows you to explore all of your options.
So maybe you should also leave a note for the hottie in the front.
2. The Intern
The life of an intern consists of rapid head nodding and "yes" after "yes."
Updated calendar: check.
Taking passive-aggressive digs: check.
Next to being a parent, being an intern is often a thankless job day in and day out.
It's like they expect you to be a robot and transform insults into higher productivity than those actually being paid.
Sometimes, it’s not the affirmative response that gets your superiors to respect you. It’s knowing your worth.
The next time you get scolded for not reading your boss's mind, try asking for a to-do list at the beginning of the day. (The perk is, this way, you avoid actually speaking to the dragon in the next cubicle.)
Are you carrying three titles? Ask for pay, and don't feel undeserving of it.
Believe me, they're still saving money by paying one of you instead of three of someone else.
Asking for that stipend might even allow you to quit that late-night job to focus on what you love to do, instead of what you have to do.
What's the worst that could happen? You're already not getting paid.
They can't take your money.
3. The Single Lady
Online dating has eclipsed those high expectations, and you've gone through 10 Tinder profile revisions, each time compromising on what you really want.
You feel out of place in a generation that holds such apathy for genuine connection and romance.
But, it's quite simple. If you don't like how you're being treated, ask for more.
As women, we're raised to keep our mouths shut and let the men steer.
But going along with this passive behavior only perpetuates the ill treatment we experience in our dating lives.
How about asking him to pick you up on your next date? Or perhaps, being coy about how sexy a provider is will encourage him to front the money for the bill.
Or how about not being coy? Ask him to cover this one.
We've all heard somewhere that we have to teach people how we expect to be treated.
So the next time you're filling out a dating site profile, go ahead and ask for something committed and long-term.
It might attract the man you’ll travel the world with.
4. The Teacher
You just scored your first teaching job! Mazel tov.
But before you even had a chance to sip your celebratory margarita, you were hit with the laundry list of supplies and room decor you're going to have to front, with promises of "reimbursement" to follow.
Due to your high hopes of being the Millennial Ms. Frizzle, you've designed a classroom only your imagination could manifest.
But hey, don't sob into your sangria. There is hope yet.
While you probably won't be getting the money back, try asking for supply donations at the beginning of the year from your students' families.
After all, the supplies aren't for you.
5. The Mother
Mothers are the most generous creatures we’ll ever know.
With that, unfortunately, comes self-sacrifice.
Asking for help can make mothers feel as though they are weak or failing.
Or maybe, it's a control thing for you. How could anyone take better care of your mini-me than you?
While it's true your children need a happy mom, a happy mom only remains happy through self-care.
What if you turned off the little voice in your head that keeps telling you you're a bad mom if you take time away?
You know what it would buy you? Time.
You would get time for a massage, a girls' night out or even an hour to read an actual book. No kidding.
After you hand the kiddos off and experience your first moment away to yourself since their birth, I'm confident you won't care about the implications of asking anymore.
I bet your mother would love to feel needed, and no one pinches those baby cheeks like a grandma.
6. The Boyfriend
It could happen now or three years from now.
You two have been together long enough to last a bachelor's degree and half a master's.
She keeps giving you those not-so-subtle hints (like minimized photos of rings).
Don't forget how you snuck a peak of her Pinterest the other night and saw a whole board designated to place cards.
I know you don't need a piece of paper to prove your love.
But maybe she does, as silly as it may seem. Women like security. They just do.
A woman who feels safe and secure will make it worth your while.
Also, you know that biological clock thing? It's actually kind of real.
Asking her to spend her life with you might just be the best thing you’ve ever asked for.
She might just say yes.
(Actually, who am I kidding? She will say yes.)
Oh, and I did eventually end up asking for my movie at the dentist. It was fantastic.
Don't ignore. Don't wait.