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“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.” Mick Jagger

I gave him the full mama bear hug and kissed the side of his head before sending him off with the usual parting words of a mother, “Have fun and be good.”

Only he wasn’t my child.

How did I know he needed mothering at that moment? Simple. He asked.

There were at least thirty of us at a neighbor’s house observing the pre-Junior Prom, picture-taking ritual. My son’s friend was there alone, his mother unable to attend. When it came time to leave for the prom, parents sent their children off with huge smiles, kisses and hugs.

As I released my hold on my son and sent him over to his father, his friend looked at me, extended his arms and said, ““My mother isn’t here and I need a hug too.”

As I hugged my son’s friend (for longer than I thought he would let me) it struck me that I had just witnessed this seventeen year old boy put the formula for getting what you need into action:

Awareness + Permission + Action = You Get What You Need

  1. Awareness: You can’t get what you need if you don’t know what you need. Are you as aware of your emotional need for affection, validation, understanding and support (just to name a few) as you are of your physical needs? If not, is it because you don’t think you’ll get them met anyway? If you want to have any chance of getting your needs met, you have to own them. No one else is going to get real about your needs until you do.
  2. Permission: Once you’re aware of your needs, do your best not to judge them. Whatever you need is valid and has merit. Viewing our needs through the prism of judgment causes us to shame ourselves into silence and inaction. Had my son’s friend thought he was being silly or juvenile, he never would have asked me for a hug before he went off to his first prom.
  3. Action: You know what you need and you know your needs have merit – now take action! Be brave and ask for what you need. You can be subtle or take the direct approach like my son’s friend, but you’re not going to get anything until you come out and ask for it.

Most of us let fear stop us from working the formula to get what we need. We’re afraid we’ll be judged, uncomfortable with vulnerability, or we’ve been rejected too many times before. Plus, fear keeps us playing small, believing we’re incapable of finding creative solutions to getting what we need.

The only way to ditch fear is to acknowledge it and then promptly ignore it. @DebbieWWGN
(Click to Tweet!)

When I was in the midst of cancer treatment, I was overwhelmed by daily responsibilities. Afraid to acknowledge I needed help, I soldiered on until it got to be too much. Finally, I talked with my oncology therapist who suggested, among other things, that I simply ask my husband to help me with the grocery shopping on the weekends, rather than continue to do it myself during the week.

When I heard her suggestion it was like a cloud lifted. Why did I think I had to do it all myself? And, why had I forgotten that we used to do the grocery shopping together every weekend before we had children, simply because we wanted to spend the entire weekend together?

Of course, my husband readily agreed to shop with me on the weekends and we’ve been doing it together ever since. I often joke with him that our big date of the week is going to Whole Foods on Saturday mornings.

Finding the courage to ask for what I needed reminded me that most people, and certainly my husband, respond generously. And here’s the kicker – at the moment the openness it takes to ask for what you need comes together with that generosity, a beautiful bubble of abundance and gratitude is created.

Do you struggle with getting what you need? Have you had the honor of showing up for someone who needed something from you?

I’m going to practice what I preach and ask you to join the conversation in the comments below. I answer every comment and would also love to see you share this post on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Thank you!!


Debbie Woodbury is the founder of WhereWeGoNow, author of You Can Thrive After Treatment and How to Build an Amazing Life After Treatment, and a Huffington Post blogger. She is an inspirational speaker bringing hope to cancer survivors and the patient experience to medical professionals. Debbie gives back by working with the Cancer Hope Network, The Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project, and the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center Oncology Community Advisory Board at Overlook Medical Center, Summit, NJ. Debbie is a wife, mother, and a former very stressed out attorney.  To learn more, join her at WhereWeGoNow and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Jeremy Brooks