Ask for what you need, offer what you can

Val Rathjen, Community Learning Network

0 6 23 November 2021

In the book, The Circle Way, author Christina Baldwin presents the idea of, “Asking for what we need and offering what we can.” (Baldwin, 2010). This seems simple enough, right? However, in practice I would argue that this is actually very hard for us to do. Let’s explore this one-step at a time. 

Ask for what you need
This involves a certain level of self-awareness and honesty. When was the last time you stopped and really thought about what it is that you need? Our field is filled with helpers who spend most of their time focused on the needs of others rather than themselves, but the reality is that we can’t give from an empty vessel. It is important that we stop and look inward to make sure that we are replenishing our own resources and taking care of our own needs. Not just so that we have something to give, but also to keep our needs from getting in the way of helping others. What do they say on planes in the mandatory safety lesson? “Put your own oxygen mask on before helping someone else.” 

So let’s take a moment right now to consider what we need. If it helps, you may want to consider these four areas of life and health:

  1. Physical – how are you feeling in your body? Do you need to get up and move, stretch, or build some opportunities for exercise into your day? Do you need a more comfortable chair or to follow through on that yearly doctor's appointment? 
  2. Emotional – when is the last time you checked in on your emotions? Do you need a good cry or laugh? What is pressing on you that you have ignored and pushed aside? Can you make time to just sit with that emotion and let it be? Maybe you need to add some reflective practice or journaling to your calendar. 
  3. Mental – are you feeling weary or refreshed? Do you have good practices around eating and moving regularly so you can operate from your best self? Can you incorporate a pause into your day, that allows the busyness to fall away and makes it easier for you to prioritize your “to do” list? Do you need to go sit outside and be renewed in nature?
  4. Spiritual – this is about connecting to something bigger and beyond yourself. However you define it; I would suggest that there is strength to be gained in this connecting. How are you filling your well of love and compassion? What brings you a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose?

Reflecting on this list may help you begin to identify those things that you need. Remember, your needs matter and taking the time to identify them is not selfish, it is essential. Only when we begin to tap into these things can we truly “ask for what we need.” 

Now Later

Now let’s look at part two of the equation.

Offer what you can. 
Part two really flows out of part one, because you can’t offer what you don’t have. That’s why it is so important to pause and check in with your own needs and get that tank filled up!

I know that we have all been walking through some challenging things, as the waves of the pandemic seem to endlessly roll upon our shore. The needs that we are being asked to meet have likely evolved over the last months and may feel overwhelming at times. Can I just say, that it is ok for you to step back and acknowledge that you maybe (likely) cannot do it all. Being able to look at ourselves and recognize that we have limits is a good and healthy thing. 

Throughout this last year, I have come face to face with my limits. This has led me to a place of acceptance and recognition that I can only offer what I can, and that’s ok. Letting go of the crazy notion that I could do, and be it all, has been freeing. I am beginning to identify and accept what I can offer and know that it is enough. 

When I acknowledge my own boundaries, it changes my expectation, not only of myself, but of others as well. I am able to find grace and invite other people into the journey. I can offer room for others to offer what they can, and together we are stronger for it. This is an ongoing exercise, but one worth engaging in. 

I would encourage you to pause, and check in with yourself. Begin to identify and honour the things that you need, and perhaps even begin to ask for them. From that place of honesty, you can then offer what you can, in a more genuine and compassionate way. Both of these elements work together and help us find the rhythm of grace that nurtures our souls. 

Val Rathjen
CLN East-Central RSS


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