Claiming what you really want


How many of us tend to avoid telling others what we want? Invent reasons for doing – or not doing – something? What is wrong with saying “Because I want to?” Are we afraid of appearing selfish? Irresponsible? Do we expect that others will start psychoanalyzing us? Do we… do we suspect that we are not entitled to do something that we want unless we have another, more “practical” reason?
I busted myself on this a while back, and it reminded me of all the times I have heard other people do the same thing so that those around them get a false impression.

Mine was a fairly minor issue, but it meant that I had to face a lot of misunderstanding.

Some readers may remember that not long ago I went on what some people considered a rather foolhardy or arduous trip. I chose to drive from Rochester, New York out to Tucson, Arizona on my own, and to return by a different (and longer) route so as to see a different landscape. The foundation reason was that I love driving alone, and I wanted to challenge myself, to see countryside I had not seen before… AND I wanted to see my family. There was also the fact that, having just downsized, I had some family items for which I no longer had room, some of which were too fragile to risk shipping and too large to be carry-on. I wanted to take them to my offspring, Three reasons. Which one do you think I gave to everyone who asked why I was heading out on my own? The last one. The one that dealt with things, things outside of myself. The truth is, I could have put those things in storage and told the offspring they could pick them up at their leisure. But no. I used that not as one of my reasons, but as THE reason.

Result? I was beset by well-meaning people who tried to figure out a way for me to achieve my so-called objective without “having to” do the long drive. Why? Because I had not been honest about all of my reasons. They thought that the objective was the transfer of the family items. Yes, that was part of it. But the challenge and interest of seeing the country on the ground – as opposed to flying – and doing it completely independently – was every bit as important – no, it was more important – to me than the transfer of a few bits and pieces.

Apparently I was not able – or willing – to simply say, “Because I want to.”

This tendency to give reasons that are outside of ourselves is a giving away of our own power. It can also lead to more serious misunderstanding than those I encountered from well-meaning people who wanted only to help.

I have seen it in people in recovery from addiction. They may be determined not to return to their substance of choice, but when it is offered they say “Because the program won’t let me.” “Because I’m on parole.” Both give the well-meaning friends (who may not understand the horrors of addiction) the impression that the person would like to use, but that some outside force is preventing them. In recovery, the development of a strong INTERIOR force is crucial to continued abstinence, and, as with any muscle or habit, it can only be strengthened by use. Putting the blame on the external does not do that. The friends think the friendly thing to do is to encourage the substance use, because the impression has been given that that is what the addicted person wants. Friends are willing to challenge the power of the outside forces that forbid. They want to support what they believe is what their friend “really” wants. Just as my friends’ attempted problem-solving did not help me, nor does theirs – in fact it can be harmful. How much clearer it would be to say, simply, “I don’t want to,” and leave it at that.

Apart from the misleading of those around us, the hesitation to simply say “because I want to” or, more politely, “This is something I would really like to do,” denies some of us the right to claim our power, the power to decide, to choose to do something and then to do it.

I’m not talking about abandoning responsibilities. (I had that handled.) I am not saying that this tendency occurs in everyone. Most of us know some people who do what they want to do regardless. I am writing to people who feel, perhaps, as I did, that it might sound a little silly for (in my case) a no longer young female to head off alone just because she wanted to. Do you sometimes find an external cover-up for what you really want, instead of being real? If you do, I urge you to work on getting honest with yourself and those around you. You do not need an external prop to justify something that matters to you.

And if someone near you demands that you find one… is it because they are trying to be helpful, or because they want to deny you the right to do it “just because” you want to? Do they have that right?

It is okay to know what we want to do. Yes, perhaps we have to deal with external responsibilities, but so long as it is not harmful to others, we do not have to invent reasons for doing what we want to do.

If you are able to do it, and it harms none, it is enough that you want to.

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