Circling the jam-packed lots of malls, churches, and stadiums looking for parking, my mom would do this peculiar thing… We, the passengers, would scoff, laugh to ourselves, or think what is she doing? But nine times out of ten, not only would she immediately find a parking spot, it’d often be damn near VIP-type parking. So, whenever we’d pass up a good time because we predicted the parking prospects would be bleak, mom would pull us in close and let us in on her little secret, “Ask God for a parking spot.”
This is my mom’s answer for everything.
“Mom, what do you think I should wear to that super-important-event tomorrow?”
“Mom, I’m not sure if I should go with choice A or the seemingly-different-but-ultimately-innocuous choice B.”
Sometimes I wonder if mom is just passing the buck; too tired to entertain my over-thinking, exhausted by my pining over things that don’t really matter, she serves the one thing her impatience would allow her to offer.
Ask someone else. Ask God.
There are times when I know this is what she’s doing but there are other times when we students of Mom Wisdom University return to her stunned by the stellar results. “Mom I prayed for a parking spot, it worked!” “Aunty, I asked God to help me pick an outfit, you were right!” We asked, and we received. Crazy, right?
There is a lot of you that may be reading this, thinking, Why does this warrant a write-up? Haven’t you ever heard the sage old adage “Ask and you shall receive?” But there’s another whole lot of you that, while you understand it at a basic level, have a hard time putting this concept into practice. I call the latter lot, over-thinkers.
Asking is a simple concept for most of us. We assess what we need, we ask someone who can give it to us, we get a yes or we get a no. Some of us think we should be able to handle things without asking for help or what we need and thus, we don’t even give anyone room to say no. And some of us feel the no’s of our past so deeply, we stop asking altogether. (Raises hand.) I’ve spent way more time in my life than necessary weighing the probability of the “no”—to avoid the pain that often comes with it—than actually asking the question. As is the case with most over-thinkers, there’s an ever-growing, overwhelming list of reasons why not—a refrain that we rehearse and rehearse—before the question “why not?” ever has its moment to make a case. This roadblock in my thinking has always stemmed from feeling undeserving and under-qualified.
The summer of 2016, when I anguished over whether or not I’d get a job—a job that didn’t exist, a job of which the details were so, so blurry that even if it was possible, I expected I’d end up with less than I wanted—I heard a Still, Small Voice say, “Why don’t you just ask Me?”
Huh. I thought, Did I forget to take that one simple step?
Pro-tip: When God asks you to ask Him for something, He’s going to give it you.
Of all the lessons I’ve had to learn in my twenties, this may have been one of the more painful ones. One, because it’s pain I didn’t have to put myself through and, Two, because it’s pain I voluntarily put myself through… my entire life. That reminder to ask for what I needed and wanted marked the beginning of addressing a mindset that has always felt natural to me, putting it aside, and adopting a new outlook.
Staying in a spirit of asking and keeping your joy in the face of rejection is the foundation of growth and confidence. I’m still figuring things out but here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Ask Because No One Is Going to Do It for You
When we don’t ask, we get what people offer us which, well, to be fair is probably scraps because, honestly, there are very few people in your world that believe you deserve what you believe you deserve. And further more, there are even fewer people who make note of it because, let’s face it, we’re all self-centered jerks. And there are even fewer people who are in the room where it happens and also willing to ask the question on our behalf.
My mom, who if you haven’t guessed by now is a walking book of African proverbs, used to tell me, Omo to ba sipa ni iya maa gbe. The rough translation: the baby that lifts her arms up to be carried, is the baby that is going to be carried. Oh, and here’s another one: a closed mouth is a closed destiny. (That last one was a freebie).
My mom has always had to remind me to speak up, but a certain mentality has always seized me: if they love me, they’ll see me. When things are given to me freely it means I’ve earned them, it means I’m worthy, it means I am loved. It’s an acknowledgement of my presence and my value to those around me. Well, Tolani dear, and for all the people in the back, you’ve got to stop living for the validation and acknowledgment of others.
Conversely, asking is the act of validating your own worth—the ultimate act of self-love. Always choose this. Always choose the active role of love. Always choose to pursue rather than wait to receive.
Ask and Go
You better get used to it now but many my lessons will include illustrations of my dogged pursuit of clothes and shoes. Here’s the first one:
Back in September, I traveled to Missouri with my mom, her sisters, and my cousins for our annual spirit-filled weekend at the Joyce Meyer’s Women Conference. It would be the last in Missouri and, though I knew it’d be hot, I brought my new motorcycle jacket which I endearingly call my Daisy Johnson jacket.
Oh yes, you will learn eventually but I might as well clue you in, now, I am in fact a blerd. And one of my favorite characters from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D is Daisy Johnson (AKA Quake) who rocks a different moto-jacket in every episode.
To wrap up the conference, we all went to our favorite pizza place, Pi. Unbeknownst to me, I left Pi without my beloved jacket and because I’m not as attentive as I’d like to believe, I didn’t notice until the very next morning… as we were checking out of the hotel.
I prayed and prayed yet, just as quickly, the list came at me: you never deserved this jacket, you couldn’t afford it in the first place, blah blah blah. It was only a few more minutes before I could shut that thinking off. I didn’t know how but I decided I was going get my jacket back.
I called Pi and they told me they found and kept Daisy but how could I get it when we were on our way to the airport? I was half-waiting for some kind of miracle: Pi would deliver my jacket or it’d materialize in my hands somehow. I have an unhealthy attachment to some of my clothes.
On the shuttle I’d resigned to buying a new jacket. Then we passed by Pi and the shuttle driver pulled around the corner—mere blocks away—to pick up more passengers. So, I got out and ran, my entire chubby self in ninety-degree St. Louis weather. I ran and got my jacket. Yes, it was that serious.
Windows of opportunities are sometimes wide open but often, they’re fleeting. Keep your ears on the ground and run when the door opens.
Ask and Ask to Be Ready
Sometimes when I pray for things, it seems an answer never comes and so I take it as a no. In truth, I just may not have been ready for this new path, blessing, or responsibility. I love the way Jessie Woo puts in this video below.
This lesson, this idea of asking—myself, my peers, my family, the universe, and even God Himself for permission to dream, to be bold, to be loved, to have faith, to have fun, to have wealth, to have friends, to have passion—is one of the most difficult lessons I’ve ever had to learn. And the teaching is not complete. I open my blog with this lesson because asking and believing is the beginning of fulfillment and the beginning of the confidence needed to pursue and conquer. This is for the anxiety-ridden, the low self-esteemed, and the self-proclaimed undeserving.
Welcome to Life Lessons of a Chronic Over Thinker.