I Sent Back A Steak

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m going to give you a little background information. In addition to being brought up in a household that was concerned with ‘never being a bother’ to anyone, I also spent over a decade of my life working in bars and restaurants. As a waitress and a bartender, I was often annoyed by customer’s requests that I deemed extreme. I would have a different attitude today but hey, I started in restaurants at 14 and had a bit of an attitude problem.


Continuing right along…


This lesson that I got from home of ‘not bothering anyone’ also taught me to expect people to not bother me. But bother me they did. I was constantly annoyed, for years, by people who would dare to ask for things that I would never request of anyone. How DARE they?!? As the years passed, I chilled out quite a bit and had a two part realization:


One: Most people that ask for things simply know what they want and if you can provide it, then great. Simple.


Two: I am annoyed at them not because of their request but because I am afraid to make that same kind of request in my life. I just, ya know, don’t wanna bother anybody.. and then I walk around disappointed because I didn’t get what I wanted.


So. As I write this post, I am sitting in a spa in Poland. I travel here twice a year to work with patients that I have had since my days in Warsaw. I stay at the same place each time for a minimum of 10 days. The staff knows me well. I tip everyone at the end of my stay (the waitress in me feels so satisfied by this). I don’t ask for much and I’m so appreciative. They do a lot to make me comfortable here and I make sure they know how grateful I am.


Two nights ago, I was ordering a steak. I rarely order steaks, especially in Poland because they tend to believe that medium well to well is the proper way to serve and steak and… gross. When I am actually going to eat a steak, medium rare is the way I go.


I told the waitress specifically as I ordered that I wanted medium rare and if the kitchen is having doubts to make it more rare than medium. I definitely didn’t want an overcooked steak. Just this simple request cost me a lot. Being clear about my desires was difficult. Normally I would say medium rare and then leave it at that. But… I decided to go for it. I really wanted this steak to taste right.


The steak came out. I touched it with my finger. I didn’t even need to cut into it, I knew it was almost well done. The waitress had waited by my table and looked at me and I had to make a decision. Was I going to actually send back food? I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my life. Ya know, trying not to bother anyone and get my veggies spit in. But I did it. I sent it back. I apologized for causing trouble and the waitresses’ answered:


“It’s not your fault, the kitchen should have done it right the first time!”


I breathed a sigh of relief and waited for my next steak.


While I sat and waited I thought about this whole exchange. The difficulty I experience in asking people for the things that I want is so strong it almost chokes me. I’ve become that woman who doesn’t have an opinion about what movie to see or what restaurant to go to. I’ve forgotten some of the things that I love to do, taste, feel and speak because I am trying to not bother or offend anyone.  Now, I am not about to become someone who barges around screaming like a banshee (I love the word banshee) about what she wants.


I might, however, turn into someone who turns inward for a second and starts to ask herself, in a small voice at first.. But what do you really want??


Am I alone in this? Do you have trouble asking for what you really want?

Are you aware of your true desires or have your desires been taken over by your partners, children, co-workers, etc.?


Please tell me I’m not crazy.






  1. Jayne

    This has been my problem for my entire life! I’m a high school classmate of your mom (for an age reference) I struggle with speaking up for myself all the time. The only time I’ve come remotely close to speaking out was when my children were small and couldn’t speak for themselves. I’ve had reiki readings and my voice or throat chakra always comes through as being blocked. Whenever I have spoken up, I feel like an awful person. I have no idea how to overcome it. .:sigh:.

    1. caitdonovan

      Hi Jayne!
      It’s amazing the things that follow us through our lives. It’s like our life is constantly whispering “here’s your lesson” and we are constantly turning up the volume in other areas of life to drown out the whispers.

      I have found it has become easier over time when I reword the request I’d like to make. Usually, the first version sounds snotty to me – like I am asking for too much, so I reword and reword again until it’s a sentence I am more comfortable saying.

      For example – I was at the spa last month and two women outside the sauna that I was in, talking on their phones.. about WORK. At the SPA.
      Normally, I would sit there and stew in my annoyance, feeling very self righteous but I decided I should speak up. The first sentence that popped up was basically “UM, could you SHUT UP PLEASE!?!?!?”. But I knew that wasn’t the way to do it… so I tried again in my mind…
      “Hi, this is a relaxation zone, F off.”… Still a little snotty. So I tried again (it usually takes me 3-4 tries… lol). “Hi, I just finished work for the day and I’d love to relax. Do you mind taking your conversations outside the spa area to help maintain the quiet down here?”

      Then, I repeated it in my mind for about 2 minutes… now, they’ve been on the phone nearly 10 minutes but I’m not angry anymore because I’ve decided it’s okay to speak up. I checked my energy, I was nervous to speak up but I wasn’t irritated or feeling self righteous. The energy that I wanted to share with them was peaceful, so I was sure to engender that in myself before I spoke to them. I opened the door and recited my newly formed words: “Hi, I just finished work for the day and I’d love to relax. Do you mind taking your conversations outside the spa area to help maintain the quiet down here?”

      Both of them said “Sure! No problem!” and walked upstairs.

      It was like magic.

      So, there you have it… reword it until it sounds (and FEELS) peaceful and clear of annoyance, anger and other things you don’t want to share with the folks around you.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  2. Tia Ginny

    I too, don’t think I’ve sent food back at an eatery …..My issue is sometimes with my hairdresser….I tend to say “no it’s fine” in a very cheerful voice. Then I get home and fuss with it endlessly. This happens almost every time. I am know for being bold and yet in some areas I just don’t speak up. I feel a change coming….

    1. caitdonovan

      I had the same problem with hairdressers. This changed for me once I started working with patients. I REALLY want people to be comfortable when they are in the office. So, I always ask a million questions about the pillow, the lighting, the height of the headrest, pillows under the knees, eye pillows, music, needles comfortable, etc etc etc. I realized that if I want people to be this comfortable, then probably people that are servicing me want the same for me as well.

      I LOVE when people speak up to let me know they don’t like the music or they need to be propped up a bit more. It makes me feel great to know that I can create an environment that they feel good in.

      So, in those environments, I started speaking up and have noticed that people are generally really happy to do simple things to make you happy. My hairdresser in Prague is the best and I always need an extra towel under my hair when it’s wet and down or else I end up with a soaking wet back. I just have too much hair that holds too much water. I reminded her every time and she never even flinched. She didn’t want me to be sitting there uncomfortable!

  3. Chris Donovan

    I never send food back. I always say I’m comfortable at the acupuncturist, before I even know!…no wonder where you get it from. I have learned to say no, when I really don’t want to do something…most of the time…

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