'Tis the Season to Receive

receive give season
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”  -Brené Brown

I was on a girl date the other day, having a lovely time - until - the check arrived. 

To my horror, my girlfriend grabbed the check and insisted on paying. 

What followed was a series of "oh, no, let me get it" back-and-forth and some downright ungraceful receiving on my part.

We were able to laugh about it as I thanked her and owned up to my discomfort and need for a little help in the receiving department. 

As I walked home, holiday decorations filling my periphery, it got me thinking more about the after-dinner song and dance. With the holidays around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time to get some clarity around giving and its neglected counterpart, receiving. 

Won’t you join me on a journey of Receiving Past and a lesson or two in the art of receiving with grace? 

Most of us have been conditioned with the idea that "it's better to give than to receive", which is a beautiful thought and sentiment. We're bombarded with the message to give, give, and give some more, particularly at this time of year.

But, what about the flip side? What about receiving?

Our relationship with receiving often goes back to childhood and the messages we internalized around being “good” and “nice.” As adults, we don’t want to seem greedy or (gasp) bitchy, and many of us have been taught that receiving sends off precisely that message.

Receiving often clashes with our cultural views of how we are supposed to behave socially. 

The problem is, on a very practical level, if we believe in the power of giving, someone has to be on the receiving end for the cycle to work. What message do we send when we judge ourselves for receiving and turn around and expect someone else to receive our gifts? Hmm, anyone else see the fallaciousness and hypocrisy in this thinking?

The issue runs deeper than this, though. There is a fundamental message we send ourselves when we resist receiving. It sounds something like, "I don't deserve this."; "I'm not good enough."; "What will they think of me?"; or even, ”How will I ever repay them?"

Whenever we judge something, we send a message to our subconscious that what we are judging is something to be avoided. When the internal tape is playing telling us it isn't "good" or "nice" to receive, you can be sure we sabotage other opportunities to receive. 

So what if I block the opportunity to receive a few gifts? The thing is, this goes deeper than that dinner my friend picked the tab up for or that Christmas gift you’ve been given. This can extend to love, friendship, opportunities, support, and money.

How we do one thing is often how we do other things. 

In an article for Oprah.com, Martha Beck shares, “Refusing to receive leaves us chronically empty, prone to addiction, obsession, codependency, or an eternal psychological hunger that's never quite satisfied.” 

Those are some serious side effects. 

I get it, though. Receiving gifts and support can make us vulnerable. Often we resist receiving to defend and deflect against intimacy and the uncomfortable territory that comes along with it. 

We’re worried about how we’ll look.

We’re worried we’ll have to reciprocate.

We question if we deserve it.

In turn, many of us are more comfortable giving. Generous and kind as giving is, it puts us in a place of power and control. Relinquishing that sense of control can be difficult.  And, while giving is said to be better than receiving, and comes with a bunch of feel-good benefits, you can’t have one without the other. 

When we decline a gift or refuse help, we’re not only doing ourselves a disservice, we’re taking the benefits of giving away from the giver. 

It isn’t about our struggles with our intrinsic value, our self-esteem, or even how we can fit in socially. It isn’t about us. The act of receiving gracefully is about acknowledging the giver and the gift.

Being a graceful receiver also opens us up to receiving more in all areas of our life. 

Okay, so we’re willing to quiet our internal chatter long enough to receive. How do we go about the graceful part?

Drop your judgment and be open to receive. 

Remember, this isn’t all about you, it’s about the giver as well.

Then, smile. It's the element of grace. Finally, a simple "thank you" is all it takes.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

xo, Kim

P.S. Want a few tips on surviving the holidays and boosting your self-care? I made this Holiday Survival Guide for you!