I worked on my ability to receive this week.
I am planning a small birthday party for my son tomorrow. A friend offered to help by contributing some snacks for the party.
As a knee-jerk reaction, I declined her offer. “Oh, you do not need to do that,” I said.
When I reflected later on what happened, I wondered. Why did I say no?
The truth is that I would love some help with the party.
There are five key thoughts that close us off to receiving.
1. I do not deserve it
We often feel we need to work and earn everything good in our lives.
I read a line in the book The Queen’s Code by Alison Armstrong that brought a new insight into the art of receiving.
“If you deserved it, it wouldn’t be a gift.”
Meaning if you had done something to earn it, it would not be a gift. It would be payment. Remuneration. Compensation.
By definition, a gift is something you receive without doing anything in return. You don’t deserve a gift. You can’t earn it. You just accept it.
I was so surprised by my friend’s offer. “I have not done anything so cool for her,” I thought. But what I had done for her was irrelevant.
You do not earn a gift. You simply receive it.
2. The giver does not really want to give
Instinctively, I assumed my friend did not really want to cook for my son’s party.
As an inexperienced cook, I would never willingly volunteer to cook for someone else’s event.
It would be a chore for me. I assumed the same was true for my friend and wanted to save her the trouble.
Assuming that someone who offers us something does not really mean it is pretentious.
How dare we doubt the authenticity of someone’s offer? It is rude.
Can we assume that when an adult offers something unprompted, it is because they want to?
3. I will be indebted
People volunteer billions of dollars and hours to charity. Because giving when it is being received well is a reward in itself.
We are afraid that if we accept, we will have to reciprocate. If we have to reciprocate, it is not a gift but a transaction.
More often than not, us enjoying the gift is more than enough reward for the giver.
You can easily notice this when you are the giver. How excited you are when you have a surprise for someone.
I bought a surprise coffee for my husband this week, and it was my favourite part of my morning. I could not wait to come home and give it to him.
It would have really stolen away my joy if, instead of receiving it enthusiastically, he had said something like, “You did not need to.”
4. I want to prove I can do it on my own
Many people are offended when someone offers a gift or help. They think the giver does not believe they can do things independently.
When you want to prove you can do everything on your own, you will be closed off to receiving.
Our culture rewards self-sufficiency and independence. We lost the art of receiving.
The giver almost always knows you can do it on your own. They just find pleasure in providing for you.
5. I demand this
This last barrier is different. It turns off the flow of receiving at it’s origin, the giver.
We are all natural providers. We want to offer safety and joy to our people.
But, we cannot provide if we are feeling threatened by them. We often feel threatened by our relationships when they demand things from us and when they display punishing behaviour like judgment, sarcasm or withdrawal.
We want to give, but because we desire to, not because we have to. And we want to be appreciated when we do.
If you do not receive from the people in your life, have a look at your behavior. Have you been in attack rather than receiving mode?
When we express our needs without demanding and let go of our punishing behaviour, we will be surprised by how much other people are willing to give us.
The art of receiving
The above reasons for being a lousy receiver are selfish. We are preoccupied with ourselves, our worthiness, our ego, our sense of debt and our doubt of the other person’s authenticity.
Instead of focusing on the gift and the giver, we focus on ourselves.
Receiving wholeheartedly is a vulnerable and courageous act. We need to open ourselves to really receive. We might feel exposed.
The better we become at receiving, the more gifts we magnetize.
Author Alison Armstrong recommends watching the movie Pretty Woman to get an example of someone receiving well.
I pushed aside the fact that the protagonist, Vivian, was a prostitute and watched the movie. I wanted to see someone good at receiving.
The male protagonist is a millionaire who is accustomed to people taking from him. His ex-girlfriends demanded from him all the time.
Vivian does not require anything other than her payment. But she is excellent at receiving everything he offers. From breakfast to clothes to opera trips in private jets.
And he is only motivated to provide more.
Look at children if you want another example of someone great at receiving. That is why everyone wants to give kids gifts.
With the rise of isolation under the guise of self-sufficiency and independence in our society, the art of receiving is being lost.
Paradoxically, while we are rained upon by others’ demands, our voluntary gifts and help are being turned down.
This week, I embraced every act of kindness with a newfound openness and gratitude—be it my husband filling my water bottle or a friend offering me a lift.
Receiving it all with joy. And the more I appreciate the gifts, the more I receive.
Which one of the five barriers to wholehearted receiving has most resonated with you? Hit reply and let me know.