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Women's Health Blog

Grit & Grace: 'Tis the Season for Receiving

We have all been taught “giving is better than receiving,” right? This adage is supposed to keep us from being self-centered and open our eyes and hearts to needs around us, essentially resulting in gratitude for what we do have – ultimately resulting in happier lives. I would say that’s a pretty powerful proverb. How could there be a downside?

I was talking with a patient’s sister the other day, and she was relaying her concerns about her sister’s lack of ability to receive help in any way. The patient runs herself ragged taking care of her family, cooking, cleaning, etc., and only when she has hit rock bottom is she willing to accept any type of help from someone else. This conversation got me thinking about how we as women generally struggle to be on the receiving end of assistance, gifts, and even compliments. I think my main love language is gifts, so I always think I’m ready to receive and yet somehow in the moment there is a discomfort that feels like I’m doing something wrong or perhaps I am not worthy.

I think there are two main reasons we have such a hard time receiving…

  1. The loss of control--aka vulnerability

You may feel like showing vulnerability and giving up control puts you in an inferior position or makes you appear weak. But the truth is that vulnerability takes strength and courage. Vulnerability by definition is opening yourself up to be hurt--allowing people to see your authentic self regardless of the consequences.  The ultimate expert on vulnerability, Brene Brown, addressed her own journey, “My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.” Most of the time we craft our stories to portray our own control over the situation. We spin our experiences to be as positive as possible, always working towards the goal of higher purpose. By putting up those walls, we are robbing ourselves and others of connection and intimacy.

  1. The pressure to reciprocate

The art of receiving is often over shadowed by your own negative self-consciousness or even learned responses from childhood making you believe that someone would only do something if there was something in it for them. Our minds jump to, “Why are they doing this? What do they want from me? I am not good enough. I can never do this type of thing for them.” This sense of shame blocks the ability to open your heart and accept a connection.

Practice makes perfect…

Still uncomfortable with the thought of opening yourself up to receiving gifts? Like anything else, practice, practice, practice. The first step is just plain self-awareness. The next time someone offers you something and you feel that familiar tug to escape, stop and take a breath. Is your body tense? Try to release some of it by dropping your shoulders. Now put your empathy hat on and envision the roles reversed. How would you feel about giving this gift to the other person? Use your internal dialogue to show your authentic appreciation.   

The practice has to go beyond the actual moment of receiving. It takes internal work to appreciate your own positive attributes and deem yourself worthy of other’s love, attention, and praise. Practice literally saying these positive affirmations to yourself on a daily basis:

I am worthy and deserve to be loved.

I am important.

I am confident.

I can choose my own happiness. 

It’s ok to ask for help.

People want to help because they love me.

I deserve to be happy.

I deserve a good life.

You don’t need another person to practice receiving. There are so many gifts around us every day that we should be grateful for. Receive the beauty of the world with a grateful heart.

In reality, it’s not all about you. Gracefully accepting is actually a gift to the giver. So perhaps giving and receiving are equally important. So this holiday season, refine the art of receiving.

Amanda Gross

Amanda Aris

Amanda Aris is the Cancer Care Coordinator at Beebe Healthcare’s Tunnell Cancer Center. As part of the psychosocial services team at TCC, she navigates patients through the specialty pharmacy process of obtaining oral chemotherapies, coordinates all referrals to outside institutions, and works closely with the cancer survivorship programs and events. Although she has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Secondary Education, she previously worked with cancer clinical trials as a Certified Clinical Research Professional in Philadelphia. Amanda is Baltimore born and an avid