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Why Receiving Is Difficult (and How to Make It Easier)

Do you struggle receiving gifts, help, and compliments? If you ever wonder why receiving is difficult and wish there was a way to make it easier, you’re not alone – and you’re in the right place, too!

Some are convinced that the reason for someone to have issues with receiving is because of pride, and I can assure you this is rarely the case.

Why Receiving Is Difficult (and How to Make It Easier)

It sounds easy enough to say “Thank you, I accept,” but it’s just not so simple. Receiving gifts, accepting help, and taking in compliments gracefully can be really hard when these offerings have been used as a manipulation tactic in the past and, therefore, receiving has been associated with a source of pain, guilt, and shame.

10 False Beliefs That Limit Our Capacity To Receive

Many of us have had to unlearn many false beliefs about giving and receiving, to be able to  open up to gifts – and to love.

To get something, you have to work hard for it, you need to earn it.

When you get something, you have an obligation to reciprocate. 

If someone is being extra nice, they probably have ulterior motives.

Before you accept what is given to you, make sure you deserve it.

It would be selfish for you to receive something when others need it more than you do.

Being independent is honorable and strong, being needy is shameful and weak.

A humble person does not impose on or burden others.

If someone gives you something, they can take it away, and that loss will be too painful.

It’s wrong to want, ask for, or receive extra attention. And you never want to be wrong!

Even if you’re uncomfortable, accept what is given to you, so you don’t hurt someone else’s feelings.

These beliefs create unfair judgment around giving and receiving and damages our ability to do either with the energy they were intended.

What’s your relationship with receiving?

I fight a constant daily battle to stay present and not make decisions based on the pain of the past or the fear of the future. The rejection, shaming, and abuse may still live in the past, but the pain comes back in images of a possible future that hurts right now and that won’t go away without conscious, arduous effort.

I rarely feel safe in my world to begin with, but when the opportunity shows up where I can receive, everything in my body perceives imminent danger. 

When someone that’s not on “my approved list” offers a compliment, a gift, or a favor, my body reacts. My “spidey senses” become alert and I have a choice to make: flee, fight, or freeze, or assess the situation, being open that the giver might be sincere.

What is it like for you? What do you feel in your body – does your belly tighten up? Do you feel a knot in your throat? Do your shoulders tense up? Does your jaw lock up? How do you feel inside – what are your fears?

Sometimes I find that receiving can not only be safe, but a sacred chance to let in love and care. Sometimes I realize I may have deprived myself of such connection. I grieve, tell myself it’s okay to not get it right every time, and thank myself for the awareness.

While one side of me is absolutely terrified, the other side of me desires to receive gratefully, freely, and with grace. Like it’s not hard enough to feel this way, add the guilt of suspecting people’s motives!

What has helped me most in creating positive growth in the area of receiving is to go deep in self-reflection and get clear about what I feel and why. 

Besides the signs your body will send, you will think and say words that will reveal clues of what’s blocking your receiving capabilities:

You didn’t have to” (Sense of duty, pressure?)

This is too much (Low sense of deserving?)

I feel bad that you did all of this for me (Feelings of selfishness?)

What is your pattern and what’s at the root of these statements? Are you sure your reasoning behind them is true? What are you really afraid of?

It’s not easy to release these thoughts and feelings, and it’s a chore to try and discern which gifts are genuine and given out of love, but the hardest task of all is to give yourself permission to enjoy something without having to meet a certain criteria.

I encourage you to give yourself grace and choose self-compassion and self-forgiveness when you start to blame yourself. Yes, practicing the art of receiving with an open heart is a worthy goal, however, there is some responsibility that lies on the giver, too!

Embrace your feelings around receiving

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m working on myself and my resistance, and that I’m questioning myself when I see every gift as a Trojan horse.

I will also tell you, though, that it’s not your fault that you’re triggered, it’s not your fault that you feel uncomfortable, and it’s not your fault that you perceive something that is considered to be pleasurable as unpleasant.

We didn’t ask for conditional love. We were disappointed there were strings attached. We were hurt when we were used or accepted for our accomplishments, rather than for who we are. We are tired of having to perform to have our needs met or be appreciated. 

We don’t want to be suspicious of the giver, helper, encourager’s motives. We wish we wouldn’t wonder what they want from us, how they want to control us, or what it’s going to cost us to receive. This is usually an involuntary, uninvited, and unwelcome reaction, and it’s futile to wish you never felt that way.

Making it easier for others to receive

It’s easier to call someone prideful, stubborn, or arrogant because they are not opening themselves to the gift you are offering, but the way to help others receive is not more judgment.

If you are turned down as a giver, don’t take it personally. More than likely, the receiver is not rejecting you and the last thing they want to do is offend you, but they are operating with the purpose to protect themselves from perceived threats.

If a giver wants their gift to be well received, the first rule is to give a gift that the receiver of the gift likes, wants or needs, rather than something this giver thinks they should like, want, or need. In other words, the giver has the responsibility to give meaningful gifts, help, and compliments.

Now we all wish it were that simple, right? There are meaningful gifts that are hard to receive, too! Sometimes the more meaningful the gift, the harder it is to accept it! 

Growing up, my experience was that when I relied on someone other than myself, I suffered, so that became a rooted belief that I’ve spent countless time, money, and effort to unlearn.

I always tell my daughters: “I want to be treated like a person, not like a project.

Over the years, I’ve become better at accepting help and receiving presents. From infancy, I’ve had to protect, defend, and provide for myself to survive.

Because gifts are also not my love language at all, I still struggle with receiving gifts, unless connection (which is one of my highest values) happens first. Accepting gifts from people that have not connected with me in some way often feels more like a burden than a gift to me.

While I can acknowledge that there are many people who find joy and demonstrate true love through giving (to them, this is connecting), there are others who use giving gifts and help as a crutch to avoid connection. They click “buy now,” sign a check, or even help someone with chores, rides, moving, meals, money, etc. and they feel good because they gave and they helped and they acted like a good person.

I’m not trying to demonize people with a checklist mentality. We’re on the same journey in the Law of Giving and Receiving – they are imperfectly practicing giving as much as I’m practicing my flawed receiving.

I would invite these givers to go one step further and consider whether the person they are giving to would actually feel loved and the person would appreciate “the support” given.

I always teach my daughters that we don’t love things, we love people (and animals!!!). Remember that food and things are not LOVE. Love is Love.

You may want to ask, observe, or research how to help that person feel seen, loved, and special, then a gift or a helping hand may be it, or may be the cherry on top. Here’s what I believe: Sharing is caring – only when you care.

Are you a cheerful giver?

The Scriptures don’t say that God loves givers, they said God loves a CHEERFUL giver. In exploring the following definitions of cheerful, we may assess what kind of giver we are and how to improve.

Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM“noticeably happy and optimistic” – Are you happy and can the receiver tell you are happy when you give? Does it give you real joy to give or is it just feel relief from checking it off?

Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM“causing happiness by its nature or appearance” – Do you cause happiness to the person you’re giving the gift to or to whom you’re providing the help?

Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM“pleasant and friendly and likely to make you feel positive and happy” – Are you friendly and pleasant to those you help or give to and can you clearly see that you made a difference in their lives? Have you ever asked them “What would be helpful” rather than imposing your idea of helpful on them? Or if you’re just brainstorming, have you asked “Would this be helpful?” or “This is all I could think of, is there anything that would have been more helpful?”

No matter who a person is, they want to feel like they matter. And each of us experiences this differently because we all have different values.

I can think of so many times in which someone did something to help that not only wasn’t helpful, but it left me feeling so yucky inside because I want to be grateful (gratitude is also one of my top core values) and I wasn’t. I end up feeling guilty that I won’t use the gift or the help is not really what I needed and it creates a wall or chasm between that person and I.

Sometimes I’ve felt torn between faking enthusiasm to avoid hurting that person versus being honest and saying “you know what, this is nice, but I don’t want it/ I’m not going to use it / I don’t need it / I don’t like it,” or whatever it is. Authenticity is another value of mine, so this starts a real conflict within me because being authentic here may seem to the other like I’m not grateful and it can cause disconnection.

Based on my personal journey and my experience coaching moms and mompreneurs from all over the world, here are some ways you could help your potential receiver shift their attitude, by helping them open themselves to you as a giver, first:

Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM

Create trust, safety, and connection before or while you give. Create trust, safety, and connection before or while you help. And for the love of God, don’t give unless you mean it, unless you’re spreading good cheer and love.

Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM Become aware of the main barriers to receiving so you can be more compassionate of a reluctant receiver:

1- fear of vulnerability (danger!)

2- feelings of unworthiness (not being good enough)

3- low sense of deserving

4. fear of indebtedness (anxiety of owing the giver something)

5. fear of loss (what is given can be taken away!)

It feels so yucky when someone points out that we are denying the giver a chance to give, that we are robbing ourselves (and them) of blessings, that we are ruining opportunities to connect, or even worse, we are told we should just be grateful for the offer, invitation, or help.

Please know that we want to receive, but we are hurting. There’s just too much denial, anger, and depression and we don’t want to deal with more overwhelming emotions

Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM

Be transparent and clearly express the why behind your offer. Own what you are getting out of giving and what you expect from the receiver.

When someone exposes their true motives, it makes it safer to receive. I think that’s why gifts with cards or notes with a warm message seem to be more special.

Because we receivers learned that some gifts, compliments, and help come with manipulative strings attached, our mind will be more at ease knowing we can politely refuse it or accept it without becoming vulnerable and without feeling guilt, contrition, fear, duty, or debt.

When the intention, motivation, and care of the giver of the gift, offer, invitation, or compliment is clear, it’s easier to believe, accept, and feel the joy, peace, and connection that comes from receiving.

Receiving is not always awkward

When I found out I was pregnant, Elisha convinced me to create a gift registry for the baby and I was not excited to.

It’s my fourth pregnancy and the first time I’ve had a real registry. I have been blown away by the amount of gifts I’ve received for my baby girl and I realized that receiving these gifts hasn’t felt uncomfortable, but a true joy in my life, and I think I discovered why: the people who have contributed are people who have been there for me, cheering me on, supporting me through the hard days, praying for me and my little baby, or checking on me in every way, speaking openly about the events surrounding my pregnancy and encouraging me through them, making sure my baby has a sweet start in this world. Giving is virtuous, but so is accepting gifts gratefully - Doe Zantamata I’ve even gotten gifts from people I’ve never met, but connected with me through reading my story and getting familiar with what material things I actually want and need to prepare for my baby’s birth.

I can see a pattern when it’s easy for me to receive. Like when I ran out of gas about 2 hours away from home and I found out my card was not in my purse. We asked for help and someone generously gave us a gas card – a miracle! Or when someone just decided to waive my fee at the printing store and I felt special. Or when two people let me go ahead of them in line at the grocery store and I felt seen. In each instance, I felt cared for, and that prevented me from feeling any anxiety.

When the resistant receiver works on recognizing the giver’s efforts and the giver works on being understanding, compassionate, and in creating safety, connection, and trust, giving becomes a cheerful experience and receiving becomes gradually easier.

Do you struggle with receiving? Tell us what you learned and how you’re going to apply it in your life. xo [ela]

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