Do You Know How to Receive?

by Patricia Spadaro

“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.” —Thomas Merton

Giving is great, but is it always better than receiving? Is giving better than receiving if our giving ends up knocking us flat on our backs, compromising our ability to give with resilience to others?

When those of us who are out-of-balance givers wake up to the truth that giving isn’t always better than receiving, we want to know how we can start to receive. At my recent book signings in New York and Connecticut for my book Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, that was certainly the theme. People were asking me: “What can I do to become a better receiver?” They really wanted to turn around their habit of not being able to say no to others. Like many of us, they were so good at keeping track of everyone and everything that they had lost track of themselves. It’s a syndrome I’ve come to call “sacrifice on demand.”

My book goes deeply into that subject from many different angles, but here are three keys I talked about at my recent book signings that can help you start practicing a healthy habit of receiving.

1. Ask for support—and look at it as a sign of strength.
Those of us who give a lot also tend to be shy about asking for support when we need it. You might think that asking for support means that you are weak. That’s not true. In fact, when appropriate, asking for support is a sign of strength, and a sign of great love. Why? When you seek support in making the best decisions, it means you care about those who will be affected by your choices. Not only that, but by asking for support you are saying to yourself, “I am worthy of receiving.”

ASK YOURSELF: Where can I use some support in my life?
Remember, support comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it’s asking a spouse to make dinner, asking a neighbor to help you lift something heavy in your yard, getting guidance from a trainer for the right exercise routine, or talking through an important decision with someone who has expertise in that arena.

2. Get passionate. One of the reasons you may find yourself constantly getting bumped off your own to-do list is that you don’t have a passion that makes it clear—to yourself and to others—what’s the centerpiece of your life right now. When you have a burning desire to accomplish something, you bet it gets a top spot on your to-do list. What’s not a priority at the moment then naturally falls to the bottom of the list.

ASK YOURSELF: What’s my magnificent obsession? There’s a good article in the June 2010 issue of Psychology Today called “Go Ahead, Obsess!” by Eric Maisel and Ann Maisel. (It’s not yet posted online but you can get it on news stands.) I love their take on engaging in “a productive obsession,” which they define as “putting yourself wholeheartedly into a useful and meaningful passion.” Check it out for some inspiration.

3. Don’t wait for someone to give to you—give to yourself.
The most important person who will ever give to you IS you, and it’s the simple things that make the biggest difference. One day, after a particularly challenging week, I decided to buy myself a bunch of roses. I looked for that beautiful shade of yellow-peach that I love. Later that week, someone was in my kitchen, saw the roses, and asked, “Who gave you those flowers? What’s the occasion?” That gave me the opportunity to affirm out loud what my little present to myself was really all about. “I bought them for myself,” I said. “I’m celebrating . . . myself!”  Those roses made me smile every time I saw them. More than that, buying them was a way of affirming to myself: “I value you, and you deserve these!”

ASK YOURSELF: What gifts will I give myself today?

I invite you to join the conversation and share your thoughts . . .

Creating Spaces in Your Togetherness – Part 2

by Patricia Spadaro


Are you honoring the paradox of dependence and independence?

We honor ourselves when we ask for the support we need. And yet there are times when life compels us to rely on ourselves because flying solo is exactly what we need.

The following story from the Hasidic tradition of Judaism highlights why self-reliance is indispensable. A young rabbi complained to his mentor that he felt full of life when he studied, but when he turned away from that source of support and went about his daily activities, this mood disappeared. “What should I do?” he asked. His astute teacher replied with an apt analogy: “You must be like the man who is walking through the forest in the dark accompanied by a friend. A time will come when the two companions must part and each must go his own way alone. Neither will fear the darkness if he carries his own lantern.”

When it comes down to it, you have to be able to depend on yourself to light your way. You must be the guiding star in your life and make the decisions that allow you to live and give your fullest. In an odd sort of way, though, we may avoid doing just that because we’re afraid to step out onto center stage.

Do you avoid self-reliance—and at what cost?

At subconscious levels, we may develop a habit of continually sacrificing for or depending on others as a way to avoid the sometimes scary process of stepping out of our comfortable cocoon and developing our real gifts. Developing a habit of over-sacrificing for others can even be a way to avoid the confrontations that we think may come when we begin to assert our right to be at the top of our priority list. All that, however, comes with a cost. Sacrifice can be a mask that we put on and then become so used to that we forget that the face we are showing to the world, and to ourselves, is not our real face.

Don’t get me wrong—sacrifice is a beautiful virtue when it comes from the heart. But to use sacrifice as a way to avoid facing our fears or shaping our own futures, is a cop-out. It’s handing over our choices to someone else. It’s like accepting a supporting role in someone else’s drama when you should be playing the leading role in your own life story.

Every part of life, as it grows and evolves, naturally moves between seeking support and flying solo, between giving and receiving. Only when those elements are in balance can we make real and lasting progress. Navigating the paradox of dependence and independence in relationships requires a keen sense of balance. There can be a blurred line between receiving help and allowing a partner or mentor to control your life—or between giving help and stifling a loved one’s opportunity to grow and blossom. Here are some questions and tips to help you reflect on whether you’re the guiding star in your own life right now.

For your reflection: Are you your own guiding star?

>> Are you in a relationship with someone who is making decisions that you should be making or who is trying to manage your life?

>> What would you like to tell that person about how you are feeling? What would you like to request of him or her? Try crafting what you want to say on paper before explaining it in person. You may even need to send your message in writing to fully express what you find it hard to say in person.

>> Follow up to make sure your partner understands what you are asking and that you both have the same expectations going forward.

Remember: Giving yourself room to be your own person isn’t about pushing the other person in your relationship out, but about counting yourself in.

For more about navigating the paradox of seeking support and flying solo, see my book Honor Yourself : The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, chapter 4.

(For Part 1 of this article, click here.)

Creating Spaces in Your Togetherness

by Patricia Spadaro

Honor your relationships by honoring yourself—a different approach to relationships that can make all the difference. Relationships, like most things in life, are paradoxical. Healthy relationships require an artful swing between dependence and independence, togetherness and solitude. Even in the closest of connections, where mutual support should come with the territory, it’s essential to strike […]

Read the full article ->

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