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 . . .

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