The Art of Receiving


At the end of December every year, I like to close out my year and plan for the next one. As part of this process, I always pick a word of the year -- something that embodies what I think I need to focus on that year. Last year my word was self-love -- learning to love and accept myself -- warts, flaws, and all. My word for 2015 is receptivity, to be open to receiving love, praise, affection, opportunities, and whatever else the Universe throws my way.

I think, as women, that receiving is sometimes foreign territory for us. We give, give, and give some more. But taking? Receiving? Isn't that selfish? No. It's survival. Hear me out.

Receiving and giving are like yin and yang. There must be a balance. You cannot give without someone to receive your gift. Similarly, you cannot receive if nothing is given. You must have both.

Yet, we women are often horrible recipients. If given a compliment, we blow it off. "Oh. This old thing?"

If told we did something well, we say, "Oh, it was nothing, really. Anyone could have done it."

If given a gift, we say, "You shouldn't have."

But it's more than that. In the era of Superwomen and People Pleasers, it's like we think it's wrong to receive, that if we're not giving, we're nothing. That our value comes from our ability to be of service to others. Heaven forbid, we allow ourselves to sit back, relax, and receive. Or to -- gasp -- ask for what we really want and then fully take it in when it comes. We're not allowed to do that. Right?

My challenge for you is this: learn to receive. Ask for what you need, sit back, relax, and say thank you when you get it. It might go some something like this:

  1. Figure out what you want (and what you don't). What do you want? What do you want this situation/relationship/your life to look like? To feel like? To be like? This one is a stumper for a lot of women because very few people have ever asked us that question. As a recovering people pleaser, I was raised to think that my opinion didn't really matter anyway. After all, if your job is to make everyone else happy, then who cares what YOU think about the situation? Or what YOU want out of life?

  • Ask for it. When you decide to ask for what you want, you may meet some resistance from friends, family, or co-workers, especially if they are used to you sacrificing yourself for them. If you have always been a "yes" woman, learning to say "no" can be a scary proposition at first, but with time and practice, you can learn to honor and value yourself as much as you do everyone else. But here's the thing: if you truly want to find your inner voice and speak your truth, you need to learn to honor yourself. You can think of it in terms of "What advice would you give your best friend or your child in this situation?" If the answer is something other than what you had planned to do yourself in that situation, then we have a problem.
  • Go through all the reasons in your mind you're not worthy of it or don't deserve it. You know that inner voice I'm talking about right? Not the inner voice of wisdom, but your inner mean girl. When you decide to really go for what you want, she'll likely be the first one to pipe up and tell you all the reasons you aren't deserving of it. No worries. Move on to step 4.
  • Counter each point with the reason why you are worthy and deserving, even if you don't believe it at first. That's right, "fake it til you make it." Keep telling your inner mean girl that you are deserving and you are worth it with as much conviction as you can muster. Eventually you'll get mad at her. That's what we want. Because when you get angry with your inner mean girl, then you're less likely to listen to what she has to say and you'll finally be ready to...
  • Ask for what you want again and this time mean it -- yes you. Not your partner, boss, neighbor, kid, YOU. Now that you've silenced your inner mean girl, go ahead and ask for what you want before she pipes up again (you didn't really think you'd banished her for good, did you? She'll come back, but it will be easier to banish her the second time).
  • Be open to receive whatever it is and realize you may not get what you want, but you will get what you need. This can happen for two reasons: 1) your ask wasn't specific enough. For example, I asked my boyfriend to be home more because I wanted to spend more time with him. All he heard was "be home more." Sure enough, he's been home more -- when I'm at work. My bad for not being specific enough, apparently. 2) You're not meant to have whatever it is -- at least not now. Last Spring I was in a fragile place having gotten divorced the Fall before. So I kept asking for my Prince Charming. For my fairytale. For someone to save me. But that's not at all what I was getting. Guys with mommy issues? Check. Guys who want to be taken care of? Check. Self-obsessed? Check. Flaky? Check. Not one "prince-like" quality among the lot of them. You know why? The Universe was trying to tell me that I had to be my own Prince Charming. There's no one that's going to save you except yourself. And nothing you really need to be saved from that you didn't attract to your life -- consciously or not -- in the first place.
  • Receive. Yep. After you ask, sit back and wait for it -- whatever it is. Then allow it to come to you and receive it graciously. Even if it wasn't exactly what you thought you wanted (see #7). Even if you had to ask twice. Even if you're not sure how to receive or even that it's okay to receive.
  • Rinse. Repeat. Practice makes perfect, right?
  • Here's to a fabulous 2015 balanced with both giving and receiving.