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“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
Maya Angelou

Last week, I had a session with a client who has a hard time to accept help.
How exactly do we do that; ask for help?
She had a strong conviction that asking for help makes you a weak, egoistic and even vulnerable person.

Do you recognize this?
I do. I have, just like my client, grown up with the fact that it’s better to give than to receive. That you’d much rather care for others than for yourself. And we’re not the only ones with a knack for recognizing the needs of others, respecting their feelings and jumping to the front whenever help is called for, rather than receiving aid.

To be willing to give is a wonderful starting point, but there’s a downside to it. If you give that much priority to others, receiving might be compromised. An imbalance emerges. Sooner or later, the helping of others will leave a bad taste in your mouth: ‘why am I the one who needs to come to the front?’ ‘When will someone help me?’ ‘I always have to deal with everything myself.’

Sociologist and writer Brené Brown on the subject:

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”

Why do we find it so hard to ask for help? Here’s 5 reasons:

1. Defence mechanism against intimacy
Giving and receiving creates a moment of connectivity. In this connection, it generally feels easier to give than to take. You keep people at a distance to prevent them from entering your safe world. You prefer your safe position over allowing another person to connect with you. A compliment or a gift therefore feels like a weapon instead of a beautiful moment of connection.

2. Losing control
Whenever we give or offer help, we have a certain control over the moment. It’s easy to say something nice or buy someone flowers. But to receive and give in to that lovely feeling that’s connected to it, almost feels like we’re bare naked on the spot. Receiving in general invites you to show your vulnerable, mild side. If you open this part of you, you’ll see that every thank-you, compliment or smile from a stranger can fill your heart.

3. Fear of obligations
It could be that you feel uncomfortable by receiving help or compliments because that has led to reciprocal duties in the past. An example: in your youth, you’ve surely ever gotten a compliment after obtaining a task. A good grade in school or a match won. It’s possible that this evokes the feeling that you’ll only be appreciated if expectations are met. A compliment in your current life can thus evoke that feeling of having to meet a standard. Therefore, receiving gives – more than an enjoyable feeling – a sensation of entrapment, of commitment.

4. The conviction that it’s egoistical to receive
Many norms and values that we take as guidelines for our daily lives find their roots in our Christian background. Some of those aim to restrict the individual from getting to the forefront. You’re egoistical if you (only) receive. It’s better not to stand out from the crowd, to attract too much attention to yourself. Through these conditioning norms and values we can feel bad for receiving. To be visible.

It is true that narcissism and egoism aren’t really promoting social cohesion. But awareness and self-reflection and growing self-worth have a totally different value. These, on the contrary, bring a very healthy contribution to a balanced society. Receiving from gratefulness, with a certain modesty, keeps us balanced and nurtures us. The giving and receiving even out. And that has a stimulating effect on the ones around you.

5. Self-implemented pressure to give back
If you find it hard to receive, it could be that the act evokes a feeling of owing someone something after this. You might even think: ‘what does he want from me?’ The feeling arises that someone who helps you, tries to gain control over you or even tries to manipulate you. We protect ourselves from having to give something back at some point. As if we have a debt to pay.

“When you ask for what you need and receive what people and the world have to give,
you reduce stress and gain energy”
Amanda Owen

Open yourself to receive
Perhaps it makes sense to put it differently; what would happen when everyone continued to only give?
Who would receive?

With receiving, from love, you accept the present that the giver hands you. You know how excited you get when you yourself give something to another person. Can you allow the other to have his giving-moment? And can you allow yourself to feel the love that comes from getting help?

Try it, the next time someone offers help.
Be conscious of how thrilled you are when you give something and then receive your gift with a smile.

How does that feel?