The Christmas holidays are over and we’ve just been through the season that’s all about giving… and how that’s so much better than receiving. (Which many of us believe, deep in our hearts, until we see our credit card statements).

But when it’s all about giving, without receiving in return, the “well” ultimately runs dry — the well of our emotions, energy, time or money.

Many of us continue to give, give, give, while resisting receiving, because it’s just too hard to accept help, gifts or even a compliment. Why is that?

My good friend Lisa Zimmerman, at, says that giving is easier than receiving because when we give we are in control, when we receive we are not.

Lisa is so attuned to the power of receiving, she’s delivering a three-part telecourse called “The Beauty of Receiving.” And when she discovered my independent, totally self-sufficient, do-it-yourself nature, she suggested I sign up.

So I did.

And here’s what I’ve learned.

These are the big obstacles to receiving everything from support at work to help around the house, or just a little extra love from your friends and family.

1) Safety and trust issues. Boundaries – emotional, physical or sexual – were crossed, as a child or as an adult, and you believe it’s much better to keep others at arms length because being vulnerable is not ‘safe.’ You resist receiving help, gifts, or even acts of kindness, because others ‘can’t be trusted,’ there must be a hidden agenda or strings attached.

2) Beliefs about worthiness. You don’t believe in your self or your talents because you were judged, criticized or neglected; nothing was mirrored back to you about your own inherent value. You’re not sure you ‘deserve’ to receive gifts, help or an abundant life. After all, what have you ‘done’ or achieved to get it?

3) Having to be an adult as a child. You never experienced the luxury, and necessary stage of development, of being a self-centred toddler or child. You had to take on the responsibility of caring for siblings, parents or others, without ever being taken care of yourself. You’ve grow up to be a superb do-it-yourselfer, who’s good at being in charge, but lousy at being vulnerable or appearing to need help… with anything.

4) Total neglect. Without any real attention, care or nurturing as a child, you basically raised yourself. Today you’re totally independent, without any “need” to receive because that was the blueprint laid out for you early in life.

5) Belief that giving requires ‘sacrifice.’ You have been raised to believe others’ needs are more important than yours, and that for you to receive someone else has to go without, or not have their needs met.

Lady holding a yellow leafIf any of these barriers ring true for you, fear not.

Here are a few ways to change your receiving signals and get what you want (and what you need).

1) Re-parent yourself by changing your negative beliefs about who you really are and your role in the world, or find someone you trust to give you new positive messages about your true value, worthiness and right to receive.

2) Shift your mindset and take “response-ability” for how you respond to others. Are you willing to ask for help and be open to receive? Ever?

3) Check your expectations. Learn to expect help (in a kind, not demanding way). When you expect people to help you, you can usually find people to help you.

4) Surrender control. If you’re used to running the show and managing even the smallest details, ask yourself: “What will happen if I don’t run everything?” And also ask: “Is this really my job?”

5) Create space to allow help, and others, in. If you’re speeding around doing it all and are ‘too busy’ to stop, there’s no time or space for help to enter in. Stop. Slow down. And open up.

6) Choose your thoughts. Negative thinking — especially judgement of yourself or others – prevents you from receiving. What if you look for the best in others or a certain scenario rather than the worst?

7) Perceive everything as care. Reframe receiving as a good thing, not the universe implying that you’re inadequate or ‘helpless.’ Look for what’s good and you’ll create more of it.

8) Let go of everyone and everything that doesn’t serve your highest good. This is a tough one for the “I’m not worthy” types, but you deserve to be treated as well as you treat others. And you get to decide who’s in your ‘orbit,’ your inner circle and your life.

It’s not better to give than receive; it’s better to give AND receive. The ‘love’ has to flow both ways.

When we receive, it does not take away from another. There’s enough sunlight for everyone.

So for all the control freaks, martyrs and “people who give too much” among us, ask not what we can do for others… but what can they do for us?

Or follow Lisa Zimmerman’s new mantra and ask: “I wonder who wants to help me today?”

If you need help being a better receiver, find out more at

Author's Bio: 

I’m a girl from the Canadian prairies who likes wide-open spaces, fresh ideas, a great story, and inspiring environments, buildings and art of all kinds. I have written feature stories about architecture, urban, rural and lakeside living, cool neighbourhoods, and everything from business to pleasure (tourism and travel).

I believe that powerful writing, too, can link the artistic with the practical.

My feature writing has appeared in: Ottawa Citizen, Winnipeg Free Press, The Western Producer, The Cottager, Manitoba Business Magazine, Manitoba’s Northern Experience, Home & City, Manitoba Gardener, Ciao and up! (WestJet’s magazine).

Barbara Edie