If you’re anything like me, you have had challenges with accepting help. I grew up in a military family, spent years as a Girl Scout, and have been on my own since I was seventeen. Being fiercely independent has long been one of my defining characteristics. As my son, Jack used to say as a toddler, “I do it myself.”
Tale of Divorce
When my sons were babies, their father and I separated. When I was pregnant with our youngest, he began an affair with the woman whom he would later marry. That’s how I became a single parent. I worked a challenging corporate gig, raising a 9-month old and a two-year-old mostly on my own.
I felt sideswiped, shamed, and duped. These feelings exacerbated my low self-esteem as a loop inside my head asked, “What’s wrong with me? Why would he leave us? What does she have that I don’t?”
I wallowed in self-pity. My boys’ dad and I worked hard to keep the boys above the fray of our marriage dissolution. But I felt angry—not to mention exhausted.
Proving I was a good parent became my battle cry. When my kids were with me, which was 24/7 except for two hours each Wednesday night, I focused on their needs. Those two hours on Wednesday were for grocery shopping. (I didn’t want to be one of “those” moms who kept her kids in daycare all day then schlepped them around running errands. Talk about judgmental!)
My “I do it myself” attitude resulted in built-up frustration and increased anger, which really was the shadow emotion for my grief. I felt alone and lonely.
And Now for Something Different
Working with a therapist helped me release some of the negative emotions and highlight areas where I was being invited to grow. I realized that not accepting help had slowed down my healing.
Contrast that experience to my recent divorce where I left an abusive husband. I proactively asked for support and, when it was offered, I accepted. At least two friends gave me keys to their homes and a safe refuge whenever I needed it. I felt loved and encouraged. Sure, there was loneliness and the self-flagellation that comes with ending a marriage. (Yes, even women who have been abused feel this way. They’ve been systematically broken and question every thought that arises.)
What I learned through these experiences is that I’m surrounded by loving friends. People who want to help, who are there to listen, who dispenses hugs, and who love me, even when I didn’t love myself.
The Art of Receiving
One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a result of these divorces is that help is offered—even when I couldn’t see it. I’m sure that friends offered to help me when my children were young, but because of my perfectionism, I turned them down. The ability to receive love and support comes from self-worth. (Ouch!)
In her book, The Power of Receiving, Amanda Owens shares if we can’t receive, we’re inviting lack into our lives. We’re good at giving, but often not receiving. She writes about receiving compliments and how we pooh-pooh their validity. “Oh, it was nothing.” (Raise your hands with me if you’ve ever done this.) We’re actually pushing away gifts coming our way.
I learned that accepting offered help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s the opposite—an act of generosity which closes the open loop left by giving only.
Learning to receive compliments (a simple “thank you” works beautifully), accept support, and express gratitude for those who lovingly push you beyond boundaries has been life-altering.
The more I accept, the more I receive. The more I receive, the more I have to give. It’s a beautiful cycle. After all, we all need a helping hand now and again.
What’s Your Receiving IQ?
If you’re like me in that you’ve struggled to accept offered help, you may want to look at your own stories of worthiness. We’ll be doing just that in my 12-week Journey Program, where we’ll unpack our stories, heal old wounds, and shed the weight of old expectations. It’s gonna be epic. Are you ready to receive that?