The art of receiving, or how to love yourself more by letting go and being vulnerable

I’ve been thinking about giving and receiving a lot lately. Now that the holidays are approaching, and gifts and giving are...

I’ve been thinking about giving and receiving a lot lately. Now that the holidays are approaching, and gifts and giving are all that shopping malls and adverts care to talk about, I’ve been wondering about what it means to really give – but most of all, what it means to really receive.

Because I believe that receiving, although it’s not easy, and although most of us are really not that good at it, teaches us how to love ourselves by asking us to let go and be vulnerable.

I’ve always been a giver. I think it’s part of my nature to give, for sure. But I also think that it’s a result of my upbringing and life experiences. Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of receiving. Giving was the word of the day back then, where I was expected to give by not complaining, by accepting circumstances, by forgetting unhappy experiences, and more generally by not receiving anything from the heart or that really mattered, except for the necessary food, shelter and clothes. As a result, giving became second nature, while receiving was so rare and uncommon that I grew out of knowing how to do it.

By not knowing how to receive, I didn’t really know how to love and be loved either. I became so good at giving, and it became such a big part of me, that I started associating giving with caring, and eventually with love. And somewhere through that process, I started giving so much that I lost the ability to love myself, too.

Then, because receiving had become so uncommon in my life, I started to rebel against it. When someone would give me something, I would feel so uncomfortable that I would try my hardest to avoid any situation that would force me to accept anything. This continued for a very long time, until I realized that giving had become a way of being for me – the only way I knew how to be seen and feel valued. Because I found that recognition through giving, the act became much more than simple gift-giving. I loved not to owe anything to anyone, but to be the one that was giving instead. And that also meant that I loved to be the one to care for others, and yet had a very hard time allowing anyone to care for me. Including myself.

art of receiving or how to love yourself more by letting go and being vulnerable

When I understood this, something big shifted inside of me. I realized that I had been using giving as a shield to protect myself from getting hurt by not being seen. And I knew that if I wanted to change this, I needed to allow myself to receive. So I started practicing, in the hope that it would help me to learn how to love others, really love them, and eventually how to love and care for myself, too.

At first, it was hard – even starting with little things, like a favor someone wanted to do for me, or something someone offered to help me with. Being in the habit of giving, I felt my “tab” always needed to either be at zero or in my favor. So, having it the other way around was one of the first things I practiced.

Then, when I felt ready, I decided to let go of even more by accepting bigger gifts. Accepting friends who wanted to do something just because they loved me, or someone willing to help me out even if that meant a lot of work, like painting the living room white or coming to get me in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

By allowing myself to receive gifts like that, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, and this opened me up for love.

Because when it comes down to it, there simply can be no giving without receiving, as there can be no true love without vulnerability and letting go. And that goes for the love you have for yourself too. And more.

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