“I’m just better at giving than receiving.”
Have you ever said this before?
I used this line for years. It was my go-to when people tried to give me something: a compliment, a “thank you”, love, respect, compassion. Anything really.
I just sucked at receiving. I would feel so uncomfortable and shut down quickly by using some sort of dismissive comment like “No need to thank me, it was no big deal.”
So I empathize with you when it comes to learning how to receive. It’s a skill that has taken me years to master.
And if you feel like you suck at receiving too, this post is for you.
While there’s tons of content out there that focus on “How To” receive, I want to take a slightly different approach and help you also understand why you have a hard time receiving in the first place.
Knowing the WHY is a really effective strategy for healing negative patterns and behaviors.
Once I know why I behave a certain way, it becomes easier to just let it go and do something different.
And here’s the secret sauce:
There are really just 2 main reasons why we don’t know how to receive. It’s either because we feel unsafe or we don’t feel worthy.
And in this post, I’ll be diving deeper into these two main issues, as well as share 12 practical tools and exercises to help you reverse them quickly.
When you begin to feel safe and worthy in the world, you’ll also naturally know how to receive gracefully.
Ok, let’s get started.
WHY WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO RECEIVE
1. FEELING UNSAFE
This can happen on many levels. For those of us who had difficult childhoods with emotional or physical abuse or dysfunction, feeling unsafe became a norm.
Think about it:
A child usually feels most safe with their “tribe”, their family or caretakers. When something feels unsafe, the child will automatically run home to “mommy” or “daddy”.
But what if “home” isn’t safe either?
What if there’s dysfunction in the family unit?
The child will basically feel safe nowhere. And this will eventually lead to a lack of trust in everyone and in life.
And she’ll internalize that the only way to be safe is to rely solely on herself. As she grows, her mind will become controlling.
This makes sense right?
If I don’t feel safe anywhere, then I’ll have to rely on myself for that safety. The outside world becomes hostile, scary. The mind will constantly feel “unsafe” with anything. Even small things.
Some people become control freaks, others color coordinate their closets or arrange their furniture in specific ways. Others binge eat or exercise obsessively.
And many others, including myself, will close their hearts to any type of love or intimacy. They close their hearts to receiving.
The whole process looks something like this:
This is why giving is more comfortable than receiving: it allows us to stay in control. When I give, I control what, when, where and how I give.
But receiving is very different. To receive, I must open up and loosen my grip on life.
To receive with an open heart is to surrender to the giver on some level. Suddenly, it feels like they have control. And that scares someone who has deep wounds around safety and lack of trust.
For me, the unsafe feeling I felt as a child manifested in a severe lack of trust in everyone, including myself.
But the distrust went deeper.
For years, I had a really complicated relationship with Source or God. I didn’t believe I was “protected” by God or “safe” with Her. To me, the whole world She had created was hostile and unsafe.
It wasn’t until much later (and after a lot of healing) that I changed my relationship with Source from one of parent-child (in essence a victimized way of being) to an empowered one based on the knowing that Source was me.
For a more detailed explanation of control and feeling unsafe, check out my video on the topic:
2. FEELING UNWORTHY
All the negative feelings we ever have towards ourselves are simply a reflection of how separate we feel from Source or the Universe.
The more separate we feel from Oneness (some call it Home), the more we believe ourselves to be unworthy.
This sense of separation is at the root of most of our deepest issues today.
As the phenomenally popular spiritual book “A Course In Miracles” puts it:
“A sense of separation from God is really the only lack you need to correct.”
Or as the late Wayne Dyer said:
“You came from magnificence, and you are magnificent still.”
The problem is, most of us are raised by family members who also feel separated from Source and so did their ancestors. In fact, this feeling of separation became the norm in most cultures and societies.
Even cultures with really strong religious beliefs still carry the “gene” of separation.
In my own Catholic culture (I’m Portuguese), the belief is that one can only “connect” with God through an intermediary like a priest. There’s this idea that you must get on your knees and pray to some God way up high in the sky, separate from you and me.
No one realizes or feels that when they get on their knees to pray…they are in fact praying to themselves at a deep level. Just saying this statement– that I AM God– can actually get people in trouble in many cultures.
And we’ve all suffered so much because of this. The 1st-century Greek philosopher Epictetus illustrates this point well when he says:
“You carry a God about within you, poor wretch, and know nothing of it.”
The result of feeling separate from the Universe is that we also begin to feel unworthy of love, abundance, and receiving in general.
We begin to feel like we have to work to be worthy. We just don’t feel our inherent value. Learning how to receive without a base of worthiness is an impossible task.
Just how pervasive is the feeling of unworthiness?
When I asked my audience what the most difficult part about receiving was, here’s what some of them said:
Feelings of unworthiness can eventually lead us to see the act of receiving as a transactional process. In other words, I can only receive if I have something of value to give in return.
If I don’t, I feel uncomfortable because my mind thinks there’ll be a “payback” time:
I used to feel this way and it’s one of the reasons why I hated receiving anything. I just didn’t want to “owe” the person anything in the future. I believed there were always strings attached to receiving.
But let’s break this down further.
Why do we so frequently think there are strings attached when someone gives us something?
And most importantly:
Why don’t we consider feelings like gratitude, love, or joy as good “paybacks” for receiving? Why do we feel that a simple “thank you” isn’t enough?
It’s because we don’t feel valuable or worthy as we are so something intangible like gratitude doesn’t feel like enough.
When we get to a point of unconditional worthiness, we can receive with an open heart and a smile on our face. We no longer feel like we need to pay back or work hard to deserve that gift.
Now for a truth bomb you may not be aware of:
If we don’t know how to receive with an open heart, we also don’t know how to give either.
Ok, my ears are ringing from your protests:
“That’s not true Christina! I’m a really generous giver and actually prefer giving to receiving!”
I used to think the same about myself too. But it just isn’t the case and here’s why.
Giving and receiving both come from the heart. They are essentially acts of love. So when I close my heart down to receiving, I also block genuine giving.
When we give from a closed heart, the giving always has an ulterior motive.
Here’s an example from my own life.
Years ago, when I was a clinician, I completed two humanitarian missions to India and Peru. My job was to train therapists and physicians in the area of Neuropediatrics. I love teaching so my missions brought some joy to my heart.
But later on, as part of my healing process, I had to come to terms with the deeper reasons why I completed these missions in the first place.
Being a humanitarian made me feel better about myself. I had such a horrible sense of self-worth at the time that I actually traveled to far away countries in order to gain validation.
I didn’t become a humanitarian because I wanted to genuinely give with an open heart. I did it because of all the “thank you’s” I got from my Indian and Peruvian students. I did it because I could then hear others commenting about how generous and wonderful I was as a person.
I was giving with an ulterior motive.
It was only when I healed the safety and worthiness issues that I finally learned how to genuinely receive and give.
Ok, now let’s move on to 4 tips and 12 practical tools and exercises to help you feel safe and worthy in life.
HOW TO NURTURE A SENSE OF SAFETY
TIP #1: REVIEW AND RELEASE YOUR PAST
Begin by understanding when and why the feeling of “unsafe” started. Also, when did do you remember becoming controlling? Use questions like:
“What happened to me as a child that made me feel unsafe?”
“Why didn’t I tell someone at the time that I was scared?”
“What was my family situation during my childhood and how did I feel about it?”
“What are the areas in my life where I control most and why?”
TOOLS + EXERCISES FOR RELEASING YOUR PAST
1.1 USE A JOURNAL
Write down the answers to the questions above and add any other thoughts or emotions that surface while you’re doing this work. The goal here is not to get stuck or dwell too long on this review process.
Remember: you’re reviewing the past simply to gain understanding and heal. You’re not doing this to play the victim or blame someone else for all your current troubles.
For me, this was a process that took time and deliberate awareness of my thought patterns.
But again, once I know the why (because I felt unsafe in x situations), the how comes naturally.
It reminds me of a story that one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Ram Dass, tells. He was once really struggling with an attachment to something and went to his guru to ask for guidance:
“How do I let go of this attachment?”
The guru smiled and said: “Just drop it.”
It wasn’t much help to Ram Dass at the time but he came to realize just how true it was.
Just drop it. I love this mantra. And this is exactly what you can do once you understand why you felt unsafe as a child.
1.2 TALK TO SOMEONE
Aside from journaling to get all your “stuff” out, you can also confide in someone you trust. You can ask them to “witness” your past. This is also a really effective healing strategy, as long as you choose the right person for this sacred task.
Make sure the person is trustworthy, open-minded, and non-judgmental.
If you make the mistake of talking to someone judgmental about your past, you may end up feeling worse because the person will turn around and add judgments on top of your story.
And judgment is a really big block to healing.
1.3 DO A CLEANSING CEREMONY
I personally love ceremonies and use them a lot in my work. During my private retreats, I get a fire going and ask my clients to throw anything they want to let go of into the flames.
It’s very cathartic to watch something you’ve held onto for years just burn away in a fire.
You can burn a letter, your journal, pictures, or an article of clothing that reminds you of your painful past. Anything that’s meaningful to you and that you want to free yourself from.
Shamanic cultures use fire ceremonies as central events in their tribes. And the reason this type of ritual works is that your subconscious mind operates with imagery and archetypes, which makes the visual component and ceremony around fire so healing to the mind and soul.
But if you’re not into fire ceremonies, no worries. You can also simply listen to a meditation track like this one and mentally repeat this intention mantra:
I AM an Awakened Being.
I AM the Master of my life.
I fully release the past and move forward with intention.
The past no longer holds me hostage.
And so it is.
TIP #2: TRUST LIFE…ONE STEP AT A TIME
Once you understand why you’ve felt unsafe for so long and why your mind has controlled your life, then you naturally start to soften your grip on everything.
Control begins to fade away slowly, as you become fully aware of all areas in your life where you’ve been controlling in the past.
Now, I’m not gonna lie:
It may be hard for you to initially transition from feeling unsafe and being controlling to fully trusting life.
It’s a really big leap to go from one end of the stick to the other. But don’t lose hope. You can cultivate a sense of safety and trust slowly, one small step at a time.
Having trust in life means I know with all of my Being that the Universe is benevolent. It’s always working for me, not against me.
Once you realize this, you begin to trust the processes that give life to all that you see.
“The planets stay in orbit, tiny seeds grow into giant trees, weather patterns have kept forests across the globe watered for millions of years, and a single fertilized cell grows into a beautiful baby. We are not doing any of these things as conscious acts of will; they are all being done by the incomprehensible perfection of life itself…If the natural unfolding of the process of life can create and take care of the entire universe, is it really reasonable for us to assume that nothing good will happen unless we force it to?”
Michael Singer, The Surrender Experiment
TOOLS + EXERCISES TO HELP YOU TRUST LIFE
2.1 ASK FOR HELP
Get used to speaking to your spiritual guides and the Universe or Source itself. Ask for help and signs from your guides and the spirit realm. They’ll answer in whatever way you can most easily receive the messages.
Some people can actually hear or see their guides but most of us have a harder time deciphering spiritual messages. The best way to get to know your guides and be able to “listen” to their advice is to sit in quiet meditation for a while.
The quieter your mind, the more you can feel the answers within you.
2.2 PAY ATTENTION TO SYNCHRONICITIES
Once you ask your spiritual guides for help, they will answer. But sometimes, they have to get creative and find unique ways of communicating, especially if your spiritual channels are a little rusty.
So learn to live in the present moment and be open to receiving messages in the most unusual way.
For example, I was once on the verge of having a panic attack in a public place with lots of people and I remember closing my eyes and asking for help from my angels. I then walked a few more feet down the street and right in front of me was a graffiti sign on a wall that just said: “Don’t panic.”
What are the odds of that happening?
I recognized the synchronicity right away, took a deep breath and started laughing out loud. In my amusement at the inner workings of the Universe, I completely forgot about my eminent panic attack.
The feeling of anxiety completely lifted from me and I just went about my day like nothing had happened.
This is how synchronicities work. But you must be consistently present in order to see them. Learning how to receive involves being completely open to the signs that the Universe sends your way.
2.3 USE HYPNOSIS MEDITATIONS
I love using hypnosis meditations to work on trust and surrender to life. The hypnotic state is another great way to train your subconscious mind and change its deeply held beliefs.
You can find a ton of these meditations by Googling “surrender hypnosis meditation”.
But to start you out, here’s a favorite hypnosis track of mine.
HOW TO NURTURE A SENSE OF WORTHINESS
TIP #1: PRACTICE SELF-LOVE
There are very few people on the planet who unconditionally love themselves. But without self-love and self-compassion, there can be no sense of worthiness either.
To me, the difficulty in loving ourselves comes from the same illusion of separation from Source that I talked about above. We just don’t realize how magnificent we are.
But that ends today, right?
TOOLS + EXERCISES FOR SELF-LOVE
1.1 DO MIRROR WORK
Look at yourself in the mirror, right after getting out of bed in the morning. You’ve got no makeup on, your hair is messy and there’s drool stuck to your face.
Observe the contours of your face and then move to your eyes. Gaze right into your eyes for a little while. Make sure you’re observing in a non-judgmental way.
This is a very different way of looking into the mirror.
We usually look in the mirror to spot imperfections. We’re looking for things to fix. But not in this exercise. Right now we’re looking straight at the perfection of God reflected back.
Smile and ponder what you see: a community of 40 trillion cells arranged in such a way as to make you. There’s no other reflection on the planet that looks the same.
Now put your hand on your heart as you look deeper into your eyes.
You are unique. You are so loved.
The first time I did this exercise, I cried for 20 minutes. It was as if my whole soul reflected back something I had never seen before.
This is such a healing and loving exercise so don’t be surprised if you get emotional.
1.2 USE SELF-LOVE VISUALIZATION MEDITATIONS
I love to use visualization meditations to help me shift my thought process or mindset. And make no mistake: a lack of self-love is really just a mindset.
We can only feel self-loathing when we identify with an inner mental voice that tells negative stories about us. And those negative stories (like “I’m not good enough”, “no one will ever love me”, or “I’m a failure”) generate negative feelings or emotions.
But the stories can be changed. And that’s where visualization comes in. When you envision something in your mind, those thoughts create feelings that then reinforce the thoughts.
You basically create a loop.
Whereas self-loathing is created by a “negative mental loop”, self-love can be reinforced by a positive one.
Here’s a quick self-love visualization meditation that I do regularly:
- Get your earphones set and open this track but pause it.
- Sit in meditation with your eyes closed.
- Gently put your hand on your heart and feel it beating.
- After sitting here for a couple of minutes, hit play on your paused meditation track.
- Hold your hand on your heart as you listen to the affirmations in the track.
1.3 PAY ATTENTION TO THE INNER CRITIC
As I mentioned above, we all have an inner voice, which some call the “inner critic”. This voice never really leaves us, it’s like the narrator of our lives.
Your mind just has an opinion about everything. And sometimes those opinions are really negative, especially when pertaining to self.
But here’s the thing:
The majority of us don’t even realize we have a little voice in our heads that never stops talking. The moment you do notice, your life changes forever.
Awareness of the inner critic is essential in getting you out of its strong grip. Just observe what your mind thinks about on a daily basis. Are the thoughts mostly positive or negative? Are they self-loathing or empowering?
Here’s a video I shot on this very topic, which has some more helpful tips for getting your inner critic to quiet down.
TIP #2: SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES
First, let’s get the definition out of the way. This is how I define the word “boundary”:
It’s an invisible force field around me that informs others how I allow myself to be treated.
If my “force field” is high, I’ll spot manipulation right away and let you know it’s unacceptable to me.
If my force field is medium, you can get around to “convincing” (read “manipulating”) me to do something you want: even if my heart is saying no.
When my force field is low, you can probably hit me and I’ll still think you love me and I deserved it.
Setting clear boundaries can be hard for someone who has ever felt unworthy.
When we question our own value as human beings, we tend to allow others to use us like doormats. As the saying goes: “If you don’t want to be treated like a doormat, get off the floor.”
But from my own personal experience, “getting off the floor” isn’t easy at first. When you don’t think very highly of yourself, you feel like you should be on the floor, for others to walk over.
When we don’t value ourselves, we let others use, manipulate, and control us.
And here’s the key to remember: you can’t learn to set healthy boundaries until your sense of self-love increases.
I stopped being a doormat the day I felt my self-worth. And that took some time. It took baby steps and practice.
An empowered human being has her boundaries well defined, for all to feel. She doesn’t need to give you a checklist of her boundaries. You just know by looking at her that she’s someone you don’t f*ck with.
TOOLS + EXERCISES FOR SETTING BOUNDARIES
2.1 USE YOUR VOICE
Communicating how you feel and what you need is essential in creating healthy boundaries. Don’t expect people to read your mind. Be clear, direct, but always with compassion.
Using your voice doesn’t mean you need to shout or be aggressive. In fact, people who are masters at setting boundaries rarely raise their voices at all. They just have this calm but confident energy to them. Their voice never cracks.
2.2 FOLLOW UP WITH ACTION
You know that person that talks and talks but never actually does anything? You look at them and see the “words are cheap” saying stamped on their forehead?
That’s the energy people can feel when we try to set boundaries only with words, especially when we’re first starting out.
Think about it:
You’ve just spent YEARS letting your boyfriend or parent talk to you in a demeaning way. And now suddenly, they’re supposed to stop doing that just because you say so?
When establishing new boundaries– especially with longstanding relationships– you’ll probably need to also reinforce your voiced wishes with action.
I remember doing this with a client when I first started coaching. I was still a “baby” when it came to feeling self-worth and my boundary “force field” was low. My client came to me at first with a great story about being in financial hardship. Right away, my heartstrings were tugged, as I know I’m on this earth to help others.
So I made a deal with her that she could pay in monthly payments. But as the months progressed and the monthly payments never came on time, I gave her an ultimatum: or the payments were corrected or I’d let her go.
I could feel her irritation at my boundary setting. I could feel a certain sense of entitlement.
Needless to say, the same behavior continued. So I promptly fired her as a client. I did it with compassion but with certainty. And I did this at a time in my life when money was really tight.
But something miraculous happened:
As soon as I set that boundary, as soon as my force field increased, the Universe responded right away. Within days, I had a new client to take her place. He paid on time and respected me both as a coach and a human being.
2.3 BE AWARE OF GUILT
It’s very common to feel guilty when we are first learning how to set healthy boundaries with others. And this is especially true when it comes to people who have been in our lives for a while.
When you have no boundaries, people get used to treating you in a specific way. They may be really critical while saying they love you. They may constantly ask you for money, but never actually pay you back. Or they may just be that friend that calls you for coffee only when they need to spill all their sh*t on you.
So from their perspective, things will just continue to be the way they always have. They don’t want to voluntarily change the rules of your connection since it’s clearly going well for them!
So when you finally say “no more”, the other person may initially push back and say things to cause guilt in you.
“But I really need the money. We’re family!”
“But I really need someone to vent my frustrations to you right now. I thought we were friends!”
“I’m hard on you because I love you. You’re so ungrateful!”
You see what’s going on here? Those are guilt-inducing statements that are meant to get you to behave in your old ways again. Don’t fall for them.
Establish the new boundary with kindness but firmness. And if anyone tries to squeeze some guilt from you, observe the emotion and let it go.
Don’t allow yourself to fall back into old patterns. With practice, you’ll soon find that setting boundaries is a really delightful and empowering practice that further increases your confidence and self-worth.
You made it!
If you follow the advice and exercises in this post, you’ll quickly start feeling safe and worthy in the world.
And the consequences will be spectacular:
You’ll be able to receive with an open heart. Without guilt or discomfort. The whole process of learning how to receive will become easy and delightful.
You’ll open yourself up to receiving because you’ll feel just how deserving you are of all the love that life wants to send your way.
NOW OVER TO YOU!
If you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media with your friends!
To submit a question for our weekly videos, add it below in the comments, with the hashtag #askchristina.
With deep love and gratitude;
IS YOUR HEART BLOCKED?
Did you know that many of life’s biggest challenges are caused by living with a blocked heart?
Take our 5-min Heart Quiz to find out if your heart is blocked, and you’ll get a ton of free and actionable tools to help you start opening your heart today.START THE HEART QUIZ
This is so powerful Christina, you such an inspiring person iam so glad i randomly stumbled into your YouTube Chanel for some weeks ago. Its funny , i just came back to Sweden,from beautiful Portugal after being based there for 3 years. And now iam in this phase of life where a lot of shifts and changes are happening but at the same time feel like time is standing still, but i know i need this time to really focus on myself and trust the process and the universe.
There is so much i can relate with this topic, and i have been working consciously on my self growth this past 8 years when i cam in contact with mindfulness for the first time. Its been such an eye opener, and hat you said about being synchronized,you have come into my space in the perfect timing, i feel such a strong connection to you and your teaching, speaks right to my soul to go deeper. Thank you for that and your open heart and for spreading wisdom like this,.