Why Is Receiving So Hard

06/05/2015 12:45 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2016


Recently, I decided to focus on receiving. Specifically, I'm aiming to let things that I want come to me instead of endlessly searching and struggling for a solution, or exhausting myself trying to "figure it out." To be clear, I don't believe that receiving is just about lying on my couch, snuggling with my cat, and waiting for everything I want to magically appear. (Although I have nothing against doing that sometimes!)

For me, receiving involves a commitment to a kind of quiet observation. It's about tuning in to what I really want and also to the efforts I am making to have certain things or experiences. It's about noticing when what I'm doing feels inordinately hard, exhausting, unfruitful or just out of alignment in my body, and changing course when appropriate. It's about changing some programming that I have about what it takes to have what I want.

I'm nowhere near good at this... yet, which is exactly why I've chosen to focus on it and strengthen my receiving muscle, so to speak.

Last week, I was at my neighborhood farmer's market, checking out the nectarines at one of the stands. I collected a few nectarines, put them on the scale, and took out my wallet, when the farmer behind the stand took a look at my belly and said "Oh, you're pregnant? Those are free!" I laughed and said a bit incredulously, "Really?" He nodded at me, completely stone-faced, "Yes. Take some more." Here I was, being gifted something for free just because I'm pregnant, and then encouraged to help myself to even more. For a second, I thought "that's greedy!", and then I followed the man's command/request, remembered my own receiving directive and took a few more nectarines.

On the walk home, I felt grateful. I thought about the perks of being pregnant and how I received an advantage that others (who are male, or not currently and visibly pregnant) do not. I thought about women who don't want children and women who do and have not been able to get, or stay, pregnant. And then, I thought, how is it fair that I get this advantage when all those other people don't?

Those thoughts represent the part of me that doesn't want to let myself receive without guilt or contrition. Our culture emphasizes two (arguably) oppositional ideas: 1. Life isn't fair; 2. It's important to strive for fairness. While the latter emphasizes more of a goal, and the former is more of a truism that helps us remember that life can feel random, or that things don't always appear to be even or balanced, these seemingly disparate ideas can get tangled up in our psyches.

What I remembered on my walk is that even though both of these things can be true, it's still OK for me to accept generosity, to receive freebies because I'm pregnant, or just because something is offered to me (pregnant or not). I remembered that if I allow generosity, it doesn't mean I'm taking an opportunity from someone else, or that I'm violating a value of fairness.

I also thought about how great it feels to be generous. The farmer who gave me the nectarines must love the reactions he gets from surprised and grateful customers. One of the reasons I would like to receive more is that I know how great it feels to be generous, and I can be more generous than I already am if I allow myself to receive more.

When I allow myself to receive and I recognize that receiving lets me increase my own generosity, another shift happens: I'm more inclined to be generous for no reason. I'm more attuned with the desire to pay it forward because of the experience I've just had. The ripple effect of one act of generosity is felt by more and more people, and so therein lies the potential for increased fairness, and a higher consciousness about both giving and receiving. Allowing yourself to receive benefits everyone.