Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 23, 2015

The gift of receiving – Letting others in

346I can remember more than one Christmas when my mother wouldn’t open her presents. She would say “Why give me presents now…it’s not like you appreciate me the rest of the year.”

I found this very upsetting. I did appreciate my mom, and tried to show her in so many ways…in the gifts I would spend hours hand-making, or the extra chores I did to make her life easier, or the way I tried to be perfect so that nothing I did upset her. But it was like she didn’t even notice. Like she didn’t see my efforts or appreciate my love for her.

I realize now that my mother had difficulty receiving love, pretty much in any form. If you tried to hug her, she’d push you away. If you offered her a compliment, she would brush it off. If you gave her a gift, she would not acknowledge it. She seemed to have difficulty letting herself be loved and appreciated, which was ironically the very thing she said she wanted.

“Most of us have some trouble taking in affection, praise, support, compliments, or gifts from others. For some reason, we are not always able to swallow, digest, and use this food for the soul…Like many people with food allergies, we are left craving the very thing we cannot digest.” – Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Receiving Love

For many of us who are used to being givers, it can be hard to be comfortable with receiving. Receiving is actually an act of vulnerability. To receive, you must lower your armour and open your heart to let another in. You must temporarily allow the other to be in a position of power and strength, while you wait receptively for what they offer.

And it’s that very vulnerability that makes many of us shy away from receiving.

Think about it…have you ever deflected a compliment from someone? Do you tend to say “Yes, but…” in response? Do you tend to find something wrong with the gifts people give you? Do you find it hard to let others help you?

There can be many reasons why we do this. Some of us had a painful childhood, where we did not feel safe to be vulnerable. Sometimes, we were just never shown enough love early in life to be comfortable around it, to trust that it is genuine. Sometimes, we reject the part of ourselves that someone else told us was “needy.” And sometimes, we just don’t value ourselves enough to think that we’re worth it.

But the problem is, even if we think we’re doing no harm by not receiving a gift, it isn’t just about how we feel. There are two people involved in any gift exchange. Giving and receiving gifts is about relationship…about being connected to others. And not receiving a gift from another can cause the other person pain and negatively impact that relationship.

When we can’t receive, we can’t let another in. We keep ourselves separate from others.

“Many men and women know how to give love, but many more undermine their relationships by never having learned how to accept it. We don’t always realize the ways in which we reject appreciation and affection, help and guidance from our romantic partners.” – Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Receiving Love

I doubt that my mother’s intent was to cause anyone pain. But what she probably didn’t realize was how hurtful it was to the people trying to give to her and show her love. I know that for me, I felt rejected and pushed away. I also felt like my gift was not good enough…like I was not good enough for her.

If you struggle to receive, it’s important to understand a few things. First, you deserve to receive love…in fact, it’s probably the very thing you crave most. Second, not receiving actually hurts others and pushes them away from you, so that they can’t give you what you actually want. And third, only giving and never receiving keeps you in a position of power and control…it makes it so that you are always the strong one, never vulnerable. And this makes it impossible for anyone to show you love.

None of this is meant to blame you or cause you shame. Chances are, if you struggle to receive, there are very good reasons for this. But it’s important to become aware of those reasons, and to learn to heal the part of you that is afraid to trust and receive.

A decade ago, I was someone who also struggled to receive. I couldn’t take a compliment. I left gifts under my Christmas tree for weeks. And I felt uncomfortable when someone was nice to me. Without realizing it, I was unconsciously repeating the same pattern my mother was stuck in so many years before.

But I decided to change. I decided I wanted to know what it felt like to let someone love me, all of me. To let in those compliments and accept those gifts, and receive help. It was hard at first, and felt very unfamiliar and even scary. But little by little, I got used to the idea of receiving, and even grew to enjoy it. Now, I truly love it when someone shows me love.

And even more, I love the look on the other’s face when I accept their gift. It’s the look of being seen. Of being valued. Of being appreciated and acknowledged. The very gifts I had always been wanting myself, that I had unwittingly been keeping from others.

You see, receiving gifts (in any form) from others truly is a gift in itself. It is a gift of connection…of allowing someone into our heart space and welcoming them there. Of showing them they matter, and that what they offer is good enough.

So this Christmas, even if it’s hard for you, try opening yourself up to the magic of receiving. And watch the look of joy on your loved ones’ faces when, maybe for the first time, you really receive what they are giving you…which is ultimately their love.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from my heart to yours.


Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach and speaker who helps women create an exciting new self-image after a break-up, job loss, empty nest, or other life change. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Karen helps her clients heal their hearts, re-discover their strengths and passions, and create amazing lives that inspire others. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at

Ask for a free consult today!


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