As I walked along the lake shore one morning last week, I passed by an elderly gentleman who was slowly strolling by, occasionally stooping down to pick up a unique stone or shiny piece of beach glass. Although I had never met this fella before, he charismatically grinned at me and said, “Good to see you today, kiddo!”
We chatted briefly about the unusually warm November weather and the beautiful view, and then he reached his hand into his pocket and showed me the treasures he had found along the shore that morning. As I eyed his collection of beach glass, I noticed a black marble in the center of his hand that had been weathered from tumbling in the waves, and I commented on what a cool find it was. My new friend then reached out his hand and said to me, “Take it. I want you to have it.”
I could tell by his smile that he really wanted me to have it, and so I took it from him but gently protested, “No, it’s your special find. I don’t feel right taking it from you.” However, he insisted and told me how happy it made him to give it to me. He told me about how he often gives away the trinkets he finds and said he ran into an “older couple” the day before and gave the woman his entire collection from that morning. “She had only found a few small pieces and so it made me feel good to help her out,” he said.
After hearing this, I accepted his gift and thanked him for his generosity.
As I continued my walk, it dawned on me how much joy I felt when I finally accepted this stranger’s gift, especially after he told me how it brought him happiness to give it. I also reflected on how awkward and difficult it initially was for me to accept his gift, even though it was truly just a marble that had washed up on the beach.
Most of us have grown up with the adage, “It’s better to give than receive”, and this principle has been woven into our subconsciousness so much that it can bring up feelings of shame to accept gifts or even worse, help from others. I often hear this expressed from my clients, and I am certainly no exception – it really does feel much easier to give than receive.
However, in order to take care of ourselves, we must allow ourselves to accept help and support from others. We simply can’t do it all alone and not risk feeling overwhelmed, stressed and burnt out. This is obvious but nevertheless difficult for many of us.
The less obvious, but equally important benefit of accepting support and help from others is that it actually strengthens our relationships and helps us feel more connected. Think about the brief exchange I had with this gentleman on the beach and the wonderful energy that was generated between us. Would the energy have felt the same had I rejected his gift?
According to research professor and author, Brené Brown, in her book “Gifts of Imperfection”, we must give up the myth of equating self-sufficiency and not needing help with success. She says until we can receive with an open heart, we can never really give with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.
Brown defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment, and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
Ask yourself this question: Do I gain a feeling of increased self-worth from never needing help but always offering it?
If so, then you may want to do some self-reflection as we head into the holiday season. Consider how making a change in your belief system about accepting help can positively affect your stress levels and your relationships.
Ease into this idea and say “yes” the next time someone offers you the gift of help or support. Then smile and pat yourself on the back as you observe the beautiful exchange of energy that is generated with this interaction and allow yourself permission to delight in the connection!