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Learning to Receive: A Single Cell

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It was only recently that I recognized how many masculine traits I have. From driving hard, doing, doing, doing and being fiercely independent, to wanting to maintain control and being purpose-driven. I have never thought of receptivity as a particularly female trait. Considering the nurturing nature of women, I viewed giving as more feminine. A recent course I took on Feminine Power, helped me recognize receptivity as feminine along with the other traits of internal focus, emotion and relatedness—all of which I have in spades; and the being over doing, surrendering, and love-driven that are not so present in me.


However, reciprocation stood out as something I don’t do well. From compliments, to help, to prosperity, I tend to deflect more than accept. I’m not sure where this began—as a small child likely. I can almost see myself, curly blond hair, age three, stomping my foot and saying defiantly, “I can do it myself.”


It’s not clear whether I ever believed asking for help denoted weakness. There have certainly been times in my career that I’ve been lazy and asked others for answers I could have easily found myself. Asking was quicker and more efficient. I also craved recognition for my accomplishments. I didn’t need awards or honors (though I did receive some), but a part on the back for a job well done. Defensiveness was a wall I hid behind whenever anyone criticized me, or my work. It was never my fault.


I think I also come off as demanding in work settings because asking feels uncomfortable, so my requests sometimes appear more as commands. I remember working at Girl Scout Camp, supervising a staff of two, and saying, “you be in charge of this,” and “you be in charge of that.” I didn’t ask or request, because, yes, now that I think about it that definitely feels like a weaker position. What if they said, “No?” Where would I be then?


I have always prided myself on being independent and self-sufficient. When I received a new TV for Christmas one year and faced the task of getting it into my house after driving it 8-hours from Kentucky to Wisconsin, where I lived at the time, I chose to carry it by inches rather than asking someone to help. First, I hefted it out of the car. Then I carried it four feet and set it down. Another four feet. Then another. And another. Up the front steps, one at a time. Then up the inside stairs, one at a time. It probably took me forty-five minutes to get it into the house fully, and I’m sure the temperatures were frigid as well. Why did I put myself through that? Because being independent was easier than asking for help?


Recently, I’ve come to understand that wasn’t the case at all. Feelings of worthlessness masqueraded as independence. Intellectually, this was a difficult one for me to wrap my head around for a really long time. I KNEW I wasn’t worthless. I KNEW I was valuable and valued. I KNEW I was worthy of receiving help from others (and love, and admiration and kindness). The worthiness issues were buried deep inside of me, as they are for many, many people in our society. So deeply, we don’t even recognize them ourselves.


In the vein of everything happening for a reason, a few things happened to force me to learn to ask for help, and it was only then that I began to see the underlying feelings that had kept me “independent” for so long. First, I broke my ankle on a ski trip to Lake Tahoe, which forced me onto crutches and into a cast on my right leg. It was winter in Colorado. I lived on the second floor with outside stairs. I couldn’t drive. Daily life became an endurance sport. I couldn’t even make a cup of tea and carry it across the room, much less cook easily, grocery shop, take out the garbage or any number of other simple tasks we all take for granted every day. Asking for help was a huge chore, and I did it only when I absolutely had to.


Looking back at that difficult three months, I recognize that it taught me how to ask in order to survive the next big challenge five years later when I was diagnosed with cancer. I definitely couldn’t have made it through two surgeries and six rounds of chemo without strong support, and asking was much easier the second time around when I could actually articulate what I needed both physically, and this time around, emotionally more so as well.


It was only through a great deal of transformational work that I have finally begun to really recognize how my own worthiness issues manifest. I tend to give WAY more than I receive, and recently realized the seeds of this in my feeling that people would only like me if I was helpful and giving. I didn’t feel that just being me and showing up was enough. So if I had to give to be liked, I sure as hell wasn’t going to ASK for anything. Then I would really be a burden on people!  


Finally, it is my ever-present financial issues that have really helped me recognize the ways I practically repel money by working for less than I am worth, failing to take responsibility for cash flow and manifesting problems such as car trouble, illness and household breakages with big price-tags. Don’t worry, I also manifest abundance right when I need it and in amazing ways in the form of refund checks I wasn’t expecting, financial gifts, gift cards, and bonuses at exactly the right time. I am learning to believe I’m worthy of more and ask for it in many areas of my life, and will continue to do so.


WOW! That’s a lot of personal history to share. So now that I have had all these aha moments and transformational breakthroughs, what am I doing about it? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are some things I am practicing in order to learn to receive:


  • Keep a receiving journal to record all the things I receive each day.
  • Practice gratitude for all that I have, and have posted “gratitudes” as my Facebook status for a few weeks now.
  • Visualize what I desire in my life without worrying about “how” I might receive them – knowing that thoughts become things (Mike Dooley, TUT.com).
  • Consciously ask for help at least twice a day whenever possible.
  • Break patterns whenever possible, doing things that I haven’t done or said before – this brings new energy and connections. 
  • I am also planning to write a book about this practice, and where it gets me, because I believe undervaluing ourselves is a fairly universal experience.


I request that you share your own worthiness issues, breakdowns, breakthroughs, realizations and struggles with me in the comments section, or privately through asinglecell@gmail.com

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