In Order to Give, You Must Receive: Are You in Balance?

You know that feeling when you begrudgingly do something only for a “thank you”? We’ve all been there and done it. It’s human nature to desire appreciation and do things that make others feel good. When we give from the heart, we feel the benefit in return and get to experience how nice it feels to give.

Sometimes, we forget that receiving is also giving. In never accepting help from others, guidance or other external gifts, we rob others of how wonderful it feels to give. Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin — they need each other to exist.

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I’ve been wrestling with this idea for a few months now. I started thinking that maybe I could receive with ease and maybe the ways in which I give can feel really good. Growing up, many parents and authority figures emphasize putting others before the self. While noble in theory, this idea can come at a cost when used incorrectly, and cause dangerous patterns throughout your life.

While I was growing up, my mother wasn’t able to do basic things that many parents do, in light of her clinical depression. I picked up the slack along with my sister and my father, thinking that it was my lot in life to take care of everyone else. My commitment to giving more than I received went as far as cleaning up my roommates’ dishes and bedrooms in college, never troubling anyone with a response when they showed me disrespect and taking responsibility for the actions of others. My penchant for self-punishment materialized in my efforts to constantly serve and led to a deep-seated resentment that I carried for decades.

In giving of yourself when you haven’t received respect or assistance in some way, you automatically negate the positive energy of whatever you’ve given to someone. When you give out of resentment and subconsciously aim to fill a void with appreciation, you are performing a sacrifice. You are sacrificing your happiness, dignity and self-respect to get a thank you and perhaps a promise of their loyalty later, even if it’s not consciously part of your thought process. Even though it may feel good in the moment, it can quickly join the pool of resentment accumulating inside. This isn’t a way to shame yourself into feeling bad; it’s a way to rethink your relationship with receiving.

Giving and receiving stand on the same playing field, meaning that one isn’t better than the other. It’s a commonly-held belief to think that if you don’t give, you’re a bad person. This leads to people-pleasing, giving when your needs aren’t taken care of and giving only out of obligation to your ego. This belief also creates blocks to expressing the natural, feminine receptivity within each of us. Generating an imbalance that many never take the time to rectify, this phenomenon contributes to the meteoric rise of self-loathing issues many people experience today. It’s like there’s no way to receive without guilt or self-deprecation.

Receiving doesn’t have to be grandiose or extravagant. It’s as simple as letting your partner do the dishes one night or letting go of the need to control the outcome of every situation and trusting that it will work out. You can tap back into your feminine side to receive whatever good wants to come to you- just because! You don’t have to go out of your way or give constantly to receive, it is part of being human. We are constantly receiving, whether it’s the sun on our face, a blanket keeping us warm or a loved one asking us how we’re doing. So often, we move past these opportunities to receive so quickly and forge straight back into doing-mode and striving to get somewhere. In reality, when you take the time to step back, receive and feel good about doing so, you open yourself up to the support of the universe rather stay bound to the idea that you must only give because it’s what good people do.

What we’re missing with this idea is the concept of service. Once your needs are taken care of, you feel worthy of receiving and set boundaries in a loving way, then you can give with an open heart. When you feel taken care of, you can take care of others from a secure, abundant place within you. If you neglect this space, everything you give will feel like a sacrifice with all of the human emotions that entails.

As I’ve gotten older and healed the patterns that I learned growing up, I started to realize how good it felt to give from my soul. Now, I choose to serve by writing things I believe will help people feel less alone, remembering how alone I felt during dark periods of my life. I run a nonprofit for eating disorders because I know what it feels like to suffer from one, and I want to return the favor to the people who helped me. When I give, it’s because my soul feels taken care of and wants to help — not because I’m conditioned to do it in order to be worthy or a good person.

Service is supposed to feel good because you’re taking care of the place that it comes from within you. That means you’re receiving graciously and abundantly, standing up for yourself and honoring your needs. In this space, you can give from the soul rather than the ego. Your ego wants the recognition, praise and ties of allegiance in some way, shape or form. Your soul wants to give because it is connected to every living thing on this planet, and understands that, in giving this way, we receive.

The bottom line is this: you can give and receive in ways that feel good all the way to your core. There are no lingering thoughts about them “owing you” in the back of your mind; you’re giving because it lights you up and helps the world in some way. You love to receive because you know that you’re worthy of receiving — and it feels wonderful to do both! When you’re in touch with your soul and its inherent worth, you give because you are connected to everyone around you and receive because it’s your birthright. When you serve from a place that makes your soul happy and receive with open, grateful arms, you open doors to new opportunities for your highest self.

I know it’s uncomfortable to question what you were told about giving and receiving. In examining the way many are raised, it’s impossible to overlook the amount of shame wrapped around the idea that you have to give or else you’re a bad person. In being brave enough to ground into your inherent worth as a soul on this Earth, you can bring balance into your relationship with receiving and feel amazing while doing it.