“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart.” ~Brene Brown
The honest truth about needing to please is that we do it to make other people happy. We will sacrifice everything and anything to put a smile on another’s face and lighten their load, while ours keeps building.
The only problem is that while helping others makes us feel good, it’s almost addictive until we are burnt out. And giving and pleasing others starts to come from a place of resentment.
I’ve been there!
There was a time when I used to come up with a thousand reasons why I couldn’t leave the house. I was desperate to get to a yoga class and claim an hour away from being a mum, wife, friend, and entrepreneur.
But instead, I prioritized keeping my kids happy and did everything I could to avoid the onset of a tantrum and also made sure my husband sat down to a delicious, home-cooked meal each night. And when the kids were napping, I would use that time to do a little work.
The routine started to get boring. I complained daily. I was grumpy and irritable.
Yet the days kept coming and I started to drag my feet. The tasks were mundane and never-ending, and they started to get on my nerves. I’d lash out at the washing machine or slap together a half-assed attempt at dinner. And I wasn’t just overextended and resentful in my home life. My clients were taking advantage of me, and my friends sucked my energy dry.
I kept showing up for everyone around me—striving to keep the peace, to keep them happy, while I was worried that I might let them down or wasn’t living up to their expectations. Yet with a whole lot of hindsight, I discovered that I had placed all this pressure on my shoulders myself.
Denying myself a sixty-minute yin yoga class was the stupidest thing I had ever done. It still sounds ridiculous now. But at the time, I couldn’t see any solutions. I had tunnel vision and it didn’t revolve around me.
I felt like I didn’t deserve the break.
I felt responsible for everyone around me.
I was unsure what would happen if I left our house for an hour and what I would walk back into after leaving my two young kids alone with my husband.
Each afternoon, I was an emotional wreck by the time my husband came home. Being the problem solver that he is, he encouraged me to go and find a class—as if it was that simple. I thought, “What does he know anyway? He has no idea about all the things I still have to do.”
But I eventually realized he was right. I needed a break, and I had to get out of my own way and take it.
Finding a class was easier than I had imagined. There were loads to choose from and all kinds. I settled on a 4:30 p.m. class on a Friday, that was only a five-minute bike ride away.
I remember walking through those yellow doors to find only me, two other people, and a smiley yoga teacher.
Ahhh, I relaxed. I rolled out my mat and lay down because it was a yin restorative practice. We lay there for what seemed a lifetime. I spent it fighting with my mind to not think about what might be happening at home, my to-do list, my kids, the grocery list, my work… Thankfully, we finally got moving and I started to tune into the music.
The class was literally six poses of deep stretching and rest, and it was a challenge to surrender instead of extending each pose.
My mind focused on how to allow my limbs to soften even in a standing pose that we held for a good five minutes. Not collapsing took every ounce of concentration I had.
I took big belly breaths, in to fill my lungs and out to gently soften.
In the final fifteen minutes we had a deep meditation (savasana), with the yoga teacher coming around to us individually, massaging the back of our necks to the bottom of our skulls. She finished it off by pressing her two warm hands down on my shoulders as if she was pushing me back into the ground. Tears began streaming down my face as she walked away.
I had fully surrendered and left my mind to be in the present moment, and her touch released the stress and burden I was carrying. It was an intense moment, and I felt joyful and at peace. I had literally forgotten that I had to return to my family only minutes later.
That class changed me as a mother and a wife.
I went back every week religiously after that. I saw the power of connecting with my breath and myself. Because that one hour reset each week was enough to fill up my cup and change how I was showing up for myself and others.
My daily chores didn’t bother me anymore. I had more love to give my kids and partner. I had a renewed sense of energy. When someone asked for help, I had the capacity to give because I wanted to instead of seeing it just as another task I had to do.
Once I learned to receive, which meant surrendering my responsibility and need to control and allowing myself a little love, I discovered that I often denied myself other things, like going out for walk or catching up with friends. And this is where I had to lean in deeper and question what it means to receive. Here is what I realized.
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help or receive it, and I don’t need to prove myself or my worth through giving.
I really felt like I was doing life alone, taking on the responsibility of everyone around me and driving myself into the ground. People would make kind gestures to help, but I would often shut them down with an “I’ve got it covered, thanks.”
The day my husband stepped in to wash the dishes after I shared that I had a looming deadline, he practically threw me out of the kitchen. I felt so guilty, like I should be the one doing them, not him.
What I thought was a one-time deal has now lasted three years. It has lightened my load, and our relationship has been better because I no longer feel like I’m the one doing all the things.
Accepting help is receiving an energetic exchange with someone that wants to offer support. So take it.
Too often, I would deflect when someone would say something nice to me. I found it uncomfortable, and it made me question their ability to see what was really happening.
I didn’t feel like I deserved a compliment because I didn’t see myself like others did. I didn’t feel worthy of being praised, so I brushed it off with, “No worries, it was nothing,” “I would do it for anyone,” or “This old thing? I bought it on sale five years ago.”
Learning to receive a compliment showed me that I could be honored and celebrated for who I am and that there was nothing to be ashamed of. I thought that people who received compliments looked nothing like me and were doing more important work than little old me. But I learned that compliments are praise, and we all deserve to feel seen, heard, and acknowledged.
Realizing I’m Not Responsible for Everything
Here was my greatest lesson, which was letting go of my need to control all situations. The responsibility I carried, because I felt it was my job to make everyone happy, was costing me my physical and mental health along with my relationships.
When I released the control, it created space for things to happen without my interference. It provided space for me to see how others could step up and take responsibility, for mutual needs and their own. It gave me permission to invest in my own well-being.
Instead of over-giving, fixing, and manipulating, I stood back. From here I could see that life is a two-way street where we exchange our energy with one another. This allows us to give from a full, nourished heart, and this is much more satisfying than giving from a sense of fear and obligation.
Opening our hearts to receive eliminates our tendency to over-give. When we give without our full presence, we are not showing up fully for ourselves or for other people.
We all love to support the people we care about, but we need to receive just as much as we give, creating a balance that never leaves us feeling drained or that we “should” be doing something.
Do you find it hard to receive? What helps you let go of control and fill your own cup?