Here it is, the day after Christmas, and many of us are returning to our daily lives after participating in rituals of giving and receiving. I’ve been thinking a lot during this time about how the joy of getting what we want can be overshadowed by shame when we don’t think we truly deserve it.
As you may know, I am currently self-employed and in the process of establishing my life-coaching practice. I haven’t worked a traditional 40-hour job in almost two years. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without my husband’s emotional and financial support. While I’m incredibly grateful and appreciative of him, this has also (at times) been a huge source of shame and general ego-distress for me.
Everybody has their own “money legacy.” It’s the relationship with money that you grew up with. Everybody has stories about how much you should make (me: enough to support yourself without going into debt) and where it should come from (me: hard work) and what you should do with it (me: spend prudently and save for the future).In my case, I’ve been failing to fulfill at least one of these expectations and running from the inevitable identity
meltdown shift. How do I define my value in life when being “self-supporting” has always been such a point of pride?
I keep encountering this bugaboo in sessions with my coaching partner. It wears different disguises, but the themes are always the same: You aren’t doing enough, you’re not contributing, don’t you dare enjoy yourself because you might start thinking you’re entitled to this support. You don’t deserve this and don’t you forget it.
Deserving and entitlement are words my monsters love to throw around to keep me off-balance and unable to relax. They’re desperately afraid that getting what I want (without working my butt off for it and/or worrying whether I really deserve it) will turn me into an unlikeable person. If I let go of my shame and allow myself to joyfully accept the support around me, I’ll become completely entitled, self-absorbed, and unable to relate to those around me. And then I’ll die alone. The end.
I’m at that awkward point now where I can see this story and recognize that it is a story, but I still half-believe it. There are a lot of little sub-stories that make up this personal mythology, like “Modesty is feeling undeserving of good things that happen to you” and “If it happened easily, it’s nothing to feel proud of.” I’ve located the main weed, but the root system goes deep underground.
The radical weed-whacking exercise I’m practicing now makes me super-uncomfortable (in a good way…kind of). It comes at a convenient time of year, so you can play along if you want:
I’m freely and joyfully receiving everything good that comes my way.
That’s it. I’m not questioning my worthiness or the amount of effort (or lack of) that brings me support. I’m not worrying that my good fortune will alienate me from my friends. I’m not scared that getting what I want will change me into someone I don’t want to be.
Okay, just kidding. I’m doing all those things. Even contemplating shame-free receiving makes me feel exposed and shaky. But I’m practicing. And even the story that this has to be hard is just that – another story.
Is it possible for this to happen with ease and grace? I can’t help but wonder what amazing things I’ve been holding at bay this whole time because I couldn’t let myself receive them. For all I know, more magic and joy and connection than I can imagine is on the other side of this “door of deserving” that I’ve been holding tightly closed.
So many of us give so much: our money, time, talents, and resources. Sometimes it makes us feel good to give. We feel needed and appreciated and valued. But we can’t constantly be exhaling. We need to practice inhaling, too: inhaling love, support, and abundance. We exist in connection and joyfully receiving from each other honors that connection just as much as giving. My personal hypothesis is that learning to receive will make it much easier to give freely, without resentment, and in line with my essential self. I’ll report back and let you know.
What about you? What good thing are you feeling shy about receiving?