There are tons of literature and quotes out there that encourage us to GIVE, GIVE, GIVE! Don't worry about how you will manage to pull it all from your own resources. Just give and the rest will miraculously work itself out. From a young age, we are taught that sharing is caring. For women though, something shifts as we grow. Over time, our relationships with family, friends, and partners may become one-sided as our own needs go unaddressed while we selflessly give to others. The list of "giving" roles are endless in adulthood...shoulders to cry on, ears to vent to, girlfriends, students, lovers, wives, mothers/parental figures, caregivers, employees, CEO's. For many women of color, this ingrained desire to give and serve others has prevented us from the ability to receive with grace. Whether it be a compliment, pleasure, financial help, emotional support, or unconditional love, we have convinced ourselves and adamantly told everyone else, "I'm good".
With the What We Deserve Workshop coming soon, I wanted to take the time to explore the role trauma plays in WOC's difficulty in receiving. The word trauma evokes different images and reactions in everyone. It is important to understand that we have all survived some form of traumatic experience within our life. Please be aware that this shortlist of trauma is not an inclusive list. It is simply a reference for you to keep in mind for this next statement.
Unworthiness is an adverse effect of trama.
When you combine the selfless lessons passed down to us as young girls with the trauma woven into our narrative, it becomes inevitable that we feel unworthy of receiving.
"The worst receivers are usually the best givers. I feel out of control and vulnerable when I receive and some part of me is measuring and counting whether it is "fair" or "equal". At the bottom of all this is a me that feels unworthy of receiving.
In S.A.R.K.'s quote, the two words that stand out to me are "out of control" & "vulnerable". Isn't it interesting how these feelings represent the emotions associated with traumatic events? For many WOC, the act of receiving evokes these same uncomfortable emotions. So what can we do about our thought processes that prevent us from receiving with grace? How can we honor our trauma histories while growing and accepting a new way to be?
1) Acknowledge that what happened to you throughout the course of your life is part of your unique experience. It is NOT a relection of what you deserve. You had no control over any trauma that occured. You do have control over how you respond to your life now.
2) Be honest with yourself about what you can give to others. If you are burnt out and failing to nourish your own needs, you are not giving your best to anyone. You have to nourish before you flourish...AND before you give.
3) Recognize the emotions that come up when others try to give to you. Where do you feel it in your body? Are you resistant to their offerings of love? How are your reactions impacting the behaviors of others? Are your issues with trust valid with certain individuals who attempt to help you?
4) Sit down with a sheet of paper or open a Word document. Make a list of EVERYTHING that you need help with on one side. On the other, put down people and resources who would be willing to help you with your needs. Similar to debt, find the easiest need to tackle and when you are ready, use you resources to invite help into your life.
5) Resist the urge to "return the favor" when someone does something special for you. Resist the urge to mentally calculate the "price" of their offering and how you can reciprocate. Your loving nature has been a gift to many in your life. Allow that energy to come back to you when it shows up!
For the WOC who has trouble receiving, I want you to know that the strength you have built up as a gilded armor is beautiful, but I'm sure it is heavy. The same tools we use to protect us against harm can also serve to keep us from our gifts, assistance, and love. If nobody ever told you, receiving is your birthright. I'm hoping that from this day forward you reconsider your role. You are not only a giver, you are also a receiver. Be a gracious one and watch your life unfold in glorious ways.