I am a giver and generosity is my religion.
I love that feeling of being so full and abundant and bountiful that art supplies, attention, kindness and love simply pour out of me. It’s a wonderful experience to give without really worrying about whether or how that energy will come back to me, because being in that FLOW of generosity feeds me and is a gift all on it’s own.
When I looked up the definition of generosity it was “giving more than is strictly necessary or expected.” And one of the things that is SO much fun about generosity is that element of surprise. When a person comes to one of my wild heart painting retreats for the first time I never get tired of the open-mouthed wonder that I see on their face when they walk into that over-the-top wonderland of paint and paper and creative SPACE that is characteristic of every studio that I create.
That unexpected generosity always throws people off guard and allows the excited inner child the room and invitation to come out and play. Generosity opens hearts and engenders trust. It breaks down barriers and fosters connection and allows me to do my creative soul work with my students from a place of greater ease.
But if I’m going to be totally honest, I must admit that while I’m more than happy to be giving to others I am STILL challenged when it comes to being given to. And I know that I’m not alone.
I see this pattern of giving freely but being reticent about receiving with just about every woman that I know. It’s hard for most women to ask for help, to take in compliments, to fall apart and allow themselves to be soothed and held and comforted, to express needs and be taken care of by others, to be pampered and celebrated and seen.
Being on the receiving end of someone else’s generosity is often defined as being greedy. Narcissitic. Self centered. And worst of all selfish. Which is THE cardinal sin with all too many women.
But I began to wonder about this pattern in myself. And in all my amazing creative sisters.
Because IF it feels SO good to give but no one is there to accept the goodness, where does all that gorgeous generosity go? If that bounteousness just hits embarrassed downturned eyes or a polite murmur of “no thank you”, what happens to the energy of largesse that wants and needs a place to land?
And that’s when I got it. Giving and receiving are two sides of the same process. And you really can’t have one without the other. Not being receptive STOPS the flow. Being FULLY open to receiving is an act of generosity all it’s own. It’s being generous with life, by saying an unequivocal yesyesyes to all the blessings that come your way.
Receiving also requires a great deal of courage.
Because to be receptive you have to make yourself vulnerable. You have to let down your inner walls of fear and insecurity and allow yourself to be touched and moved and nourished. And even more importantly, you have to challenge the stories that you tell yourself about how you aren’t worthy or deserving or valuable enough for the experience of generosity.
If goodness shows up in your life and you allow the sweetness of it to fully penetrate your being it WILL change you. Generosity heals by transforming those long held patterns of of belief around lack and shame and disconnection from yourself, from others and from the world itself.
I’ve also been recognizing that making myself available to generosity is a profound act of self-care. It’s making space in my soul and psyche to be fed by love.
So I’ve been practicing opening gifts and presents with the unadulterated joy and enthusiasm of a child. And when someone compliments me I try not to automatically deflect the loving acknowledgment by making a joke about how I’m not REALLY so great. Instead, I look the person giving me the accolade in the eye and simply say a heartfelt thank-you, using the opportunity to consider the possibility that maybe I really AM that good.
Like anything else, this is a practice.
Attempting to change these unconscious, knee-jerk behaviors of refusing generosity comes with a tremendous amount of discomfort. It requires a shift of some deeply held beliefs about what it means to be an exemplary woman in our culture. And it’s not easy. The inner voices trying to pull me back into the old paradigm of self renunciation are fierce and relentless.
But I’m willing to do this if for no other reason than I know how bad it feels to have my own generosity repelled by another’s unwillingness to receive it. And I certainly have no interest in continuing this ancient system of internalized self negation.
Plus, since I want MY generosity to be fully received I need to do my part to keep the generosity river gushing in an uninterrupted and unhampered continuous flow.
And I sincerely hope that you will join me.