Learning to Receive

Sometimes, we need to learn how to receive. Or at least I have to. I haven’t practised this skill much. My response to compliments or references to my superpowers (haha) is typically followed by a low thank you and fingers crossed that I am out of it within the minute. So, as last week I was showered with over 600 emails, 100+ LinkedIn comments or messages and a large number of phone calls, I was out of my depth. It was definitely a learning for me. Learning to receive. And to see me in it.

I am a giver

If you know me, you know that I am a giver. When Catia (my therapist) asked me a couple of weeks ago why I care so much about people and making them happy, my response was confused:

“Not sure I understand your question, don’t we all care about people?”

My puzzled self

It would not occur to be that I was any different. But in fact, I recognise that the importance I place on maintaining relationships (even those that have nowhere to go) is big in me. And she was very clear that I was probably a bit overboard in how much I worried and how much I let that concern drive decisions in my life. That maybe it was time to give some of that concern to myself as well. I pondered whether that made any sense.

When the week after one of my coaching colleagues asked “Can you live with that person’s disapproval?”, yet again I observed the same topic. Me and people. Well, I guess I need to learn that what I can’t live with is my own disapproval.

I am not that bad

I have achieved a lot in life, I don’t deny it. But it was not until about 2 years ago that I have looked at myself and recognised that person that people talked about when they referred to me. I distinctly remember writing it down after having been in one of the HBS career days and describing myself with a conscious effort to give myself praise. When I got to the end and read it, I told Hubby B

“I am not that bad, I have done a lot with my life. Maybe I am awesome!”

Me, afraid of the words coming out of my mouth

That last bit had a cheeky smile on my face, like I didn’t really meant it and I would only be allowed to say it as a joke. You should have seen the look in HIS face, like an alien was talking. He was not amazed that I would say something so “arrogant” like that. He was just amazed that I genuinely had a look of surprise in my face as I said it. His answer was simple

“You only just realized, didn’t you? Did you think people were making it up all these years?”

Talk about your achievements

That aha moment did not last long I must admit. Not that I feel sorry for myself or unaccomplished. I just honestly don’t give it much thought. So every month as I close my journal, one of my most important routines is to list out everything that I have done. Not in a Tony Robbins kind of way (nothing against him by the way, but you get the picture). But in a practical matter-of-fact way, I go through what I believe has worked across all areas of my life – as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, sister or friend, as a writer, strategist, professional. Oh, and as myself. That has certainly been a late addition to the list.

No, this is not me going on and on about journaling. This is actually one of the pillars of my journaling experience and my practice of gratitude, but also in my ability to stay sane with everything that happens in life. By listing out all that I have done, I am in a much better mental state to then do my to-do list for the month ahead, while reviewing all the bits that I left undone. It would be pretty unsatisfactory otherwise!

Receive Compliments

But let’s go back to my out-of-body experience last week. I was a bit scared by what I was going to feel on promotion day. Not only I had to fight a feeling of overdue, but most importantly, I haven’t been one of those people whose goal was to be an MD. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely wanted to be one. I just did not have it as a major goal in life. It was instead an expected step in my journey. If it was the ultimate goal, how disappointing would the next day be, what else to expect? In any case, I digress.

What I did not anticipate in my feelings in promotion day was that I was going to receive compliments left right and centre. Now, naturally I should know that was going to happen. But, given I did not give it much thought (I am still wondering if I should have had an “Oscar” acceptance speech), I just wasn’t ready. So all I could utter was a thank you, no matter what people would say.

“You must be so proud! You must be so relieved! It is so deserved! I am so happy for you!”

My response was only one – thank you. And where do I get out?

Gratitude taking over

It was in one of the morning speeches that suddenly it all made sense. One of our senior MDs reminded us to go thank the people that helped us get there. Including Mum and Dad. That is when it hit me. OMG this is really amazing. They are going to be so proud. And my Sister. And Hubby B. That was the moment I embraced it all and each thank you became more heartfelt than others. That is when I went out of my way to distribute a few small thank you notes and speeches to the people that have no doubt contributed to me getting here.

Now, you may think that I just reversed to point #1 that this was only important because I was pleasing others. And I wondered about that. But it wasn’t. I was able to feel proud of myself the same way as they would have felt proud. I felt truly grateful for those that made me who I am and supported me to achieve such a hard thing.

Admittedly, my inability to take compliments runs in the family. My Mum uttered a “oh don’t make me cry“, my Dad uttered a “I have nothing to do with this” and my Sister “don’t you dare, I am in a doctor’s waiting room and can’t cry“. And if you are wondering about my acquired family, Hubby B also responded “for what?!“… You can’t win.

Time to receive and be grateful

The more grateful I felt, the more each thank you touched my heart. I noted those that called and I did not expect, those that emailed and texted. And I noted those that took the time to tell me why they were happy for me in particular. I will cherish those notes in my heart.

Because they forced me to see a person I don’t always see in the mirror. They forced me to see that this was really hard but I made it. And that people noticed. And I am grateful not for the accolades, but rather for what they mean to each person that was happy. For what it made each person feel and believe. Because with their help I was also able to go back to my word of the year for 2020 and believe.

Believe it was possible, for a woman with 2 kids, a charity, a blog, a podcast and a full time working husband, for one moment, to have it all. Even if she did not know she wanted it.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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