Have you ever experienced a truly visceral reaction when someone offers help to you? A gift? Support?
As a coach, I help and support my clients every day. So why can’t I accept these gifts myself?
I’m a Type 2 on the Enneagram. The Helper. The Giver. In fact, on the iEQ9 assessment, I’m rated 87 out of 100 as this type. I know I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. The positive side of this type is warm, giving, and people-centered. Yep, that’s me through and through! But the challenge Type 2s face is frequently putting their own needs and feelings on the back burner in order to support others. Um, yes, that’s me, too. When you’re overly focused on others it’s difficult to consistently tune in to your needs, and you risk developing a blind spot to your own authentic desires. I know this to be true of myself, but I had no idea how bad it had become until recently.
My father-in-law was in congestive heart failure and in and out of the hospital for over two weeks. The good news is he’s doing much better now. My sister-in-law is his primary caregiver, along with 4 small children under the age of 10 at home, too. Her husband is an amazing partner and father, so that’s helpful. But right away, as our family tackled this crisis, I went into support mode. I set up a Meal Train so that others could help with dinners and lunches. My husband and I brought them meals and gifts for the kiddos. We tried to make it easier on them. That’s what mattered. But when a girlfriend of mine offered a home-cooked meal to us, since my husband and I were on the same emotional roller coaster as everyone else, I could barely bring myself to accept it.
In fact, I tried every way not to accept it. I told her, “oh no need, you are SO busy,” “and “we are fine, we can manage…” The list went on and on. But she did not give up.
She pushed me to pick a day of the week and what type of food we prefer. She made it so I couldn’t decline. Then she dropped off an amazing meal and came in the house for a quick visit to check up on us. When she left my husband said, “well, I’m starving and this smells amazing. Let’s eat!”
Then, the panic set in, along with an upset feeling in my stomach. As I was walking towards the kitchen island to dish up a plate I stopped abruptly, like I was frozen or had hit a wall. I started to cry and told my husband how guilty and shameful I felt for eating this meal that my sister-in-law, those without food, houseless people, families affected by COVID (basically everyone but me) should be eating. My dear husband looked at me and said, “honey, you really need to work on just accepting. But, I’m digging in!”
Why was it so easy for him? Why was it so hard for me? I’ve been reflecting on this a lot because of my extreme reaction at the moment. I know I’ve struggled with receiving help for a while, but I’m coming to understand all of the gifts that accepting and letting others show love brings. Not allowing others to support you truly denies them the gift of giving. When I started to get that at a deeper level, I understood that accepting help is another way to show warmth and caring.
I have a feeling I’ll be forced to put the gift of accepting into practice soon, as I’m having a full knee replacement next month. I’ll let you know how I do!
Do you find yourself struggling to accept help? I would love to hear your story.