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The Art of Receiving: What It Takes to Let in Good Stuff

The Question of ForgivenessWe’re taught that giving is superior to receiving. Valuing giving is a helpful corrective to human narcissism. Seeing what others need to be happy is a beautiful act of kindness, which also fulfills us as nothing else can.

But receiving is an equally noble endeavor. When someone extends their attention and caring toward us, how deeply do we let it in? Can we allow ourselves to be nourished by another’s act of kindness? Receiving deeply not only nurtures us, but it also honors the giver. It makes them feel that they made a difference in our life.

Being mindful of the following might deepen your capacity to receive, which brings more fulfillment to your life:

Get Out of Your Head and Be Relaxed in Your Body

When someone does us a favor or compliments us, we might feel awkward or shy, or not know how to respond. We might quickly wonder if we’re required to reciprocate in some way. We might think:

  • Do I now need to do them a favor or compliment them?
  • Are they expecting something from me in return?
  • Do I really deserve this good deed or kind word?

Such thoughts can keep us locked in our head. Negative self-talk keeps us depressed and unhappy.

The next time someone gives something to you, see if you can just take a deep breath and let it be. Relax! Don’t trouble yourself trying to figure it all out. Don’t overthink it. Simply let it in.

The trick is to get out of your head and stay in your body. How do you feel in your stomach and chest to be treated with such kindness? If thoughts are spinning, simply notice them and set them aside — at least for now.

Don’t Question Whether You Deserve It

Sometimes we don’t absorb good stuff because we think we don’t deserve it. We might think, “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t say this.” Or, “I haven’t done much for them, so do I deserve this favor?” It’s easy to drive ourselves crazy with such internal consideration. Lost in the folds of our thought process, the beauty of the gift escapes us. And the giver might notice our distraction and not feel appreciated for what they’ve done for us.

We can drive ourselves crazy pondering whether we deserve something. Who’s to say whether we do or don’t? It’s unlikely that the giver has evaluated whether we deserved what was given to us, so why should we? Perhaps it was a spontaneous act of kindness. Questioning it diminishes the power of the offering.

An important part of self-worth is to validate that it’s OK to receive things. Being human means having needs and wants, which includes being valued and appreciated. It’s part of being human to have flaws and limitations, but right when we’re given some gift is not the time to ponder our flaws. In fact, one of our flaws may be that we complain that nobody cares about us despite evidence to the contrary. We’re not skilled at the art of receiving good stuff when it comes our way.

Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable

We’re in control when we give. If we’re offered a kind word or deed, it can trigger a sense of vulnerability. Receiving requires the strength to be vulnerable.

When a tender moment arises during a conversation — perhaps a look of compassion as we talk about a parent’s illness — can we let in their tender gift of caring? Or do we quickly look away due to shame or embarrassment? How often do we voice our struggles, hoping to find a kind and receptive ear, and then when someone offers a kindhearted response, we keep talking over it?

Allowing ourselves to slow down and welcome a tender vulnerability can be very connecting — a salve for our isolation. Taking a moment to pause or show a tear can be a gift to the listener. It can signal in ways deeper than words that their caring has touched our heart and helped us take a small step toward healing.

Look for opportunities to let in good stuff when it comes your way. It might be as simple as someone holding open a door for you, or a genuine interest in hearing about something that’s troubling you, or a warm hug. As you practice being a sponge, you may bring more joy into your life. And as your emotional tank gets filled, you’ll have more to give to others.

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The Art of Receiving: What It Takes to Let in Good Stuff

John Amodeo, PhD

Dancing with FireJohn Amodeo, PhD, MFT, is the author of the award-winning book, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships. His other books include The Authentic Heart and Love & Betrayal. He has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for forty years in the San Francisco Bay area and has lectured and led workshops internationally, including at universities in Hong Kong, Chile, and Ukraine. He was a writer and contributing editor for Yoga Journal for ten years and has appeared as a guest on CNN, Donahue, and New Dimensions Radio. For more information, articles, and free videos, visit his website at:

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APA Reference
Amodeo, J. (2018). The Art of Receiving: What It Takes to Let in Good Stuff. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 19 Sep 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.