Hurricane Harvey has devastated the Texas coast. Specifically for me, my heart aches with my fellow Houstonians as we work to rebuild our hearts and homes. There are so many needs to be met for so many displaced people.
For someone who has lost their home and car, how do they handle going from being self-sufficient to needing basic necessities in two days? Being thrust into a such a dire sense of need so quickly can leave you feeling vulnerable, weak, and scared – among other things. It can be difficult to lower your defenses and allow others to help you. You may question some people’s intentions for helping or feel as if help should be offered to someone worse off than you are.
So often we are taught to “fend for ourselves” and be a “self-made and independent” person. We don’t ask for help, yet we delight in the opportunity to give. Giving is praise-worthy and makes us feel as if we have made a difference; receiving help can sometimes feel the opposite – like we are a burden or in the way.
Rather than thinking of giving and receiving as opposites, I’m here to offer a new perspective. Maybe they go hand in hand. We accept the help someone offers us in order to understand how truly wonderful giving can be.
That sounds great and all, but how do we do that? How do we learn how to receive?
Maybe it starts with finally acknowledging that we have been dependent on people for a while. Yes, you may have had your own house before tragedy struck, but someone helped build it. Yes, you could cook your own meals, but someone had to grow the food and someone else had to ship it to your favorite grocery store. And, yes, you had a dresser with clothes you bought, but someone else sewed them for you. You did not create the life you had all on your own; your helpers are simply more distant than the ones handing you a meal in the shelter.
LETTING GO OF CONTROL
Learning to receive also means letting go of control. Giving allows us to manage our emotions and capacity in which we are involved with others. Receiving invites a more vulnerable atmosphere into our life, which can be scary. Lean into that vulnerability. Accept what others have for you – whether it be a compliment or a bag of donated clothes after a flood. Bask in what these new emotions feel like and learn how to embrace them rather than run from them.
HELP YOURSELF WITH SELF-COMPASSION
Receiving can make you feel selfish. Society has created a façade that it is better to suffer and stay quiet about your needs rather than appear narcissistic or entitled. On the contrary, receiving allows you to live a more balanced life. You can begin to learn you are worthy of love and acceptance, increasing our ability to effectively asses the good in life. Becoming a happier person who wants to continue to spread the idea of a healthy giving and receiving cycle is how to learn self-compassion and stay more mindful of your needs. Maybe there is someone else that could also use some help, but that does not negate the fact you also need help now.
Receiving so much help can be overwhelming at a time like this. It’s ok to tell the people around you how you feel. However, I would encourage you to try to accept the help, rather than increase your hardships by trying to do it all on your own. Hurricanes like Harvey often bring out a beautiful side of humanity that we don’t see enough of. Take the help you need, rebuild yourself, and give back when you are able.