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What to do if you feel guilty when people do nice things for you

Friendships, Relationships & Sex

Two nights ago Bloody Good Bloke fell asleep early while I was still unpacking our stuff in our new place near Byron Bay. I worked for a few hours and then jumped into bed myself, at which point he woke up and pulled me into his half asleep arms.

Last night I came home from yoga to find the kitchen covered with food.

He was in the midst of cooking two prep-intensive meals at once while also defrosting the freezer. I asked how I could help, and he pointed to a huge pile of different vegetables that needed chopping.

Newly in zen mode for the first time in at least a week, I stood and stared at the pile of veggies for a fraction too long. BGB, intuitive as ever, asked what was up.

On further self inspection, it appeared that I was feeling panicked by the veggie pile.

After a hectic week and a half of packing, driving for days, moving house, and unpacking, I had finally gone to yoga at the insistence of Bloody Good Bloke, who literally picked me up from my office chair and deposited me at the front door to force me to stop working.

I had been in robot get-shit-done mode — my only mode, pre-Bloody Good Life skills — for at least a week by now, and I felt numb and disconnected from myself and from BGB.

The restorative yoga class was a godsend, and had calmed my nervous system (and Neville) back down towards zen mode so I could slow the feck down and stop rushing around like a mad robot.

Yoga had felt blissful, and I grinned as I walked home with a plan to make something easy for dinner and have a recalibrating night off from doing anything productive at all.

But, because I hate feeling like someone is doing something for me (like making dinner) while I’m being “lazy”, BGB’s vegetable pile made me feel I had no choice but to dive back into “doing” mode, and it set off an unexpected mini panic!

In the end, BGB ordered me out of the kitchen, and when I resisted, he picked me up, walked out of the kitchen, and deposited me on the bed with strict orders not to do anything productive.

I cried inexplicably for a while about the overwhelming vegetable pile (inexplicable tears seem to occur after yoga sometimes, these days I laugh-cry at myself and just roll with it!).

Twelve minutes later I found myself back at my desk prepping for a corporate workshop the next day.

Alas.

It has come to my attention recently (and also less recently), that I am VERY bad at “receiving”.

I’m only happy to receive favours or gifts or kindness if I feel I have or can do something equally in return (ideally more)

Somewhere along the line of life, I got completely confused and started equating “allowing others to help me” with “failure.”

I decided never to let anyone look after me more than I looked after them.

I decided never to let anyone do more favours for me than I did for them.

I decided never to let anyone listen to my problems more than I listened to theirs.

I decided to calculate everything on a 50/50 basis, and then skew a bit over the line, so I was always doing a little or a lot more than 50% of the favours. That way, Neville calculated, I’d never feel indebted, I would never be a burden, and everyone would love me more.

Turns out, he was wrong.

I have no idea where this came from, but it is something I am trying to improve at, as it fucks with relationships when you won’t allow others to help, support, or nurture you without getting into an awkward pickle about it.

If you’re anything like me with this favour thing, reply and let me know!

I reckon we need to get this shit sorted.

I’ve now learnt that accepting others’ support and kindness makes us more connected, strengthens our relationships, and makes others more likely to feel safe asking us for help in return.

Accepting support seems to be a foundation for healthy relationships, quite the opposite of Neville’s beliefs.

As one of my wise friends said, “when you try to stop me from helping you out, you take away the joy of giving from me. Stop it!”

Pstt - enjoyed this blog post? Splendid news! If you fancy getting these snippets of self-deprecating radical honesty delivered freshly to your inbox moments(ish) after I take them out of the gluten free oven (every week or three-ish), subscribe over here.

I have an online workshop coming up (details TBC) called How to be Less of a Dick to Yourself (AKA Self Compassion for Sceptics)! I would love you to join us — It’s going to be bloody splendid! Click here to register your interest.

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