How to accept help and kindness

Do you struggle to accept help? Do acts of kindness from others make you cringe, especially when it comes to compliments? Maybe you’re really good at helping others, and you frequently do kind things as you go about your day. But when it comes to receiving help and kindness, you feel really uncomfortable. 

You are not alone in your discomfort

Finding it hard to tolerate when someone assists you in some way is more common than you may realise. Lots of people report an aversion to being the recipient of an act of kindness.

You feel awkward when someone does something for you

Something as simple as a person giving you their seat on a bus or train, picking up something you dropped or standing back to let you go through a door first, can make you feel awkward and oddly defensive.

You feel uncomfortable when someone offers or does something especially kind. Maybe they offer to babysit your kids, or help change your flat tire, or they bring over a meal when they hear you’ve been sick, and you just wish you could crawl into a hole. 

You try to evade or refute compliments

It’s quite common for people to find compliments hard to accept. When someone says something nice about your appearance, behaviour, your possessions, or even people connected to you, you feel miserable. If you’re the kind of person who tries to deflect the compliment elsewhere, or even refute it completely, you might recognise aspects of yourself in the following:

Them: Your hair looks nice!

You: No, I wish I had hair like yours.

(or) Oh no I didn’t even get a chance to wash it, it looks such a mess.

Them: Thanks for all your hard work on this!

You: No, no, other people did much more than me. 

(or) It was nothing, I was just doing my job.

Them: That’s a lovely bag!

You: It was a gift from so and so, I would never spend this much money on a bag.

(or) Oh, it’s just a knock-off, it only cost xx. 

Them: Your children have such lovely manners.

You: So-and-so’s children have much better manners.

(or) No, not at all, they’re just having a good day usually they’re so rude 

6 Reasons you may not want to accept help and kindness

You fear dependence on others: It could be that offers of assistance and acts of kindness make you feel vulnerable and weak. Whether it’s because your childhood experiences taught you this unhappy lesson, or you’ve been through some kind of trauma, you fear letting your guard down. You don’t want to depend on anyone other than yourself.

You fear being a burden on someone else: Your knee-jerk response is: “This is too much” – even if it’s only very little. And accepting ‘too much’ from another person makes you feel like a burden.

You fear being indebted to others: Any time you accept help from someone, you feel like you ‘owe’ them. Now, you have to hold that debt, and look for an opportunity to pay them back. Or, you fear that sometimes in the future they will ask you for something you don’t want to give and you won’t be able to say no (because you owe them). 

You fear the motives of others: You think the other person is being disingenuous. They must have some kind of hidden agenda. Either they want something from you, or they are using you for some reason. 

You fear they’re not being sincere: Your inner critic is so loud in your head that you have zero self-esteem. You literally cannot believe that anyone could genuinely think well of you.

You fear loss of control: You’re the kind of person that always lends a helping hand to others, because that’s in your power and control. So you’re comfortable with giving but not receiving

4 Reasons you should accept help and acts of kindness

Accepting kind words or actions makes the giver feel good: When other people offer you help, support, and kind words, it’s like they’re giving you a gift. When you refuse the help, or deflect/refute the compliment, you’re rejecting their gift and denying the other person the chance to feel the warm fuzzy feelings of being the giver. Even if it’s a tiny gift, when you acknowledge it as a gift and express gratitude for it (ie. say “Thank you”), they feel really good about themselves. 

Receiving kindness builds connection: The moment of warmth between the person who offers help and the person who receives it; is a moment of connection. In a disconnected world, we all need more connection. Research shows that giving and receiving help and kindness builds a sense of belonging that creates positive ripples. 

Refusing to accept help can damage relationships: When you’re unable to accept acts of kindness from others, it can be harmful to personal, communal, and professional relationships. 

When you reject someone’s kind words or actions, their feelings get hurt. There may be a sense that trust is lacking. At work, you might be perceived as a loner, not a team player, which could hurt your chances of advancement. 

You will have to accept help at some point: Sooner or later every single person will be forced to accept some kind of help, like it or not. Life has a way of reminding you that you can’t manage on your own. So you may as well get some practice. 

Success Formula: How to accept help and kindness 

  1. Focus on the intention of the giver and allow them to give
  2. Practice gratitude (it’s your act of kindness to them and it’s good for you, too)
  3. Recognize your self-worth – this is often a case of practicing your self-talk and reminding yourself that you are worthy of receiving kindness, as is every being.
  4. Accept the compliment. Again, doing so is your act of kindness to that person.
  5. Pay it forward, not back. When someone helps you in some way, or says something lovely to you, go out of your way to do something kind for someone else in turn. 

Practice makes perfect

Like so many things in life, the more you choose to perform a specific action, the more of a habit it becomes. The more something becomes a habit, the easier it becomes. And habits are the building blocks of your identity

What if you really can’t

Sometimes you feel numb. You literally don’t notice when someone tries to help or be nice to you because you’re almost “switched off”. Even when someone points it out to you or perhaps later it dawns on you, you feel like you’re living inside an invisible but almost impenetrable bubble – very little gets through. If this is you, it could be that you’re dealing with depression or anxiety and you should reach out to your GP or a licensed mental health professional for proper help.

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