self-care

On Receiving and Four-Low

I’ve always been quick to say, “I’m fine,” or “No worries, I’ve got it,” when someone offered me some act of service, love, or comfort. 

I came by my trouble receiving honestly. I had to grow up quickly, going from a teenager living at home to an adult living on my own at seventeen. During that time, a hardened self-sufficiently come online, it felt like an internal downshifting into the four-low gear on a four-wheel-drive truck. 

Four-low is a great gear when you’re in a couple of feet of snow and need to move slowly and carefully, but it's a damaging gear from which to drive my life. 

When I’m hunkered down in four-low, the love and help that are trying to come to me can seem like an attack. 

—> My partner suggesting I take a day off because I’m burned out (hello, four-low!) can feel like a criticism instead of an act of love. 

—> Visiting someone’s house who wants to care for and nourish me by making sure I’m comfortable can feel like too much attention. 

—> An offer from a friend to talk about something that hurts can feel overwhelming when I just want to curl into a ball around that pain.  

When I’m in that gear, people can tell me I’m amazing all day long and while I can literally hear their kind words, they can’t penetrate beyond my brutal inner dialogue of not-enoughness. 

Because I wasn’t giving myself a lot of love, compassion, and space to be myself, I didn’t have a lot of space for others to give in their way. If a friend didn’t text me back or anticipate my needs (which BTW, I hadn’t shared with them) then they “weren’t showing up.” 

It’s not that I don’t have boundaries or expectations around my relationships — I surely do. But when I’m in four-low, I’m on high alert for abandonment and not-enoughness, so when people were just being themselves with their own foibles, it was easy for me to interpret that as rejection.  

When I started healing those old childhood wounds that made me feel like I could only rely on myself, a veil was lifted and I could see all the love that was trying to get to me. The thing is, the support I’m craving rarely looks like I think it should. I have to open my heart so I can feel it, and that’s how I recognize the love coming in as an answered prayer. 

Because I’m learning how to love and respect myself, I’m better able to receive from an adult place of accepting what people can offer rather than the childlike place of wanting what can never be fulfilled. Because I also have boundaries, I’ve stopped trying to pour more love into relationships that are limited and I can better enjoy them for what they are. 

I see now that the love and care I was yearning for are right here. I just have to meet that incoming goodness with my open heart.