‘Tell you what, Love, don’t say anything to anyone else like, but I’ve just taken those 2 trees ‘round back of neighbour for £160 so if you like I’ll sort yours for £140.’
Oh how innocent this sounds and what huge job was this kind man offering to do at such a lovely discount? Rid me of the stump of a large palm tree bush that has been blighting my front lawn and I had so far spent two weekends hacking back.
Now, I understand if you are reading this and thinking, ‘had she flipped her lid or what?!’
Fair comment well presented, yet there is more to confess. While everything in my gut was telling me that this young man, despite the reputable business card and work van was, indeed, pulling a fast one, I still found myself mumbling that I didn’t have that amount of cash in the house and if he’d just like to hang on I’d pop to the cash point.
By the time I returned, he had chain-sawed the stump but still had left a hefty large lump and all the surrounding earth. 5 Minutes, a bit of poison on the root or so he claimed and £140 in his pocket. Nice work if you can get it.
I did actually find my voice to squeak that the £140, (I keep saying the amount as a harsh reminder to myself of the expensive lesson learned) seemed a lot of money for such a simple job that actually, still left me with a large stump that, in the 3 weeks since, has not rotted down as promised and is even sprouting new shoots. His response was to say,
‘Look Lady, if you want me to show you how much a new chainsaw blade is and the cost of taking tree stumps away you will see I have done you a massive favour.’
By that point, I knew I had been had but there was nothing I could do about it other than severely beat myself up, spending the next 24 hours repeating the phrase,
‘What on earth were you thinking????’
So what, indeed, was I thinking?
Well, the message was coming through loud and clear that, yet again, I had resisted asking for help, despite many offers. Had I really become so single and independent that I resented asking help for anything at all, preferring to spend money I don’t have to in order not to feel I’m putting anyone else out? In a nutshell, yes.
Not consciously of course. Though I am well aware that my default position is to be a giver rather than a receiver and this is often a topic that is raised with my coaching clients. So many of us, and I have to say women in particular, find themselves in constant giving mode; of their time, their energy, their love, their money yet find it difficult to accept they ‘deserve’ the same in return, despite their outward confidence. Instead, they will spend vast amount of energy ‘coping’ rather than feel they are imposing on others by asking for help.
When I was younger, this pattern was reinforced by a need to be constantly busy helping others as a way of avoiding addressing my lack of self-care. I am now much better at this yet still, the experience with tree stump man would indicate that this is still a dormant auto-response. At least I now have more awareness to recognise and deal with this response differently, even though I am £140 lighter for the lesson.
When I coach clients, the first thing I ask them to do is consider what they would say to a friend who had this pattern? Most people say they would offer reassurance, remind their friend of how generous and loving they are and that they deserve to be taken care of too sometimes. And, most importantly, by not being willing to receive we are blocking not only our own self-care but denying others the freedom and joy giving to us may bring to them.
I have had this levelled at me more than once that by not being willing to receive help, gifts or whatever else is being offered with genuine love and care, I am making the relationship imbalanced and disrupting the natural flow of energy that connects us all. Something that when I do open up to receive, does indeed make me feel more connected, not only to others but to myself too.
So, my advice to myself after this incident was to actually be ok with accepting offers of help, that others like to help as much as I do and that accepting is just as important as giving even if we start with baby steps. Reminding myself to be mindful of being my own friend as well as a friend to others and to next time perhaps spend that £140 on some yummy treatments at Lifehouse instead!