In our homes, we grew up believing that it was better to give than to take. Birthdays that focused on family dinners and Christmas always included a lesson in service and charity. Although there were gifts on special occasions, my mother taught me to share the spirit of generosity with others. While it gave me a selfless attitude towards giving, it also made it difficult for me to accept gifts. I’ve always felt uncomfortable receiving them, especially when they were expensive. I felt like it was too much or I didn’t deserve it. Over the years I’ve created ways to set limits on gift giving that make it easier to receive gifts without feeling guilty. Since my birthday was only a few days away, I revisited these methods in preparation.
Expectation when accepting gifts
Every time there is a holiday or special event, buying gifts has become an expectation. While I know the importance of honoring these occasions, I personally hate the emphasis placed on the gift itself. Although I know that a lot of the pressure is self-inflicted, I worry about finding the perfect gift, how much to spend and questioning my decisions.
These feelings only intensify when I’m on the receiving end. It gets worse when I’m the only focus. On birthdays, graduation and work anniversaries, I get very confident as all eyes are on me, waiting to see my reaction. After some strange or unwanted gifts over the years, my first concern is that my first reaction (or lack of enthusiasm) will hurt someone’s feelings. I don’t want anyone to feel bad if I don’t give the answer they were hoping for. I’ve practiced my reactions extensively, but it has happened before. So I still worry that it will happen again.
The second source of fear comes when I receive a gift that I think is too expensive or that I don’t deserve. Instead of simply saying thank you, I usually reply with “This is too much” or “You shouldn’t have done that”. It is difficult to accept gifts that I could not afford myself because I do not want to burden the people who are important to me financially.
Set limits for giving
I have spoken to many good friends over the years about my reluctance to accept gifts. While I understand logically that most people give gifts out of a sincere desire to make you happy, it does not remove the guilt or fear for me. That’s why I developed a few coping strategies when I received them. The biggest change, however, came when I did the party and birthday planning for myself.
Instead of thinking of my birthday as a gift, I throw my girlfriend into big parties or outings. I’ve done everything from renting out restaurants and boats to theme parties and group tours. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and I can share the experience with the people I like the most. Instead of receiving personal gifts, I usually ask friends to donate alcohol or food to the celebration. This gift aversion tactic has four major advantages:
- It takes the pressure off me.
- The indication of what to bring limits how much people spend.
- Shopping for gifts becomes a lot easier for my guests.
- It reduces the cost of the parties.
I’ve had mixed reactions to my strategy over the years, but all in all, I feel like it was a positive coping mechanism. While not perfect, it has reduced the number of gifts I receive and my fear of accepting them.
Find ways to make receiving gifts easier
No matter how uncomfortable it is, giving gifts is a social custom that won’t go away anytime soon. And while I have taken measures to limit the number I receive, you cannot avoid them completely. Therefore, it is important to find a way to make receiving gifts easier.
1. Receiving gifts becomes easier with practice.
As with anything, receiving gifts becomes easier with practice. Although I felt stupid, it made it easier for me to rehearse my expressions and reactions in the mirror. I felt like I had more control over the situation. This meant I was less likely to have an involuntary or negative reaction that could hurt someone’s feelings.
2. Open your gifts privately.
While this sounds like common sense, don’t believe how many people pressure you to open gifts in front of them. I usually obey them, but I prefer to open my gifts privately. This enables me to walk at my own pace, away from watchful eyes and judging gazes. It also gives me a safe place to respond to my gifts without worrying about how my reactions will affect others.
3. Make a gift list.
This trick achieves a similar result as if I am planning my own party. It makes it convenient and easy for your guests who want to receive a gift but are not sure what to buy. In addition, it sets limits and manages expectations of how much people should spend.
4. Recognize your misconceptions about gift giving.
Another important step is to recognize my own wrong ideas or beliefs about gift giving. As many people have pointed out, giving is the language of love and a way of connecting. You buy gifts to show that they care or because they think it’s something that you would enjoy. So when you receive one, accept the gift as it is, with no ulterior motive.
5. Allow yourself to accept gifts.
While it’s the easiest piece of advice, the last tip is also the hardest. However, it is important to give myself permission to accept a gift and understand that it is not something to be earned. Letting go of your own feelings in receiving gifts can give those you love the most freely to show how much they care and want to make you happy.
These strategies have made things easier for me over the years. Am I alone with this, or is someone else having the same inner struggle over receiving and enjoying gifts?
- Giving (second attempt)
- Control over my Christmas shopping
- Why do I feel guilty about spending money on things I need?
Learn How To Accept Gifts first appeared on Blogging Away Debt.