I decided to write this post for the sake of all of you who have trouble accepting gifts. Just on the face of it, that seems like kind of a ‘non-problem’ doesn’t it?
Yesterday though, as I began researching this project, which necessitated reading a few other posts about the psychology of gift giving and receiving, I was amazed to notice how triggered I was about a lot of the things that I was reading. Half the battle is knowing what you’re dealing with. So let’s work our way through some of them and see where we come out shall we?
While there are many sayings about both giving and receiving, it seems to me that too many of us may have laboured under the memory of one specifically and taken it to heart. ‘It is more noble to give than to receive’. I think it often lies at the heart of it when you have trouble accepting gifts.
All the things we teach our children….
There are things that we teach our children so that they will grow up to be accepted and welcomed members of their community. One of them is that they not be grasping and self centered. ‘It is more noble to give than to receive’ does just that. The problem is, that in our effort to teach kids to love giving to others, the unspoken lesson may be, is that ‘receiving’ is not noble, not good, not kind.
Which, when you think it through, is kind of weird isn’t it? Because in a backhanded kind of way, we’re teaching them that they will be better than the other guy if they give instead of receive. Giving equals nobility, receiving…not so much! That seems like a logical extrapolation doesn’t it?
Who wouldn’t love a guy like this?
A couple years ago, my husband had another of his sudden rushes of loving generosity and insisted that we go out shopping. He wanted to buy me new clothes! How wonderful is he ladies? And am I not completely blessed to have a guy who has those kinds of impulses? The problem is, he was wanting to take me shopping.
Do you have trouble accepting gifts as well as other things?
Not only do I have trouble accepting gifts, I’ve also always hated shopping for new clothes. Weird woman that I am, at least if you’re thinking in terms of stereotypes, I really despise shopping for clothes. What is acceptable is grabbing a new tank top or t-shirt when I’m passing by Superstores women’s clothing department. I know my size, what colours I like and I don’t have to think about it or try it on. Just grab one, finish my grocery shopping and go. As you might have guessed, I have a lot of tops that have the Joe Fresh label on them.
So the prospect of actually hunting for ‘something’ puts me off. And then spending time trying the potential purchases on and with my husband waiting outside the dressing room! While not exactly the stuff of horror movies, I still find it real hard to get enthused. But he’s persistent, I gave in and we went.
Maybe I should have changed my name to ‘Grumpy Cat’….
As he pushed aside clothes that didn’t seem ‘right’, I remember standing behind him and whining silently to myself about how imposed upon I felt. As I think back to that day, I can only imagine how cranky I must have looked and I’m truly embarrassed.
But I went along with what he was trying to do, tried things on, settled on a couple or three new tops and we finally went home. At the time, I think I was only grateful that the ordeal was finally over.
What to do when you discover that you’re not unique?
Over the following days and months, I’ve asked myself why it is that I have such trouble accepting gifts. What is it that makes me so uncomfortable? In fact, I’ve even alluded to that discomfort in a Mother’s Day post that I wrote. And that’s where this research has revealed a few things to me. Because I feel this way, and am learning daily how ‘un-unique I am’ in so many ways, I decided to share 11 reasons why some of us do this.
We’ll start here though and sort out how we feel about giving gifts. I’m thinking that by starting at this point, we may begin to understand why we have trouble accepting gifts.
So why do we give gifts? And are we uncomfortable with giving too?
To give a gift is far more than that thing or favour or whatever. It’s a statement about that person’s place in your life and your heart. It’s a concrete symbol of your feelings for them. It tells them that you cared enough to make the effort to think about them and the things they like. It is proof that you love them….unless it’s not. And that’s what we worry about. That uncertainty that will lead you to have trouble accepting gifts.
In an article written for O Magazine, Martha Beck made the following statement: ‘…the judgments that constrain your giving are the very demons that are keeping you from receiving….’. Think about that for a minute.
Why did you give those gifts?
Now think about all the gifts that you have given to others. How many did you give because it was expected but seriously, you could think of a dozen other things that you would much rather do with that money? Or how many have you given where you really didn’t put a lot of thought into it, just rushed to the nearest Costco? There you could grab something that wasn’t too expensive and then cross it off your to-do list. How many have you given because it was important to you that you prove you’re a better gift giver or at least, just a good person? And how many have you given, just because they gave you something and you have to pay them back?
What are the tell tale signs that we have trouble accepting gifts?
- you say things like “that’s sweet but you shouldn’t have”
- when you receive a gift and have a hard time making eye contact as you’re accepting it
- fumbling for the words to say thank you, while desperately wishing the ordeal was over.
- stumbling through your thank you, you quickly set the gift to one side so that you can turn your focus to something else that is unrelated to the gift.
- trying to take the attention off yourself, you begin by complementing them on their generosity, good sense of taste and style in whatever it is that they gave you. In effect, you pivot away from their gift to you….to how clever or good or talented they are.
Thinking back, do you remember doing any of these things yourself? I sure do. I’ve just never thought about why I do it.
11 REASONS WHY WE HAVE TROUBLE ACCEPTING GIFTS
- A reputation for not wanting gifts, protects us from them trying to find out what we’re all about. The thinking is after all, if they really get to know us, they won’t like us. But if they don’t really know me, they will continue to like me and they won’t leave.
- Not receiving gifts means no one will expect us to reciprocate in kind or otherwise. So we’re protected from their expectations.
- Receiving a gift means that we’ve lost control in the relationship and they’ve taken over. And we all want control don’t we?
- Their gift makes us wonder if they give it because they expect payback or because they know it makes them look good.
- Does their gift mean they are rewarding us for meeting their expectations? Because we ‘know’ we don’t deserve anything? So what’s the real motive?
- We don’t want them to suffer because they spent their money/time on us. Because again, we don’t deserve it in the first place and we don’t want them to suffer for nothing.
and 5 more reasons why so many have trouble accepting gifts!
- We don’t like when other people’s time and attention is on us because we aren’t worth it, we don’t deserve it and we worry that other’s will notice all of that….and take their love away.
- We judge ourselves as unworthy and ‘refusal’ protects us from being judged by them. Or at least we think it protects us from knowing that they judge us.
- If the gift turns out to be unsuited to us, how can we thank them for it? In our mind, that becomes ‘they don’t care enough to know me and give something suitable’. How can we say thanks for that? Easier not to get gifts, don’t have to deal with those kinds of questions right?
- Or maybe we’re worried that we won’t like the gift, but we’d feel guilty for hurting the givers feelings if we were honest, but we hate having to lie about loving it….so it’s easier to just discourage them from giving anything to us.
- It helps to keep people from getting too close. If we can discourage them from wanting to do something kind for us today, we won’t be hurt if/when they leave tomorrow.
In fact, boiling it all down to the most basic of motives, Marriage and Family Therapist, John Amodeo has written that ‘…receiving gifts is harder than giving because it requires a certain intimacy between the two parties’.
While I have trouble accepting gifts, isn’t there someone else involved too?
Thus far, I’ve been pretty much focused on me (or you) as a receiver of a gift and how we feel. But as in just about anything that involves a human being, there’s usually someone else who’s also part of the equation. So what about the giver and his or her feelings when we are stuck in this mire of reluctance and discomfort?
While I was busy whining and moping that day as Don flicked through the shirts displayed on the rack, I was completely lost in my own very small, emotionally miserly world.
Over the following days, I began to experience some little nagging thoughts that were very uncomfortable. But occasionally, we’re blessed with some ‘supernatural mental ability’ to step outside ourselves and see objectively, what we are or what we appear to be to the outside world. And that is the place where epiphanies happen.
The ‘Grumpy Cat’ face is a trademark when I have difficulty accepting gifts? Yikes!
I realized that to anyone watching, my dear husband would have appeared kind and generous. I on the other hand, would have appeared to be the emotional wet blanket that we all dread dealing with.
Who is blessed by a gift that’s given?
Beloved writer, performer and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou once said, “ When we give cheerfully and accept grateful, everyone is blessed”. Not only was I not having fun shopping with my favourite guy in the whole world, but I was stealing any hope of joy from him. In the face of his sweetness, I disrespected his love.
I know you care about the people you love….
If you’ve continued reading this far, my hunch is that you’re a good and loving person. You care about the people in your life and you would never knowingly hurt them. You may have even told yourself over the years, that you have trouble accepting gifts because you hope to spare them the trouble of shopping or wasting their money on a gift. That’s not giving them much room though, to make their own decisions is it?
When you still have trouble accepting gifts, what’s a better response?
I still have trouble accepting gifts of any sort. But now I try to handle that discomfort better and with a view to not hurting the feelings of the giver, in the process. I remember that aside from the gift itself, that person is giving me a gift of their love. And the gift that I can give back to them is my gracious acceptance and gratitude.
Turn down the whispers and simply accept their love offering….
So I smile and we go shopping. And I let all the other stuff go. And where my fear was based on possible motives, or their ability to pay or whatever, I’ve just decided to turn down the volume on those ‘whispers’ of concern.
Making good habits grow stronger only happens one way!
Just like bad habits, good habits like accepting gifts gracefully, become stronger the more often they’re practised. And the better I get at this, the more everyone is blessed. Remember what Maya Angelous said after all!
I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say! So share your thoughts and let me know what you think. In the meantime, be safe, be kind and enjoy your day wherever you are!
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