The Real Gift.
To me, the Christmas season is the most wonderful time of year. As I sit here, I’ve got a fire roaring in the fireplace where my stockings are neatly hung, and the smell of balsam fir lingers in the air as the lights on my tree twinkle at me. It’s blissful. Why then, did this season previously give me so much anxiety?
One word - selfishness.
You see, while I’ve always been a HUGE Christmas fan, I wasn’t always the best at managing this time of year. I’d succumb to the notion of the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect festivities, the perfect baked goods, the perfect gift, the perfect…….you name it. I wanted my life to reflect the Hallmark movies I’ve swooned over for years. This perfectionism led me to set up unrealistic expectations for myself and others. As a result, I was often a real Scrooge at Christmas (although I didn’t let the world see).
What I find most troubling as I reflect on past Christmases was how TERRIBLE I was at receiving gifts. True confession (it’s about to get really real): Looking back, I was selfish. Sometimes even hateful. And almost always judgey. When given a gift over the holidays, I’d react in 1 of 2 ways:
Disappointment + Anger - Everyone I knew would ask me for a list of what I wanted. I’d be very articulate and thoughtful when compiling my list even indicating where to find the item and it’s price. Then, without fail, I would be disappointed Every. Single. Year. Inevitably, I would receive one item on my list and a bunch of other “junk” that I didn’t want or would never use. I remember telling my ex one year that I just didn’t want ANY presents because they were always $#!T.
Whoa……really? Yep, I said that. How selfish was I? Don’t answer that!
The Turnaround: Gratitude. You see, I wasn’t even grateful I’d received a gift. It’s sad, really. Over the last few years, as my gratitude practice has evolved, I’ve begun to appreciate the time, effort and thought that goes into each and every gift I receive, not just at Christmas. The mere fact someone took time out of their day to run into a store and spend even a few minutes for an item they thought I’d enjoy is the gift itself. The item, while appreciated, isn’t what matters. Friends and family care enough about me to show their love through gift giving. It took gratitude shifting my perspective to help me recognize the gift of time and thoughtfulness is far more important than any trinket. For that, I am extremely grateful.
And with this new perspective, the trinket holds much more value to me than before!
Obligatory Gifting - Trust used to be a big issue for me. I didn’t recognize the sincerity of the giver, always assuming someone wanted something from me. Therefore, I felt obligated to give a gift in return which had me running around frantically buying last minute, insincere items. The perfectionist in me wouldn’t be caught empty handed. No way! How would that look? It would break the false facade I had so carefully created. I found it hard to accept gifts at face value - just a gesture of love and goodwill between friends.
Dumb, right? Where’s the joy in that? I know I certainly wouldn’t want anyone purchasing me a gift because they felt obligated, so why did I do that in return?
The Turnaround: A simple thank you. While sometimes I still struggle accepting gifts, and even compliments, I’m a work in progress. I’ve learned to simply say thank you and trust the sincerity of the giver. Not everyone is out to get something from me or climb over me on their way to the top. And, if I do sincerely want to give a gift in return, I take my time choosing an item that reflects the recipient rather than an expensive, insincere piece. I want them to trust their gift came from my heart as well.
Love + gratitude are two of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. They were definite game changers in my life. You’ve probably caught onto this since I talk about them so frequently. They helped turn me around when I was at my lowest point. Once I allowed love into my life, starting with loving myself, doors opened, perspectives shifted, and gifts flowed in abundance.
Often times, we get so bogged down in our own selfishness that it’s hard to recognize our own behavior. Some days, okay most days, I’m appalled at my former ways. However, I know that those moments were meant for me. The challenges they presented helped mold me into the woman I am today. I’m pretty proud of the me you get to see today - bold, brave and completely authentic.
So tell me, dear friends, do you have any behaviors that have helped shape you? How did you turn the situation around? What was the game changer for you?
P.S….I wish you and yours the merriest Christmas yet! May you give and receive to your heart’s desire this season. Sending lots of love and gratitude your way.