O h, the joys of the holidays: the decorations, the food, and the desire to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. It’s a lofty goal: to be that person, the one who always selects the one thing that will make your loved ones swoon with joy and realize how much you must love and adore them. Ah, but lest we forget that deep within your own heart, you want to receive a perfect gift, too.
Just this one time, let your (spouse/partner/mom/sister/daughter/friend) give you something that cements that feeling that you, too, feel loved and adored.
And let me guess: so many times, you feel a little, shall we say, let down? You perceive that the folks who populate your world don’t put as much thought or consideration into choosing something for you.
Oh, darling: trust me. I get it. And please let me tell you that your feelings are always valid. I bet you’ve experienced this feeling throughout your lifetime, not just at Christmas, but on birthdays and anniversaries and Valentine’s Day.
When you’re feeling blue or disappointed or unloved, the old adage of “it’s the thought that counts” doesn’t quite cut it, does it?
The fact is, though, that a less-than-stellar gift doesn’t mean you are loved less, even though it feels crappy. Did you know that lazy or lousy gift giving is a common relationship challenge during the holidays? (So, no, you aren’t alone.)
I’m not going to advise you to complain or try to shame your (partner/mother/sister/etc) into choosing a more thoughtful gift. That’s because I know for a fact that some of the most loving and generous people I know are lousy gift givers. Often, it’s because their love language isn’t receiving gifts, but physical touch or quality time.
There’s a mirror image of gift-giving, though. Let me be brutally honest with you: there’s such a thing as a lousy gift receiver, and an equally good chance that you, my dear, are one of them.
Oh, I’m not saying that you aren’t grateful for the gifts you open on Christmas or birthdays. I’m talking about that flip-side of gratitude and generosity so many of us struggle with: allowing ourselves to actually experience and receive the many gifts that populate our lives.
So many women – and men – feel challenged by the idea of allowing themselves to receive.
They look at the good things in their lives, and that little voice in their head says “you don’t deserve this,” or “you are so selfish,” or “you are so egotistical.” They tell themselves that life is pretty good and they shouldn’t desire more.
Darling, you are worthy of feeling both loved and accepted. You deserve to have good things in your life – whether they are material or spiritual. You deserve to have your desires become reality. Receiving and appreciating is not selfish. Having something good in your world isn’t stealing it from another. Expressing your gratitude for your blessings and achievements is not egotistical.
Here are a few ways you can begin to allow yourself to receive:
If your love language is receiving gifts, then when is the last time you purchased something you’ve been longing for? Not just a Starbucks Holiday Flat White, but that new pair of running shoes you want or a new purse to replace the cheapie you got on the clearance table at Target. Some of the best gift-givers are more like Scrooge when it comes to buying for yourself.
If your love language is the gift of quality time, dare I ask how much quality alone time you allow yourself to receive? Even if it’s five minutes in the morning, you need time to just BE. You need a few moments of quiet time, thinking time, just relaxing time.
And, when it comes to loved ones: are you allowing yourself to receive quality time with them? Or is that perpetual to do list, need to keep busy, keeping you from receiving the gift of side-by-side companionship with your partner (or child, or friends)?
When you take a shower, do you rush through as fast as possible to get to your to do list? When is the last time you took a luxurious shower and lovingly smoothed lotion over every inch of your body afterwards? Gift yourself with the gift of quality time to care for yourself. Allow yourself to receive your own nurturing and care.
Examine the ways that you are neglecting yourself because you just don’t “have time”. Maybe one of the best gifts you can give yourself this season is to allow yourself to have enough time to be YOU. (That probably means you need to say no to some things, okay?)
And since we brought it up, let’s discuss physical touch. Of all the little ways we can receive our own nurturing and attention, think how many of those involve touching ourselves. Smoothing lotion over parched arms and gently massaging it into your hands. Washing your face, washing your hair, washing your body: all little ways to receive your own care by focusing on being of service to that glorious body that houses your soul.
Don’t forget physical touch with others, too. Get a massage or go for a pedicure. Hug the folks you love. Reach out and hold your partner’s hand. Initiate love making. Especially initiate love making if you feel “unattractive” and have gotten into the habit of saying “NO!“. Allow yourself to receive the loving touch of others.
I don’t want to leave out acts of service as a love language. When have you allowed someone that loves you to actually do something for you? Sure, it’s easier if you do the (dishes/laundry/grocery shopping/cleaning), but can’t you just allow yourself to receive that act of service from your (spouse/child/partner/friend) even if they don’t do it the exact way you do?
The next time you go shopping and someone asks if they can help you: let them! Let the Bag Boy take your groceries to the car and let the waiter bring you another glass of wine or water.
And ask yourself, darling, how can you be of better service to yourself? How can you honor your own gifts? Please, my dear, allow yourself to receive acts of service.
Maybe one of your love languages is words of affirmation. So, dare I ask when you: when was the last time you allowed yourself to accept a compliment? To believe what another person has said to you – from you look beautiful, to you are such a great cook, to you are so wise, to I love you. To take it at face value without adding a bunch of qualifiers or denials.
And, my darling: how do you speak to yourself in your own head? Does your Inner Critic run a non-stop dialogue telling you that you are (dumb/fat/selfish/weird/lazy/undisciplined) and other such mean things? Oh, honey, I so understand. Our inner voices can be so hateful. So, maybe it’s time to soften up a bit on yourself. Maybe it’s time to accept that fact that perfection is impossible.
Sometimes the greatest gift is to acknowledge your own achievements, your personal successes, your skills. If you’re feeling parched when it comes to your own gifts, make a list of all the things you have accomplished in the last week, the last month, the last year. You do so many things you don’t give yourself credit for accomplishing.
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business.”
–The Ghost of Marley – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
As we go forward into the season and approach a new year, maybe you need to be reminded that the “business” Marley talks about – charity, mercy, benevolence – includes you. Please be generous and kind to all those you meet. Don’t change your approach to choosing that perfect gift for those you love.