It is this time of the year where giving is at the heart of every gathering and every places we go. On one side there is the commercialism of Christmas, the push to buy, promoting the idea of tons of presents under the Christmas tree. On the other side there is the true meaning of Christmas which could be slightly different for each person but the essence being the celebration of love and gratitude. As Christians, we remember God’s incredible act of love when he send his son, Jesus, to save us. Therefore every year we celebrate with our loved ones and spend time with each other. We show gratitude and love to God and to the people in our life for being here for us.
I love the idea of being able to give a gift to someone to show our gratitude but there are so many layers to this:
- Firstly we seem to go overboard a lot, I feel that sometimes its almost like a competition of who is giving the best gift or the amount of gifts given or received
- Then there is the fear of not giving enough and being judged
- Then there is the stress of going out and finding something that will tick all the boxes. For an anxious person or a perfectionist this is exhausting and can even feel impossible!
- Then there is the financial stress, research shows that many people will still be paying for Christmas debts long after Christmas is over.
- Then there is also the fact that so many of the gifts get thrown away impacting our planet
Is it really worth it to try to fit in and keep up with Christmas gift giving? What is the real meaning of Christmas for me? What do I love about Christmas? What do I expect during this time?
Christmas as I mentioned above is about Love, Joy and Gratitude. Can I express and show my gratitude and love in ways that doesn’t make me feel financially stressed, anxious, guilty, a desperate people pleaser etc…? Well, for now this is what I got as a practical tool:
- Gratitude and love can be expressed verbally or in writing to the people around us. A true, sincere thank you can go a long way. E.g writing a card to someone, sending an email, making a poster telling him/her/them that you truly are grateful with a warm smile and /or hug (if the person is ok with hugs)
- You can use your talent/skills,e.g bake something, sew something, draw something, paint something, make something…
- You can also provide your service/time to someone,e.g a voucher to an elderly that promise you will be doing their shopping next month or weekly or monthly, or a voucher to a friend for babysitting her/his child/children for one full day or a night etc…
- You can use your resources, e.g a basket of vegetables or fruit from your garden, a plant from your garden
- You can give a gift of giving, give some money to a charity under the receiver’s name
Of course it is also about how we feel about ourselves. If we always need people’s approval, fear people’s judgement, are a perfectionist… And believe that we are not good enough then it is going to be hard to break the pattern of guilt feeling and fear of judgement. Working on our mindset and beliefs will certainly help us to break our usual pattern and unstuck ourselves in overbuying and creating stress. I am still working on my mindset and some of my beliefs. But I am getting better each time and closer to the better version of myself. For example I worry less about what I give and spend less time looking for the ‘perfect’ present. I give it a good thought of course but I don’t stress as much anymore about what people will think, feeling guilty, etc… Christmas is about Joy and sharing with each other, its no point being together if I am stress about what I am giving. I love the joy on people’s face, the anticipation of sharing a meal together and the gratitude we have for each other. I am also more mindful when I decide to give a gift and try to give something with meaning but again I just do my best. I don’t go to the shop and think about the gift (I’ll come back feeling exhausted with empty hands) but I think about the person and the gift and then I go to the shop if I need too! Firstly I tell myself that I always have a choice (this slows down my anxiety, I can always say no thanks I can’t be part of the KK this year or sorry but I can’t afford gift giving this year), then I check my budget, then I think of ideas that could be meaningful and/or useful to the person.
It is important for me to teach my daughter gratitude. Therefore every year I encourage her to write a card and we make a small gift for her teachers. I usually make something to eat (Bliss balls) with a sincere thank you from my daughter (I have also been sending an email to all of her teachers from my husband and I, lately). As we sit down I encourage her to reflect on her year and to think of something each teacher has taught her that had value to her and a special time with or something special about each teacher. This year is her last year in primary school, we got some plain mugs and we created a personalized mug for each teacher with the homemade bliss balls inside (on one side, she wrote the teacher’s name and the other she wrote a thank you message specific to each teacher). The conversation we had was priceless and she also got a good dose of happiness from it. I am still finding out what work for me and for others with gift giving and I am convinced there are many ways as I mentioned above that this can be done without going broke or feeling stressed but simply enjoy each others company and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. I am also looking for ways to have a more positive impact on the environment. I understand that this will take practice and so I have to be patient, kind and loving with myself as I learn and grow.
As I reflect on what gift giving is for me, I realised that for a while I was doing it just because I have to. Growing up, gift giving wasn’t such a big deal and in my family things were pretty simple. Inviting family over or going to family’s place and sharing a meal was more meaningful and at Christmas time, we would also go to church. Having been financially stuck and stressed for a long time now, I have always had fears around gift giving. I would ask myself, what if we don’t have the money? What if we choose not to give anything? The thought of disappointing someone would come up. The thought of being judged would come up and anxiety, fear and stress about our lack of money will rise. I realise now that this type of thinking comes from fear. Fear of scarcity!
So this year after I’ve done some work on my mindset and beliefs and my spiritual being, when I think about gift giving again, expressing Gratitude is what comes to my mind as well as Love. I realised that I was only looking at the material form of the gift giving. And understanding this makes it clear and easy for me to act upon. The most important thing here is the act of love and gratitude which start with our intention. Therefore the What doesn’t matter but the How is what matter! In his book, ‘The Wisdom of a meaningful life‘, John Bruna points out that “our motivation behind our intention is the key to understand the opportunity to cultivate our highest potential“. Therefore knowing our motivation is key. Why do I give a gift to someone? If my motivation is to impress them, to have some form of recognition, feel good about myself, making sure I’m on their good list or I’m not being judge, then if the gift I give is not what they wanted or they seem disappointed or I don’t get any recognition, then I will be disappointed, hurt, unhappy and feeling bad about myself. But if my intention is to express my gratitude and love, then, even if the person doesn’t like the gift or seem disappointed, I can still express my gratitude and love and feel happy because I have acted upon my intention which aligns with my values. It feels amazing to express gratitude whether it’s to the people around you or to God/Life itself. There are lots of study that shows how gratitude can be beneficial to our health and wellbeing.
In fact I have been thinking of expressing more gratitude and how I can do this more often. I express gratitude in my journal regularly but I want to be able to express more gratitude towards others in 2020, not only when I need to, but randomly when it is not expected. In fact any act of kindness randomly is a challenge I want to do for my self-growth. This is really out of my comfort zone as I have realised something about me this year, I do not know how to receive, whether it is compliments, gifts and especially any act of kindness. More on this in my next blog post. Another area of my life that is affected by my fears is Finance. I have realised that I have certain beliefs that has not been serving me in this area e.g my Fear of scarcity. Hopefully more on this in another post.
I would like to express my gratitude to you for reading my posts, liking them or commenting on them this year. I only just started and it feels good to know that I am not alone and you are not alone. I am very grateful for what I have accomplished this year and for all of you who have joined me on this journey of discovery to be the best version of myself!
What does the act of giving mean to you? How do you express gratitude to others, God/Life and yourself?
With much love and to the BEST IN YOU
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