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Coping with Bad Gifts

’Tis the season for giving. But have you ever received a gift that made you cringe? Are you wary of exchanging gifts with certain family members or friends? In spite of the good cheer we associate with the season, the gift-giving process can sometimes involve something other than the joy of giving. If you regularly feel stress or discomfort at the prospect of giving or receiving gifts from others, here are some ideas to help you to cope.

1. Recognize the motive behind the gift.

Some people approach gift-giving from a narcissistic or egotistical perspective. They may give or expect expensive gifts because they want to impress others. They may always complain about receiving gifts that aren’t good enough or they may intentionally give gifts they know the recipient doesn’t want to demonstrate power and dominance. Some lack sufficient empathy to really engage in the spirit of giving. Other gift-givers put little thought into it because they give out of obligation to tradition. When you can recognize a motive that comes from a lack of empathy or consideration, you can remove yourself from feeling personally insulted. 

2. Appreciate yourself.

Negative gift exchanges take less of an emotional toll when we have an inner sense of self-appreciation. No one can make you feel unworthy if you have a strong sense of self-worth. When you appreciate yourself, you also become a better giver because you aren’t attaching your self-esteem to how well your gift is received.

3. Determine how you want to engage in the process.

You have the power to decide how you want to engage with others who make the gift-giving process difficult for you. Be honest with yourself about how you feel. Give yourself permission to be honest with the other person when you feel it is appropriate. While you may feel obligated when family is involved, you can determine to what extent you want to engage in a process that doesn’t benefit you. 

4. Express gratitude.

You don’t have to express false gratitude for a cringe-worthy gift. However, heartfelt gratitude for the other aspects of the season—such as spending time with loved ones and enjoying a good meal—can boost your overall outlook and happiness level. 

While the gift-giving process can be stressful, it is helpful to remember that it stems from positive roots. The acts of giving and receiving have beneficial biological impacts and are central to many spiritual and philosophical beliefs. So, be encouraged to keep up the flow of giving and receiving.