5 Reasons People Don't Want to Receive Gifts
How well can you receive a gift? When it comes to receiving gifts sometimes it can make us feel uncomfortable and anxious because of the cultural and social ties that we are taught from a young age. Although it's generally agreed that gift giving and receiving are good and even expected, there are still common feelings of unease and discomfort associated with the act of receiving.
1. Embarrassment of appearing selfish or superficial.
One reason people don't want to receive gifts is because they may feel embarrassed of coming across as selfish or superficial. Especially if they actually like the gift, they are afraid that if they like an object it shows they don't value relationships. It is culturally frowned upon to want or have too many things because it shows that the person doesn't care for other people and are shallow or greedy. These attributes are obviously looked down on because associating with someone like that would be pointless.
When you dig deeper though, you can see that this is a limited perspective that assumes we only have a number of things that we can like - in a container that can be filled up. Doesn't that seem a bit silly? You can like objects and still like people and relationships too. There's no limit to what you can like, so there's no need to prevent yourself from liking something to 'make room' for the important things. In fact, gift giving and receiving is more often about the relationship rather than the object itself. Think of your favourite gifts you have received in your life. Were they something you asked for or money? Or were they things that represented your relationship with the person and how they understand you?
"Giving is about the relationship — not just about the person who receives the gift." - Gustavo Razzetti
2. Fear of not needing or wanting what's being given.
The next reason people aren't very good at receiving gifts is because of the fear of not needing or wanting what's being given and of it being a waste of time and money. This fear relates to the social anxiety that comes with others watching them open a present and the pressure of having to act as though they like it even if they don't. Of course the social pressure to act or react in a certain way would lead to downplaying the giving/receiving event and possibly lying about their true feelings.
To be authentic and humble in receiving a gift is an art that takes real focus on the relationship and the intention behind the gift. For some reason children have the authenticity part spot on and at some point we forget how to do it as we grow accustomed to social and cultural norms.
3. Avoiding the expectation of giving back.
Some people don't want to receive gifts because of the mentality that 'nothing is for free'. It's the idea that things need to be earned and deserved - so if somebody has given them a gift, this means that they are now in debt to that person and owe them a gift in return.
However, if you think about when you give a gift, isn't the reward in that excited feeling you get when they open it and like it? Most of the time the debt is repaid as soon as the the gift is opened; because it's not usually a gift that the giver is looking for in return, but a feeling. This is why present tables (such as at weddings) can be damaging to the gifting process - because the giver doesn't get to see the reaction of the receiver. In empathising with the intentions of the giver, the receiver can understand the true reason the gift is being given and accept it without the expectation of giving back. In receiving it they have already given back.
4. Fear of attention or being in the spotlight.
A very common reason for not liking receiving gifts is the fear of attention or being in the spotlight. This links back to feeling uncomfortable with everyone watching while you open a present and the expectations of how to act.
The spotlight effect is a term used by social psychologists to refer to the tendency we have to overestimate how much other people notice about us (Arlin Cuncic 2018). However, people are much more likely to remember their own experience of the event and not so much how other people seemed. Most of the time people are thinking about themselves and their own feelings. Again, the key to receiving gifts more easily is to focus on the relationship and intention behind the gift being given, rather than on how you may look in the situation.
5. Not loving yourself as much as others.
Written by Holly Best, April 2019.
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