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Gift-giving and the (dreadful) act of reciprocation

Gift-giving and the (dreadful) act of reciprocation


The act of gift-giving has been a fixture in our holidays for as long as I can remember. I remember struggling to find a suitable gift to give the person whose name I drew from the lot. Something different from the usual frame or mug.

I think back to the days I tried to squeeze my budget into buying little trinkets for my co-workers. I still find it hard to think of what I can give my family — a gift that would not force them to smile and say “thank you” in a weird voice. 

Giving and receiving gifts is a thoughtful and good custom, yes. Most especially to people whose love language is receiving gifts. But it brings so much pressure and financial strain to some that it becomes counterproductive. It is not for everyone.

Taking two to tango?

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Almost everything comes in pairs. Shoes. Socks. Earrings. Salt and pepper. You get the point. But not everything should come in pairs, and that includes gift-giving. 

While it is frowned upon to expect something after giving a friend or relative a gift, you cannot ignore the little part in your heart that expects something in return. Just a little bit, though. Sometimes it feels nice to have your energy and efforts returned. 

But of course, having a complete “what’s in it for me?” mindset in gift-giving is a different story altogether. Expecting something in a greater magnitude would only make you feel tired in the end with how angry, resentful, and selfish you are being. It is unproductive. 

On the other hand, “I’m sorry I did not get you anything,” is the usual reply of the receiver when surprised, and while grateful, it gives them an urge to return the favor. In whatever means they think of.

This powerful psychological principle of reciprocation is rooted in our systems, and it does not help in situations in which we are not in a good state.

Sometimes we get this urge to give back even though we do not have something to return, whether financially, physically, or mentally. And it drives us to the point of guilt and distress. 

Competition: Holiday style?

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In a survey by OnePoll and commissioned by De Beers, 6 out of 10 Americans admit that they see gift-giving as a form of competition, with them always trying to “out-gift” their loved ones. 

The pandemic has been tough for everyone, and everyone is looking for different distractions. Some are hyper-focused on gift-giving. 

However, this distraction backfired for according to the mentioned survey, it actually contributed more to the stress and made the overall difficulties of the year 2020 worse.

The supposed festive season looked a little different that year. 55 percent were stressed about gifting — and of those, 24 percent were worried about being “out-gifted” by someone else.

Aside from that, the financial consequences of the custom bring a burden. Overspending on gifts, if you are not financially stable, may cause you to regret and more stress later on. 

Giving for the right reason!

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It is hard to completely set aside our urge for reciprocation, but we have to instill in our minds and hearts that giving is not a game of demand and condition. There should not be any hidden agenda. 

You give because you want to give. You will receive it because you appreciate the effort behind the act. The gift-giving custom is no transaction after all, but a kind gesture. Goodwill between friends or family. There should not be any pressure attached to the act.

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When we give for the right reason, without the mindset of trying to out-gift someone or trying to expect something in return, we go back to the roots of what the holiday truly is. A reason to celebrate and give. By giving for the right reason, you give yourself peace of mind and heart, too. 

RELATED: 10 ideal gifts for the holiday

To the receiver whose pressured and beyond guilty, gift-giving is not a game. It is not an act of payment, but appreciation. Do not hurt your back forcing yourself on returning the favor right away. Maybe it already was, because they feel thankful for your existence. 

Do not think much of the custom. Just feel, enjoy, and celebrate!

How about you?

This holiday season, we will try to release all the pressure from our minds and bodies and enjoy. Do you agree and are up to this? Let us know your thoughts!

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