How I extricated myself from holiday gift-giving obligations…

Happiness to me means that you do more of what you “want to” do, and less of what you “have to” do.  It’s not always easy to give yourself permission to make a change that feels better to you without holding on to some of the guilt.

Now that Christmas is fast approaching, I’m hearing some complaints about Christmas shopping and all the obligatory gift-giving that inevitably comes along with it.  I wanted to take this opportunity to share my story.

About ten years ago, the holiday season felt more like a chore than a joy to me, so I wanted to make a drastic change. Over the years, I got caught up in reciprocating every gift I received and even went as far as making sure that I had generic gifts on hand for the unexpected gifts that always came in.  I eventually felt trapped in gift-exchange hell, diminishing the joy of the holiday season.

Getting honest with myself

When I reflected upon the situation, I realized that I needed to change, but tradition, obligations, and more, weighed heavily on me.  I finally got the courage to do what many people secretly may want to do, but don’t have the wherewithal to do.  I wrote a loving letter to all of the people on my ever-growing circle of friends, and, in a graceful way, said that I would no longer be celebrating the holiday season by giving gifts.  I would be sending them good tidings and best wishes instead, because I already felt blessed with their friendship and presence in my life.  I encouraged them to spend any time, money and energy they would have spent on me, on their immediate family and loved ones.

Relief and freedom

After my initial guilt was diminished by the positive comments I received from my friends, I felt relieved!  It was one of the best things I ever did for myself.  This is not to say that I won’t get a gift for someone if I am inspired to do so (and I often am), but it freed me from the stress of obligatory gift giving – which is my point.

This solution may or may not be for you, as our lives are difficult and complex and the obligation to buy gifts over the holidays is deeply rooted in our society and culture.  Some of you may even be thinking, “I could never do that.”  However, I encourage you to try it with at least the “outer edges” of your friendships and acquaintances and set a new standard, especially if you want relief from some of the stress of holiday gift giving.

Do you need to seriously declutter your gift giving list?

After I did this, I was surprised at how many people responded positively, telling me that they were thankful for the suggestion, as they did the same and now feel better.  In my line of work, I always try to help people find what is true for them, sometimes suggesting that they have to do things that are challenging, because the result will be worth it.

Is it time for you to do this?

If you read this post and thought, “I wish I could…,” then I would suggest you make a decision to do something this week. I promise you, you will feel better, and if you need to balance out the guilt, all you have to do is come to my “Goodbye to Guilt 101” class at Happiness U in December!  Remember, living a life filled with “have to’s” when you have the power to make a change, is no way to live an inspired life. 


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