During the holidays most of us think about gift-giving and receiving. Physical items. Holiday guides surround us and shopping for friends and family weighs on our brains and wallets. Of course, in addition to what we want to give others, most of us spend our fair share of time thinking about what we want.

For all the love that goes into the things we pick for our cherished communities and the anticipation we savor fantasizing about their smiles when the wrapping paper is strewn all over the floor, how often do we think about what it means to actually receive? How does it make us feel, personally, to be presented with an item from a friend or loved one?

More often than not that feeling is joy, however receiving can be surprisingly fraught with challenges. Just as we do in our daily lives, the holidays underscore the ways we perpetually shut ourselves off. We don’t receive subtle messages from the universe. We don’t receive the abundance we deserve. We don’t receive the love we want. The career we want. The life we want. Our pineal glands are calcified to the max. We’re afraid to be surprised, fulfilled, and happy.

Where does the feeling come from and what do we do about it? It starts with consciousness and the confidence that comes with knowing what you want.

How many of you have opened a gift and felt anxious? The anxious mind rattles,  “Will I like it? Will I love it? Will I grin big enough? Oh my God, I hope I love it! ” Receiving can be very stressful, especially if you don’t want to disappoint the gift-giver-and especially when you really love them.

I feel particularly sensitive to this. I think it’s genetic. Both of my grandmothers generously gave me lovely presents when I was growing up, but I always preferred one’s gifts over the other. One of them just got it right. My mom called a present from my more disconnected grandmother a “gift that keeps on giving” because of the guilt trip she’d lay on you if you didn’t love it. In hindsight, her projection is probably what perpetuated my rejection.

That’s why gifting isn’t about what’s beneath the bows, it’s about the relationship between giver and recipient. We see a present as an interpretation of how well someone knows us, and an expression of what they want for us. It’s nice when that correlates with our vision for ourselves, but sometimes it doesn’t. What do you do with the feeling that someone isn’t quite seeing you clearly? It’s normal to feel doubt, but there’s also a positive element of surprise and an opportunity for learning. I’ve had my mom, sister and boyfriends give me presents that I felt like I didn’t love as much as I should. Ironically they are also the gifts that I remember and cherish the most. There is something about someone getting you something that you wouldn’t get for yourself that has a really powerful meaning. It’s like the other person is seeing something in you that you can’t quite see yourself. So long as you receive it with grace and love for the symbolism of the possibility it holds. You may discover something new within or find that you grow to love this item more and more as time goes on. We may or may not know exactly what we want, and someone else might know just what we need.

This applies to the little things we put in Christmas stockings, but also to the most important  things we share with others.

Fairly recently I was given the biggest gift of my life – an engagement ring. The anticipation and wait and wonder about a proposal was a beautiful thing and a groundbreaking moment in my life. Ring or not, the gift of love is the greatest gift of all time. I am so blessed. What I didn’t expect in the waiting process was the nerves I had. It was a situation that put the anxiety of opening one of grandma’s gifts into perspective. Most of the angst came from just being excited and wondering when it would happen. Lying somewhere under the surface, though, was that same old gift-receiving guilt. I’m sure the pressure on him to put a symbol on my finger as a statement of our love and togetherness forever was significantly more stressful. Luckily, my fiancé has great taste. We have similar styles. We had discussed the type of ring I wanted. All of the pieces and parts fit together to produce something that I had no doubt I would love, even though I wasn’t totally in control. Any fear or guilt I had around receiving receded when I remembered that the meaning behind an engagement ring trumps any aesthetic concern.

Having strong connections and clear communication skills with the people in your life doesn’t just translate into better gifts, but a true sense of knowing each other. If you’re feeling this holiday season, or anytime, that the people around you are missing the mark, perhaps it’s time to think about what messages you’re sending about yourself. Maybe you need to be more authentic in everyday exchanges. Maybe you need to speak up and ask for what you want. Drop the heavy hints to your husband or loved ones and neither of you will be disappointed.

Treat the universe the same way.

This holiday give and receive with grace, abundance, and zero guilt or projection.  See any gift as a symbol of love. Most of us reading this article want for nothing. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need anything. All we need this holiday is an abundance of love and a guilt-free spirit!

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