December 13, 2014

Warning: Giving isn’t Always Good.

vintage housewife christmas

Ah, the glittering holiday season.

Filled with sinfully sweet sugar cookies, totally decked-out Christmas trees, gloriously wrapped gifts and excellently delicious eggnog.

But wait.

What was that little whisper?

Oh, yeah. I hear it clear as a menacing bell now: a tremendous amount of pressure to give, give, give.

Give more love, give more presents, give the perfect present, give more time, give more of yourself, give a fabulous party.

This message is absolutely everywhere during the holidays: on billboards, spread all over Facebook, sprinkled throughout magazines and inserted expertly into songs on the radio. We can’t seem to escape it. We’re bombarded until it’s burned into our brains, a sort of subconscious chant that slowly but surely enters our bloodstream:

Give, give, give.


Give, give, give some more!

And, it is wonderful to encourage a spirit of generosity.

But—for many of us (myself included) it’s not that we need to give more, it’s that we need to learn to give in a different way.

Or, better yet—we need to learn about the art of receiving.

Wait, what’s that?

Because we know how to give and we do it compulsively, ’til we drop.

We give until we can’t give anymore, ’til we fall to the floor, collapsing with exhaustion.

We squeeze every drop out of our huge hearts, ’til they’re dry as a desert, not a lick left for ourselves.

Healthy, right!?

It’s seriously appalling for us to operate in this way!

Giving too much is as big of a problem than giving too little.

And, many of us chronically compulsive over-givers really suck at receiving. I mean, we really, really suck at it!

We get extremely uncomfortable when anyone goes out of their way for us. We feel we don’t deserve someone’s thoughtful gifts. We feel strange responding to compliments or praise. We don’t let anyone take care of us when we’re not well.

In truth, we feel more comfortable showering others with gifts, time and love.


Because when we’re taking care of everyone and everything and giving ’til we drop, we feel powerful. We feel capable. We feel good about ourselves. We feel strong. We feel worthy.

And, that is a truly beautiful thing.

But, often, our generosity is a super-sneaky, top-secret hiding place for deep feelings of smallness, weakness, and…




…and many other little devils.

We give, give, give so that no one ever sees us at our weakest moments. So that no one will see our messiness, our humanness, our tears, our smeared mascara, our grumpiness, our bad days.

We give so that no one will ever see us.

Yep, generosity is a damn good façade.

But, maybe it’s time to give it up?

Maybe it’s time to step out from our mask of giving and see that we’re good enough, just as we are.

Because receiving is pretty fucking beautiful, too! It’s subtle and underrated, but it’s that subtle quality that gives it a sh*t ton of power.

I didn’t really realize how valuable it could be until a few days ago.

Scene: Me, stressed out, anxious, a to-do list longer than long. Feeling exhausted even though the clock read only 11 am. I sat somberly, wondering how I would manage to complete everything.

But, hell! I was gonna take care of it all, I didn’t need help. I didn’t want to bother anyone.

Then, something crazy happened: my sweet, thoughtful boyfriend took a large chunk off my to-do list, thereby freeing up my day significantly.

Um, wow!

I was shocked, speechless. I felt so cared for. I felt so vulnerable.

It felt amazing.

Then, the guilt kicked in.

Do I deserve this?

What’s the catch?

Why would someone do this for me?

Will this be used against me later?

I couldn’t help it, though, but to smirk a little and laugh out loud at the striking paranoia in my racing thoughts.

F*ck it, I thought, this is a ginormous gift and I’m going to enjoy the sh*t out of it!

And, I did.

I thanked my man profusely and from my heart, then proceeded to savor every moment of my much easier day.

And, I’m going to let that attitude carry me into the holiday season.

So, for those of us with big, leaky hearts who feel like giving is just as automatic as breathing: let’s try something different this year.

Let’s gift ourselves permission to receive joyfully, and plan to (gasp) enjoy it, revel in it and like a fine wine, savor the sweet deliciousness of every last drop.


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Author: Sarah Harvey

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of the author

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