At this time of year, we may or may not look forward to the idea of giving and receiving gifts. Whether you are religious or not the tradition of giving gifts is steeped in history and closely associated with Christmas to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise men: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. 

These gifts were given with good intentions. But there are some gifts that may be given with good intentions that are just unwanted. So what do you do? Do you graciously smile and accept, or flat out reject or find a diplomatic way of letting the gifter know it was a nice thought but you don’t like it. Call it ungrateful but there are times when you may need to educate the would-be gift giver just to make sure that they are clear and get it right the next time! 

The answer to the question, of course, is situational, it all depends on the gift, who is giving and receiving the gift and of course on the strength and depth of the relationship that you may or may not value. Like so many things in life, there are multiple answers — it depends! So lets narrow this down, what if that gift was someone’s judgement or opinion. What if they wish to bestow on you something that clearly is not on your Christmas list? 

As a child in giving and receiving presents, you learn many great lessons. 

  • You are taught to be grateful to cutely smile and recognise that the person has taken the time to think about you and made the effort. 
  • You learn that not all gifts are given as a token of affection. Some are given with the expectation of something in return. 
  • You learn the art of giving comes with many dilemmas in choosing the right gift at the right time. You can’t get away with, “It’s the thought that counts”.
  • You also hopefully learn and understand it is a misconception to believe the bigger and more expensive the gift the greater the appreciation. 

Whatever you learn fundamentally you understand the giving of gifts is a gesture to show appreciation and make that relationship even more special. 

So with all this when someone chooses to gift you their opinion and judgement should we thank them for taking the time to care. Again it depends if it is coming from a good place and on how it is delivered. If it makes you feel uncomfortable or makes you feel small then you have the right to exercise your judgment on how best to respond. For some reason, as adults, this sometimes becomes difficult because of social settings and expectations we place in relationships. I have noticed my children have no problem of filtering unwanted gifts of advice irrespective of how big or small. So why do we struggle as adults?

Well, in large part, I think it is because of our own inner narrative, cues and triggers we pick up as we develop and grow into adulthood become our view of the world. Some gifts can truly be a surprise. You carry them with you as you grow older only later to discover their true worth. A negative and damaging one, for example, can hold you captive for many years to the point that you start believing and second-guessing what others might say. This is an unwanted a gift!

Now that we have established negative opinions and judgement can become the unwanted gifts of limiting thoughts. What should we do? Do we a) smile cutely and accept them or be b) flatly refuse and give them back. Unless you live on a remote desert island or are locked away in a fairytale tower there will always be someone wanting to share their gifts. It is therefore in our interests to know how to protect ourselves and handle them. Below are 3 ideas on how we could politely( if you choose) take option b).

  • Know your worth, have self-belief in your own abilities. Others cannot live your life for you, only you can do that. Do not fall into the trap of limiting yourself because of the belief systems of others. Question and analyse but most importantly value you for who you are. Surround yourself with, and find and build communities of like-minded people.
  • Remember and create your dreams. As children we dream, we play, we believe we can. So why should that change? Find the courage to hold onto and strive towards your dreams. Don’t let failure be the end and define you. See it as an opportunity to grow. 

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you” —  Marsha Norman

  • Wear blinkers — Very often the negative opinions and judgement of others are a reflection of themselves. As children, we have probably all been in the situation where filtering for our own self-interest was a natural thing to do. So let’s protect ourselves by remembering to ignore unwanted opinions and judgement. 

So the next time you are in the rather unfortunate position as the beneficiary of an unwanted gift, remind yourself, you do not have to accept it. You are doing just fine — thank you!

Jesse is a middle-aged father of 2, new to writing, but open to learning and sharing. Graduated a long time ago as a Mechanical Engineer but now working in the IT industry. Committed to living the best life he can, and leaving the world a better place.
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Jesse is a middle-aged father of 2, new to writing, but open to learning and sharing. Graduated a long time ago as a Mechanical Engineer but now working in the IT industry. Committed to living the best life he can, and leaving the world a better place.

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