Every winter for several years now, I’ve been a part of a Secret Santa with some bird people I met on instagram and facebook. I usually hand make something – generally a plush of the person’s bird(s) – but this year I was paired with an extremely talented costumer and I’ll admit I felt like my rustic little toy just wouldn’t cut it. So I got a little bold and made that cross stitch cockatiel, and while there was something a little bit self-serving about using that project to help manage my anxiety, it is the act of giving itself that is truly transformative.
I’m hard-wired to want to make other people happy, which is perfectly fine by me. I love creating things and giving them to the people in my life – it’s how I show I care. If I cook for you, bake for you, sew you something, write you something, ply you with food or drink… it means you’re important to me. There is something both selfish and selfless about giving and I genuinely believe it can be both at once – and this is not a bad thing.
Giving someone a gift or your time may be a comfort or a rush for many of us and it’s understandable to want to ride that high and feel elated. I suppose there are worse ways to improve your mood, but it can go too far in some cases – like when someone has issues with boundaries and gives too much of themselves in a way that hurts their emotional well-being.
The holidays can be taxing for this reason – expectations to give are high and we often let this rule us. It casts giving in a negative and stressful light for many, who are – in some cases – doing it out of a sense of obligation. Striking a balance here is hard because we never want to disappoint our loved ones, but our own personal boundaries of what we can handle emotionally and financially are important, too.
One thing might be to give to yourself. I know, it sounds a little silly. But there’s something known as self-care and it involves re-centering on your own emotional needs and ensuring that the house in your heart is in order. This might mean buying yourself an actual gift, but it could also be a hike somewhere, a bubble bath, dinner with a friend, or just a quiet night alone with a book.
Don’t forget to take care of the most important person in your life – you!