Tag Archives: personal development

Gifts Make Me Uncomfortable

My birthday was a little less than a week ago. I figure it’s a good time to talk about gifts. We give gifts for various occasions and no particular occasion at all.

I enjoy giving gifts. Seeing the joy and appreciation on a family member or friends face is fantastic. Giving anonymously feels good too, though, even when you’ll never know whether it was even appreciated.

So, given that I enjoy giving gifts, it’s odd how uncomfortable I am with receiving gifts. I know that the person giving me the gift likely gets the same kind of pleasure I do from the act of giving, but it doesn’t make it easier for me to accept gifts. And I’m not talking about any particular gift or any particular gift giver. It’s pretty consistent for most gifts.

I don’t know when it started or what did it. But nearly every time someone gives me something outside of an exchange, it makes me uncomfortable.

I know gift giving isn’t usually reciprocal, at least not on the occasions I have in mind. On my birthday, in this culture and my family traditions, I’m not expected to give gifts to guests. I receive birthday presents. But even on Christmas when it is usually expected to be a gift exchange, I’m uncomfortable receiving.

I can’t really explain the exact feelings. Sometimes I feel a little guilty when receiving a gift. Sometimes it’s because I feel like I should reciprocate, even when the occasion doesn’t call for it.

And sometimes it’s not so much guilt. I actually feel indebted. I know there’s no expectation in most of the cases. I still feel like I owe them some sort of debt. Sometimes even on Christmas when I have reciprocated, regardless of comparative monetary values.

It also makes me feel a little like the way I feel about asking for help. I don’t like to ask for help, even though I like helping people, and I know other people feel the same way about helping me. But I’m working on becoming better at asking for and accepting help.

I read a book on gratitude last year that was sort of an academic look at the history of gratitude in different cultures throughout history. In some cultures, gifts have been used to put another into your debt. Gifts have been used to signify power structures as well, with gifts flowing in either direction. And in other cultures gifts nearly always require reciprocation.

So perhaps it’s partially an inborn trait. Or if you accept the idea of genetic memory, maybe that explains at least some of it.

I just know that gifts have made me uncomfortable for a long time. But like I’ve been doing with asking for and accepting help, I’ve also been working on my feelings about accepting gifts.

They’re related too. Giving help is one kind of gift, and it’s given without expectations, beyond maybe gratitude. So as I get better at accepting help, I think I’ll get better at accepting gifts as well.

Positive Thinking and Positive Self-Talk

I got into positive thinking and positive self-talk a few years ago. I find them useful. Contrary to what some people say, it’s not about lying to yourself. It’s not about believing the impossible. Everything isn’t always great. Positive thinking is about seeing opportunities in obstacles, and finding lessons in hardships. Yes, it’s about looking on the bright side. Accept the negative and move forward while keeping a positive mindset, but to get results beyond that, you have to take action as well.

Positive self-talk is a way to support yourself in your pursuit of becoming more. More doesn’t have to be faster, bigger, stronger, thinner, or wealthier. It can be as simple as being happier, accomplishing a specific task or goal, or just being more grateful for what you already are and have.

Positive self-talk is another tool to use when things get difficult, you feel down, or things aren’t going how you want. It’s accepting what is, while acknowledging that the situation is temporary, and you have the strength to outlast it until things improve or create improvement.

Acceptance alone isn’t enough for me. I like to remind myself that I’m capable of great things and often add visualization to my positive self-talk.

I have a number of statements that I use in different situations. I call them affirmations, but they could also be mantras, chants, oaths, testimonies, prayers, or whatever you want. Sometimes it’s just about having something to focus on to make positive changes to my mindset.

There was a period of time when I was convinced that I was not going to live much past my 40s, maybe 50s, that I would become sick, miserable and die. Then it started to happen. I was already miserable, which certainly didn’t help my outlook on the future. I started to get quite sick, and I was getting worse.

When I decided that being sick wasn’t part of who I am and being healthy was, I started to see opportunities to support my health and began taking action. I started changing food habits, running and taking responsibility for my own health. Doctors told me it didn’t matter what I ate, but I noticed symptoms got much worse after eating fatty foods, especially when I was dehydrated. I learned more, became more self-aware about my body and its reactions to different things and made further changes.

The positive changes in my mindset and the actions I took built on one another to nearly eliminate my previous symptoms, stop all the medications I was taking, getting into the best shape of my life, and have a much better outlook for my future.

I’ve said it before, but I hated running when I was in the Army. A couple years after I got out, I started running again. I got injured a lot over the first few years, didn’t think I’d ever be very fast and really just had a limited view of what my running potential.

When I started telling myself that I was fast, strong and a good runner, believing it, and learning more from others and what’s worked for myself, my training started going better, injuries decreased, motivation improved. I’ve even expanded my running self-image since then. I exceeded my increased expectations a couple times too.

When I’m out running and it starts getting tough, whether I’m having trouble concentrating, I keep tripping, I feel some imbalance or twinge, I get stiff, sore, tired, or I just hit a low patch, I came up with an affirmation that brings my focus back to my body, running form, foot placement, breath and the to moment in general. “I’m strong, fast, flexible, efficient and sure footed. I’m built for long-distance running over uneven terrain.” If I’m feeling tense somewhere and having trouble releasing it, I’ll add “relaxed” after “efficient”. It works great for me. My concentration improves, I relax, and start to feel lighter on my feet. It doesn’t suddenly give me a boost of energy or make me faster. My mind comes back to the current task of running.

It’s sort of like trying to read a book and watch TV at the same time. If you focus solely on the book, you won’t catch much of what’s happening on the TV. If you let too much of the TV take over your focus, you’ll have trouble reading. My running affirmation focuses me and reminds me that I’m capable of more. Whatever the current difficulty, I can get through it.

Positive thinking and positive self-talk are both great tools for increasing your vision of your potential. But on their own, the best you can hope for is an improved mood. To actually get results with them, you have to take action.

Reprogramming My Subconscious

As much progress as I’ve made in some areas of my life, lately I feel like I’ve been sabotaging myself in other areas. Other than injuries, I’ve done great sticking with running this year. I’ve done fantastically well with my food habits too.

I previously wrote about sleep. At the time, I was doing well enough. Then I decided that I wanted to go to sleep and wake up earlier. I want more wakeful hours during daylight and to not be rushed to get to places before they close when I have errands to run.

I started to work my way to an earlier bed time and wake up. Then I hit a whole lot of resistance. I’d end up staying up even later than before and sleeping later into the day. It’s almost a compulsion to keep doing whatever I can to not go to bed.

I’ve also been feeling extra groggy when I haven’t gotten a full nights sleep. So my willpower to wake up earlier is more easily overpowered. The same thing happened last year in the fall and winter. I wonder if part of it is environmental, but I’m not exactly sure what it would be. But it doesn’t keep me up late.

The same sort of pattern played out a bit in my reselling business. I built up to a certain point and wanted to go further. Instead, I ended up going backwards.

It happened when I was a kid as well. I was sick a lot (I think I was making myself ill), so I was homeschooled in 5th grade. The district provided a tutor. I remember one particular assignment. I was supposed to write a report. I don’t recall the topic. I had all the materials, but got overwhelmed and didn’t do it. The due date, which I helped choose, came and went. My tutor even explained that he was pretty sure that I’d get overwhelmed, shut down and not finish.

Even though I don’t do moderation very well in a lot of cases, I’ve found that I have to try it in others. To get back on track in my reselling business, I had to break it down into smaller chunks. Instead of spending 4-6 or even up to 10 hours a day, a few days a week doing as much as possible, I give myself a few things to do daily while watching or listening to something over a couple hours. I guess doing it daily could be considered all in, in one manner of speaking. The distraction of sound and/or video also helps.

I also have a book that I planned about 2 years ago, wrote a few pages last year and haven’t done much with since. I broke it down into small sections, but it still overwhelms me, both the size of the task and the subject matter. I really want to complete it, maybe even need to complete it. The resistance is seemingly insurmountable, though.

The comfort of the status quo is incredible anti-motivation against these things I want. Change can be difficult and even scary. Consciously I want to make changes to become my potential. Subconsciously, I’m trying to protect myself from failure, rejection, overwork, danger or whatever the perceived threats.

The trick is reprogramming the subconscious to no longer see these things as threats. I’ve done it before in other aspects of my life. Time to put in some more work, and maybe learn a little moderation.

Practicing the Way: I am the Tao

I’ve read the Tao Te Ching several times in the past. Lately, I’ve been reading a couple sections before bed when I need a break from whatever else I’m reading at the time.

A few weeks ago I read sections 4 and 5. The first paragraph of section 4 and second paragraph of section 5 stood out to me.

Section 4 paragraph 1:
The Way is a void,
Used but never filled:
An abyss it is,
Like an ancestor
From which all things come.

Section 5 paragraph 2:
Between the earth and sky
The space is like a bellows,
Empty but unspent.
When moved its gift is copious.

In Taoism, the Way is everything and nothing. It’s empty and without form, but everything comes from it and is contained by it.

Reading it this time, I had a different thought. The Way could also stand for all of human potentiality, everything that you, I or we could ever possibly do, become or achieve.

I get a glimpse of this when I exceed my own expectations running, going faster or farther than I previously thought possible. I realize even more of this looking back on other past accomplishments.

I am not complete until the end. My life is not filled. My past has created my present self. It continues to create my future self as the past keeps pace with the present, my becoming. It’s not enough to be incomplete, though. I have to remain open to possibilities, and actively engage.

There is no real limit to my capacity to achieve, only my ability at any given time to see what’s possible. When I open myself to opportunities and harness the unspent energy of my past, in the form of skills, knowledge, training, experiences and more, I can create my own copious gifts.

I Practice Failing, but I’m Not a Failure

In the past, when I gave up on something because it was hard, I got lazy or it just didn’t work out, I took the failure as a sign of personal defect. A lot of the reading, audiobooks and other info I’ve consumed over the past couple years, as well as being more mindful of my experiences has taught me that it’s not the case.

If humans took failures as personally in childhood as many of us have learned to do as adults, things like walking and talking would be pretty uncommon.

It took me many months to change my food habits to where I am now. I failed over and over and over, giving into cravings, thinking it was just too hard and listening to my own negativity. It took several attempts to get back into running after I got out of the Army as well. The first attempt was absolutely miserable. I didn’t try again for over a year.

Failure is a result of an act or event, not a state of being. I am not a failure. I may fail at doing particular things, though. Now I learn what to do next time, rather than let the failure prevent me from even trying again.