Why Do Some People Find It Hard To Receive Gifts?

istock_000011997208xsmallThe other day at work I decided to do a random act of kindness by buying one of my employees lunch. This is not unusual for me as I will often buy my employees things like coffee or sandwhiches, but what was unusual was her reaction.

While most of my employees will offer to pay, when I tell them, “no, I got it”, they generally just accept whatever it is I am offering them. However, this particular employee immediately fell into what I would almost call a panic. She insisted that I take her money, even when I refused. Her face turned red, her eyes got watery and she begged me to take her money.

My response to her was simple. I told her that we all do nice things for other people and sometimes it’s okay to allow other people to do nice things for us.

As soon as I said that, I realized that I too often have trouble accepting gifts and acts of kindness from other people. I am a giver by nature. I think I inherited that from my mother and sisters. I love to give and the joy that comes with giving, yet it is very awkward and sometimes difficult for me to allow others to gift me in the same way I love to gift other people.

I remember when I was in graduate school I paid for a lady who was standing in line behind me without her knowing it. We didn’t know each other, and by the time she realized I had paid for her lunch I was already headed towards the door. She turned around and said “thank you” and paused for awhile as if she assumed I wanted something from her (i.e., her name, her number, conversation, etc.) but I didn’t. I simply  smiled and walked out of the door.

However, some people, like the employee I mentioned above, would have had a very hard time accepting that random act of kindness.

With the holiday season right around the corner, this is a great time to explore why is it that some people find it hard to accept gifts.

Not Wanting The Attention

Some people feel awkward about the attention that comes along with receiving a gift. Often they feel like the spotlight is on them, even if no one else is around and may be embarrassed. I think in the case I mentioned above, this was largely a factor. I offered to pay for her meal in front of several other people, all of who I had paid for their meals before so they didn’t see a big deal about it, but to the other person, she may have felt like she was put in the spotlight and didn’t want to be.

I think what goes along with this is, some people are used to everything having a catch to it and believe that people don’t do random acts of kindness without wanting something in return. Perhaps she thought by accepting my gift I would either ask for a favor or she would feel as if she owed me one, which defeats the whole purpose of a random act of kindness.

Not Feeling Like They Are Deserving of The Gift

Some people have self-esteem issues or aren’t used to people doing anything nice for them so they will reject any gift. They may feel like they haven’t done anything to deserve the gift, even if the person giving the gift feels otherwise. The more expensive or thoughtful the gift is, the more likely it is that someone will think that they aren’t worth it. They will feel uncomfortable and even overwhelmed.


Some people have been conditioned to feel a certain way about receiving gifts. For example, someone who grew up with their family giving them everything they could and were made to feel guilty about excepting things from other people, may grow into adults who find it hard to accept gifts. Women in particular who are raised to give and take care of other people, but not themelves, may find it hard to allow other people to do nice things for them.

Allowing Yourself To Receive Gifts

People who give gifts generally do so because the act of giving makes them happy. They put forth a lot of effort and enjoy the whole process of choosing (or making) a gift and giving it to you. You didn’t ask them to do this, but it is their way of showing kindess, appreciation and/or love and all you have to do is allow yourself to be part of the process by enjoying receiving the gift. It’s a beautiful process and you can do the same if you choose, or simply be thankful that someone thought enough about you to give you a gift, whatever it is.

When people have a hard time receiving gifts, they often also have a hard time allowing other people to nurture them, be there for them or even love them. You can practice receiving physical gifts by starting to allow yourself to be nurtured. Allow people to listen to you when you need to talk, to hold you when you need to be held, to support you when you need support. Allow people to encourage you when you need encouragement and to be there for you emotionally when you need that too.

Many people who have trouble receiving gifts have either focused too much on other people or have shut off the parts of themselves that need nurturing by telling themelves they don’t need it. Identifying what your needs are and how you would like others to support and care for you in ways that feel good, will open us up to being able to receive not only physical gifts, but gifts that go far beyond physical. It will allow us to not only nuture other people, but to allow ourselves to be nutured when needed.



14 thoughts on “Why Do Some People Find It Hard To Receive Gifts?

  1. Hi Torey,

    What you say is true. I can only speak about my own experience but I know many that, when they give a gift, the gift comes with strings. As a perfect example, my husband ‘gave’ our daughter money to take with her on her vacation. When she came back, he asked her if she had any money left and then dove into a lecture about how wasteful she was, etc. I explained to him the difference between what he ‘gave’ and a true gift. He is not unusual, I’ve known many like him.

    I have had an issue about accepting any ‘gift’ from a male, whether I am related or not. When I dated I always paid my own way because, too often, if a guy bought your dinner then he assumed he was entitled to have the gift ‘repaid’ later.

    Those are my own thoughts and I like your post.


    1. I honestly think this blogger “Mental health worker” was Very rude when the woman tried to refuse her “act of kindness” .. you obviously didn’t Know the woman .. and your “guesses” at Why she refused only further affirm that.
      It isn’t an act of “Kindness” when it is disrespectful to the degree you stated. IMO it was very rude.
      I’ve “committed” numerous acts of kindness .. however.. I would NEVER ignore the boundaries of another > Not my business the “why” .. nor would I diminish their dignity. Perhaps it is a low self worth thing and maybe they Need to do this for themselves. *and why would YOU say “no I got this” when a co-worker offers to pay?
      I think perhaps al ittle Compassion, respect and less need to analyze or figure out why people you don’t know do what they do.
      Great to be kind > Not when it causes the person that distress.

    2. Some people give because they have the divine nature of GOD in them, and cannot help but give. Giving, for such people, is like exhaling. That’s my experience.

  2. I’m most definitely a better giver than receiver. I really love giving and doing things for others. Such a great feeling. Why can’t I feel the same way when someone does the same thing for me. I’m working on it. I just don’t understand why it’s so difficult?
    Wild Thang aka Tammy 🙂

    1. p.s. > I too have always been a giver .. never accepting gifts. **Until it was put to me thusly:

      “You know how good you feel when you do something nice / kind for another?
      “Yes” ..
      > “Well why would you deny another person that good feeling?”
      I’ve been more able to receive since, although I often still say “are ya sure?” .. bad habit ..

  3. I think people who grow up with emotionally abusive parents have this problem. I don’t mean to personalize this, but my parents always told me that I did not deserve anything, they did not owe me anything and they reserved the right to withhold or confiscate whatever they chose, including meals and things purchased with my own money. Moreover, I was taught that there was no reason that I should have presents merely because of my birthday or Jesus’s. When I did receive things, even things that I adamantly refused to accept, they were used against me as an unpayable, infinite debt.

    I am sure there are people who’ve at least a few things in common with my background and are terrified of gifts also because they are conditioned to associate them with pain, fear, a strong sense of inadequacy/insecurity or manipulation.

      1. My boyfriend has a problem accepting gifts. Im asking him to do some self inquiry about this as I love to give. I know that he was emotionally abused as a child (not the details) and so strongly suspect it is this.

  4. I hate receiving gifts because I don’t like the feeling of owing somebody. I know that they usually don’t expect anything in return, but still – I hate handouts, people just giving me stuff, etc… My reaction is made worse when it’s a gift I dislike. I’m not good at faking smiles. Seriously, everything I want or need, I just purchase myself.

  5. A good friend shone a light in my life few years back regarding this topic. As a child & an adult I’ve always had an issue with receiving gifts especially from men. It felt like there’s a catch. What do they expect in return? Kindness, attention, friendship etc. She’s told me to let others do the simple acts of kindness, the gift that you give back to them is accepting their good gesture. Let them shine. Usually the person giving or gifting wants to please you. Give them the chance to rejoice… it’s a working progress but I’ve learned not to reject kindness & simply thank the person

  6. Most people DO have strings attached, and especially over meals.
    Try NOT repaying them back, or buying their lunch in the future – don’t even reciprocate and 99% of the time it’s bound to come up.
    A true gift is given as by it’s definition, and with no expectation of return, at all, ever and with no thought that anyone has to reciprocate in any way. This is very rare and even the giver must be completely clean of any ulterior motive, even if it’s a dopamine hit for themselves.
    Although I can actually give others ‘gifts’ many times – I also understand the other side, as we have all suffered the ‘strings attached’ syndrome where sometime in the future, what seemed like a gift at the time was just an investment just in case the person wanted to cash in a favour from you in return.
    Maybe we shouldn’t give anyone anything, as our society has changed, and if the actual gift giving causes stress to the other person for w/e reason we shouldn’t bother. It’s not like the world is going to end.

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