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.