It’s always nice to receive a gift, especially when it’s a surprise.
A well-chosen gift can let you know you have been genuinely heard and profoundly understood. A passing remark picked up on, or a glance in a shop window noticed. Perhaps the giver has been generous with their time and energy, letting you know how much you are cared for.
On the other hand, a poorly selected gift can be upsetting, leaving you feeling that you’re not noticed at all.
That can put a lot of pressure on your loved one to get it right and make you feel good. Sometimes, it’s almost as if we expect them to read us as adults in the same way a good enough mother senses her baby’s needs.
Receiving a gift is great, but is it reasonable to expect someone to meet your needs that way?
The Narcissistic Gift
If you grew up in a family with a narcissistic parent or you’re in a relationship with a person with narcissistic traits, Christmas can be a difficult time. It’s not unusual for there to be drama. The drama is so that the attention remains with the narcissistic person to maintain a narcissistic supply and remain feeling special.
So the student [narcassist] feels either an exaggerated sense of specialness, importance, and uniqueness, or painful feelings of insignificance and unworthiness; or the two sets of feelings might alternate, depending on the adequacy or absence of narcissistic supplies.
The Diamond Approach
When the narcissistic person’s sense of significance is drowned out by the day’s importance to recalibrate, they may create a scene. The mere fact that you are enjoying your time, connecting with friends and family, sharing gifts, or just watching your favourite Christmas film may make them feel left out and insignificant and trigger old wounds.
The drama brings your focus back to them, and now there’s a lot of talk about what they are or aren’t doing.
Refusal to attend a pre-arranged Christmas engagement, a sudden illness which means changed plans, an argument out of the blue, disappearing or refusal to help deflect you. There may be no gifts for you, lost gifts in the post or something functional like a pair of pyjamas, your tenth pair of slippers or a deep fat fryer.
The 3 A’s That Matter
These things might seem trivial, but they’re not. Appreciation, attention and affection are essential components of a loving relationship. When these things are missing, you feel humiliated and hurt, and the narcissist has successfully projected their deep sense of insignificance onto you.
While you might not have been able to do anything differently as a child, as an adult, you have a choice to turn your focus inward and give your full attention to yourself, taking your focus off selfish behaviour.
This is usually where guilt gatecrashes the party.
Why Guilt Doesn’t Help
If you’re used to focusing on everyone else’s needs and wants or worrying about what other people think of you, then the guilty feelings can be compelling.
This outward focusing is a sign of co-dependence, which Melanie Tonia Evans describes as a compromising of the self:
- the ability to self-provide the above emotional commodities
I’m Not Good Enough
Narcissistic relationships often mean that your emotional energy is invested in your partner rather than developing the essential tools to make choices about you.
As a child, focusing on others may have been necessary to try and feel safe. This is especially true if you live in a home with addiction, abuse, emotional neglect or highly demanding adults. Under those circumstances, the child becomes vigilant and adapts to try and get their emotional needs met.
Unsurprisingly, this child develops the belief that I’m not good enough to be loved just for being me and, as a result, ignores the self, giving their gifts away to satisfy others’ needs in the hope that they will be loved in return.
Just for a moment, think about the advice that we are given on a plane regarding survival in the case of an emergency. You cannot be available for anyone else in any meaningful way before you attend to yourself.
You show people how to love you.
Gifts To Give Yourself
So you don’t have to wait until Christmas, your birthday, your anniversary or some other special day to treat yourself and tell yourself that you are good enough to be unique and that you appreciate yourself. When was the last time that you did that? We often think of treating ourselves as indulgent or selfish. And it really isn’t.
What’s the best gift you could give yourself?
Here are 5 gem ideas for gifts to give yourself. They are invaluable at any time of the year because they tap into the greatest gift: learning to love and appreciate yourself.
Being human means that we suffer, fail and feel inadequate occasionally. Similarly, you cannot always be or get exactly what you want. Instead of listening to the voice of the Inner Critic, try accepting this reality with sympathy and kindness. You’ll soon discover the gift of a new sense of inner calmness.
2. Dare to Dream.
Whether a daydream or a gift from the unconscious in the dead of night, dreams connect us deeply with our authentic selves.
Pay attention to and treasure your dreams. They may give you answers to questions you have long been trying to discover. Keep a dream diary so you don’t forget these essential gifts. You can use an app, write in a journal, or use drawings or collages. This is a gift from the imagination, so have fun and get creative!
3. Enjoy the Gifts of Daily Living.
Allow yourself to consciously and regularly express gratitude. Being thankful shifts your thoughts away from what’s wrong or missing in your life and towards what’s delightful, awakening you to the gifts of daily living.
Mindfully notice that you are breathing, be aware of the constant presence of gravity grounding you or get in touch with nature. You could even bring your awareness to the many connections with people (some who you may never meet) that support and help you every day, e.g. the train driver getting you to work or the author and all the people involved in publishing that book or magazine you are reading.
Even when life is not how you want it to be, there is much to be thankful for. Gratitude connects you with the gift of positivity.
4. Soul Connection
Soul means different things to different people. I often think of soul food, my soul sisters or soul mate. Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, says
The ‘soul’ is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart and personal substance.
What’s your soul calling you to do? What do you feel with a passion is your purpose in life? What is this guardian within you guiding you towards? For me, it’s my counselling practice. Tap into your soul’s GPS. I imagine it already imprints on your life through your choice of art, music, poetry, relationships, work and hobbies. Pay close attention; you may find yourself on an incredible journey after reconnecting to your inner gifts.
This is a gift that I wish that everyone would give themselves. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard. Whether you are in crisis or want to get to know yourself better, counselling gives you the time and space to do this. Of course, there are other therapies, such as coaching and healing; choose the right one.
Over To You
Are you waiting for someone else to give you a gift so that you can feel good about yourself? What gift would you give yourself? If you want to explore how to appreciate yourself and stop waiting for others to do that, get in touch and book a clarity session. I offer video sessions online via a secure platform.
Or call me today on 07535 864836.
Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Sandra Harewood 2023
Soul Centred couples therapist, counsellor and Jungian Shadow Work coach Sandra Harewood specialises in working with women and couples stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Relationships are precious; this is your chance to begin a new journey and experience the connection.