Giving Myself Gifts

‘Tis the season to buy stuff for me. Is that how it goes?

Apparently that’s the trend. This is a multi-faceted cultural shift, according to a Washington Post article by Michelle Boorstein entitled Americans increasingly stuff holiday stockings with gifts for themselves.

Of course when the country is in an economic recession or downturn, people defer purchases and then — naturally — make them when items are on sale. Black Friday is the kick-off for the holiday buying season, with massive sales (for better or worse). I wrote about that recently. So perhaps folks are simply buying, at a discount, what they’d needed all year.

Yet there are aspects of this self-gifting that relate to our SPACIOUS vision of helping people connect more deeply with each other. I’d love to address one of those which Boorstein poignantly describes:

“At their core, (behavioral researcher Paco) Underhill said, holiday gifts are the ultimate tokens of our feelings, physical representations of what we want to say to other people. I like you. I’m scared of you. I want to know you better. And he believes that our transient, often single culture can be a lonely one. We self-gift in order to say things to ourselves that other people aren’t saying.

“‘We’re looking,’ he said, ‘for little signs of self-worth we used to get from someone else.'” 

Oh, this is sad, sad, sad. It sounds so Charlie Brown and all… the idea of writing a card to oneself that says, “Dear Me, You mean a lot to me. Merry Christmas. Love, well, ME actually.”

I guess it’s better than nothing, but barely. Besides the obvious lack of a surprise factor, there’s a complete dearth of warm fuzzy “oh, you shouldn’t have but I sure do feel touched” feelings.

I don’t have iron-clad solutions to this. I just want to raise a few questions:

  • How have we become such islands that we aren’t connected to others who would know us well enough to exchange gifts (or meaningful gifts)?
  • How do you feel about the idea of choosing your own gifts?
  • How do you think gift-giving has changed over time? What do you make of people’s preferences to create wish lists or to tell others exactly what they want or — as Boorstein wrote here — simply to take care of it themselves?
  • What do you see as the benefits of giving to others something that YOU pick out for them? How about receiving something that THEY picked out?
  • Is it really “the thought that counts?” How does that relate?

Let’s talk about this.


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