It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or is it? I find holidays stressful for many reasons and particularly at this time of year I usually get stressed about finding the perfect gifts. I have a slightly obsessive compulsive personality so I really work myself up about gifts being perfect for each recipient and the wrapping being exquisite (which I’m sure most don’t even notice).

However, with 2017 having been a stressful year with many demands placed on me from all sides, I decided that it’s about time I prioritised myself in my gift-giving. If gift-giving is my language of love, surely I should love myself first. I encourage you to also think about the gifts you owe to yourself.

The five gifts I decided to give myself are:

  1. The Gift of Self-love & Self-Compassion
  2. Permission to Say NO
  3. Distancing yourself from Toxic People
  4. The Gift of Living in the Present Moment
  5. The Gift of Being Yourself

1. The Gift of Self-Love & Self-Compassion

Have you ever noticed how we are at loving our families and being compassionate to our good friends. We go out of our way to ensure that they are happy and cared for. We show compassion to others going through a rough time. But, how many of us show love and compassion to ourselves first? The very thought of it sounds selfish to most people. We have others that need us…how could we possibly even think of putting ourselves first? But think for a moment of all those who depend on you: perhaps you have parents who are aging and whose health is failing; spouses who require or time, attention AND energy. Then there are kids – our primary responsibility – because if they fall ill at school, for example, we have to drop everything! But they are our first priority – most parents would rather spend money on their kids than themselves! We have our careers, and because of other responsibilities, women may be disadvantaged in terms of progression. We have family and good friends who need us at times – who we love enough to drop everything else for when they are in need. So think about what will happen if YOU fall apart…how many others that depend on you will start to fall apart as well? So, by not putting yourself first, not loving yourself enough and not being compassionate to yourself, you risk your health – both physical and mental! So, if it sounds too selfish of you to put yourself first…do it for those who depend on you! Think of the little ways you can love yourself. We can’t always plan extravagant holidays, but if we do something small for ourselves every day, we feel fulfilled. This may mean enjoying a cup of tea, uninterrupted or taking a long bath without having to rush out to attend to something for someone else

2. The Gift of Saying ‘NO’ and realising that you are still a Good Person

This is really difficult for many people and to avoid any tension, they go along pleasing everyone while harming themselves in the process. We agree to do things that don’t make us happy or that inconvenience us. The one thing I admire about most men is that they don’t find it difficult to say no. And, they don’t even apologise for it. They just say, ‘no, can’t make it’. Yet women either oblige or make excuses to justify something that needs no justification. NEVER offer a reason as to why you can’t do something for someone, because they could always solve that reason so you ARE able to still do what they want.

I struggled with this for a long time and learnt a valuable skill from my husband. My husband is a chartered accountant (thank God for that, because I often can’t remember which is a debit and which is a credit). But being a typical accountant, he offered practical advice. Just as we have a bank account, with a certain bank balance, we should not be spending any more than we have, or we go into overdraft. When we allocate our money, there are some non-negotiable things we have to budget for first – perhaps a bond or rent, amenities, food, medical expenses, school fees, etc. Then we may have things that we will spend money on, only if we have enough – e.g. new clothes, electronics, a holiday, etc. And still there may be things that we refuse to spend on. So in the same way, we need to imagine that we have an emotional bank account too. In it, we only have a certain amount of energy and we can choose how to expend that energy. So as you would with your bank account, you will have non-negotiable items to spend your energy on – perhaps close family, health, friends that reciprocate, etc. It’s different for everyone. We can decide if we have extra energy, there may be things we could consider. E.g. it’s not necessary to accept every invite you receive. We need to move from FOMO (fear of missing out) to JOMO (joy of missing out)! We should be able to look at another’s pictures on Facebook and be thrilled that they had a good time at the party last night, while we were curled up in bed with a book. We add more stress if we feel that in order to be happy, we have to attend every event, accept every invitation, etc. So decide what you will do only if you have extra savings. And if you do have extra energy, just like with money, its important to save it for a time when you may need more. So the saving part would be your ME-TIME to do whatever you love!

3. The Gift of Distancing Yourself From Toxic People

We all have them around us, sometimes in the form of family and friends. The easiest way to identify them is to notice how you feel after a conversation with someone – if you constantly feel drained and negative after a conversation with someone, it may be time to keep a distance. We can’t always avoid them completely but we can set our own boundaries so they are not able to affect us.

We often give a lot more time and attention to such people than they deserve. Think about it – when someone upsets us greatly we often spend a lot of our time and energy thinking about it and talking about it. Sometimes instead of having a relaxing dinner, we invite these people into our homes by bringing them up in our conversations. Giving toxic people so much of our time and energy is akin to putting them on a throne and worshipping them.

We often also have gaslighters in our lives. These are people who strategically make us unhappy by getting us to doubt ourselves. Notice those who are not happy for your success and achievements. I lost weight a year ago. I’ve never been overweight, but I had extra centimetres that bugged me. My real friends were the ones who said ‘ Wow Rakhi, you look amazing!’ The gaslighters are the ones who said – ‘you’ve lost weight…are you okay? Have you been stressed?’

They are the ones who, when you achieve something amazing may make comments such as ‘well I chose to put my kids first’. Instead of sharing your joy, they make it about themselves – due to their own insecurities, off course. But nevertheless they make us question ourselves and feel guilty. Those who are unhappy in their own lives find it difficult to share in others success and intentionally (or not) make every conversation about themselves. E.g. if you excitedly share news of your child performing well at school, they will have a story of how much better their child performed. Do not get caught up in this. Avoid such people or if you can’t, turn up the volume on your invisible headphones and play your favourite song in your head – so you can drown out the sound of their voice.

4. The Gift of the Present Moment

Being naturally anxious I used to rob myself of a lot of joy by worrying about the future. I could not enjoy time out at a spa, because I’d be worrying about what I still needed to get done! Then there are many who live in the past – often with regret. By living in the past or the future we rob ourselves of the only time we are certain of, which is the present moment. My work environment exposes me to illness and death on a daily basis. I’ve seen lives change dramatically in a moment. We need to enjoy what we have right now! If you’re having coffee with a friend, then have coffee with a friend – and enjoy it. Stop looking at your phone constantly or planning in your head what to cook for dinner! When you’re reading a bedtime story to your kids, enjoy the precious moment with them that won’t last forever! When you are eating, enjoy the taste of your food. Enjoy the sights and sounds that nature provides – then only will you find peace. We need to slow down, to do just one thing at a time! Life is uncertain so we need to enjoy each moment!

5.   The Gift to Be Yourself

Living authentically has become such a struggle. Our lives are so filtered. When we look at social media, we sometimes unconsciously compare our lives to others. This is such an unfair and inaccurate comparison, because people only share the best out of 20 selfies they may have taken or the exciting moments. This is not real life! True happiness is only achieved when you feel completely free and comfortable to be yourself – without the fear of being rejected. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you were truly yourself and refused to conform? How do you feel if you can’t express an opinion on something important to you just because it goes against the popular culture? We need to start living with #nofilter. We need to stop living our lives for social media and start living lives that we actually enjoy in the moment! The more we allow ourselves to just be, the more peace we will find.

And that’s what the festive season is meant to be about – it’s a time of peace. So besides just giving these gifts to yourself, remind your friends and loved ones that they are also important and to show some love to themselves.

Don’t wait for a new year to make resolutions (those never work anyway). Resolve now to love yourself enough and reward yourself with the gifts you deserve. Take charge of your own happiness, because even if you cannot control things around you, you can always choose your attitude. Your joy and happiness is such a precious gift – guard it deep within.

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