Are you one who is more inclined to spend more on your family and friends but not on yourself?

When you travel, do you feel obliged to buy souvenirs for others despite knowing that these are just another souvenirs for the others? ​

When such occasions occur, do they cause you anxiety and perhaps even some resentment in you? Do you give almost unwillingly?

The Act of Giving

Giving can be an act of kindness and can demonstrate generosity. In many cases, they carry certain importance or meaning, especially to those who value the importance of your gifts.

Gifts can come in many forms. You could be giving your time, attention, energy or even money.

When you give, you also receive, albeit in another way. When you give without expecting returns, and the person receiving your gift appreciates it, it could be the most satisfying feeling you can experience.

However, when giving becomes compulsory and out of obligation, and when you don’t really want to give, it could cause your some unhappiness and resentment in you instead. If you don’t think giving your time is worth it, you may not want to attend or be present, or perhaps you might be there but not fully present. If you are unwilling to put in your efforts for certain events or activities, you might end up doing things half-baked. If you are giving presents that carries obligation of giving when you felt you could offer something else, you might not feel very sincere even when presenting a very expensive present.

On other occasions, you could be giving too much for too long and end up feeling disgruntled in the long run. Those who have been in relationship for some time may feel this.

How do we get past the unwillingness to give?

When one gives unwillingly, it is better not to give at all. When you give your time and attention unwillingly, you will end up feeling less than happy or present being there. What you say and do will be done half-hearted.

When you are unwilling to give, the other party will feel it too. Eventually, this will cause a strain in the quality of your genuity and relationships.

So how do we turn the situation around?

Find out the root of the problem.

Do you tend to spread yourself out too thin in terms of giving attention to yourself and your loved ones? For instance, do you help everyone else first before you help yourself? Does this cause a tinge of unhappiness in you?

Do you see a pattern in your way of giving or even receiving for that matter? Do you have any qualms about giving to yourself more than to others?

Why do you think this is so? When do you think this started? What events from your past do you think this habit has stemmed from? Was there a time when you were told something by someone? Go deep into your past and do not be worried about raking up unhappy times, even if it might still hurt.

When you find out the real cause of the issue, it will feel like a light that has just lit up in your head. Almost immediately you can see the invisible link that connects what happened in the past to what you are doing today.

Address the root cause.

You might come across several thoughts or causes. Jot them down so that you won’t forget them because you will need to come back to them to address them one by one.

Once you have identified the reasons behind what’s causing you to act like that today, you will need to ask yourself if it’s true. If so, what can you do about it? Can you accept this fact about you? Stay true to how it’s making you feel. Do you feel like a bad person for thinking or acting the way you did? How can you deal with that and face it head on?

If it’s not true, what can you do to not be influenced by what you have experienced in the past again?

Keep doing the same for the other reasons. Sometimes, you might find that they all revolve around a theme or similar reason.

Next Step Forward

When you have done the necessary work to uncover the reason, it’s time for you to move on.

What will your next steps be? What will you do the next time a similar situation comes up, e.g. when you travel, when a birthday comes or when a festive season comes up again.

Example: Giving Souvenirs

For a long time since I lived away from home, I felt obliged to always buy souvenirs back for my family when I travel, even though I have been travelling to the same place back and forth many times. I would feel guilty if I didn’t buy anything. However, the gifts that I bought were not really suitable, practical or meaningful. This not only happened to my family but also to my friends and colleagues. At times, these souvenirs were not even given to them at all.

This cycle continued for several years and I was tired of feeling obligated to buy. Over time, I also began to feel some resentment internally and this adversely affected my sincerity when gifting to others.

As I sat down with this feeling, I began to internally ask myself what I was doing wrong and why did I end up feeling such ways. As it turns out, it did stem from a childhood event. As a child, I was less sensitive towards others around me. There was an incident when my mother commented that I was a selfish person as I have never bought any souvenirs home for the family whenever I went out, upon my sister returning from her school excursion with little gifts for every one of us albeit simple and modest ones.

This incident immediately struck a chord in me and linked me to thinking why I was feeling obligated to buy gifts home whenever I was returning from overseas. In a way, I was trying to model my sister without having to carry the name of being a selfish girl anymore. I was able to counter my own initial beliefs that I was selfish. Instead of feeling guilty for who I am, I embraced that character of me. I might have been less than sensitive to my loved ones, but now I know and I would always shower them with attention whenever I am back as I believe this is the best gift I can give to my loved ones.

What I also realized was that the gifts I bought home were not only lacking in meaning, they also became less appreciated over time. Being a practical person, I came to realize that I would rather get them something more of practical use than just display items. So these days, whenever I travelled, there would be no pressure to buy for the sake of buying.

Example: Gifts for Others on Festive Seasons

Gift exchanges on festive seasons have been popularised with times and would turn into an annual corporate event over the years, even if this was not our cultural practice. On such occasions, much as I felt obligated in the past, I would often set a budget for friends or colleagues. The gifts I purchased would usually have a higher value in terms of price than meaning, even if I don’t know if they would like it or not.

On other occasions, it has caused me pain when I had invested time and energy to source for the gift that I thought would be great for them but, my well-meaning intention was not reciprocated when I received a free-gift as my gift. Not only was that uneventful, it also felt hurting. Eventually that caused more unwillingness in me to participate in future gift exchanges.

As I did the exercise and asked why I was more inclined to spend more on gifts for others than for myself, I made a bigger finding on my self. As it turns out, it was an issue with self-worth and acceptance towards myself. Buying seemed more convenient and better in quality. This also reflected a sense of low self-esteem in myself when I was afraid of being judged for what I would rather hand-make for others. Once I realized that, I was able to work with myself internally to counter this belief in me. I don’t need to spend money to buy disingenuous friendships, nor do I need to please others to make them like me for who I am.

Because of this too, I was able to pick my friendships wiser and made better connections to real friends.

Best Gifts

The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, because when you give your time you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back.

Honestly, the best gift we can give others is our time and attention, not with tangible items.


As parents, we work hard to provide what we can for our children but one of the things most parents are not able to do is to spend more time with their children. Money may be one of the requirements to live comfortably but it cannot replace the moments and memories you create with your children by being there with them and spending time with them.

Money cannot replace time with your loved ones, especially your children.

Even as children, the best gifts we can provide for our parents and loved ones are our time and attention too.

If you have an issue with spending more on others than yourself, find out why you are thinking and behaving this way.

Whatever your reason that is holding you back from giving and receiving freely, work on that. You might find out you’re doing yourself a great help with this simple exercise.

If you need more guidance on working out and identifying these concerns, make your appointment to kickstart your discussion with me here.

Originally published at




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