How to know when you are in danger of giving too much or giving for the wrong reasons.
Giving is a wonderful and worthy experience.
Except when it’s not.
For those of us who endeavor to live more authentically and with more self-compassion, it can be important to know when giving starts to do more harm than good.
I am a giver. I give my time, emotional and mental energy, ideas, goodwill, expertise, trust, advice, commitment and assistance easily. I show regard for people by remembering birthdays, responding to messages and following through on commitments. I check in with my loved ones to see how they’re doing and I show interest in their lives. I volunteer in the community and in my workplace. I donate, create and share in the service of others.
This isn’t surprising, given the role models I have in my parents, both givers from way back. And while it’s something I love about myself and them, I wish I was taught a little more about how to discern when I am danger of giving too much or if I am giving for the wrong reasons.
After much trial and error, I now know that I have strayed into this territory when I...
- Feel resentful at giving of myself in ways I did not want to or when my boundaries are disregarded.
- Am repeatedly left feeling depleted, angry, humiliated or overlooked.
- Realize that I am the sole caretaker of a relationship or that the give-get ratio is out of balance.
- Feel that my efforts are going to waste or I am prevented from living according to my values.
- Am shut-down, ignored or invalidated and left without the opportunity to say what is on my mind.
- Am tempted to give up experiences or expectations that are perfectly reasonable and right, in order to keep the peace or demonstrate my regard for someone.
- Am tempted to keep on giving even when someone shown me significant disrespect.
It takes time and self-compassion to heal from such experiences. And it takes wisdom, objectivity and more self-compassion to know which situation requires which action; not every experience is going to have a resolution and not every resolution will bring about change or reconciliation.
Nevertheless, I think it’s important that, where safe to do so, decisions are communicated to the other party. Living authentically is about setting healthy boundaries, not about taking the easy way out.
This may mean loss. Actually, if my personal experiences are anything to go by, I can guarantee it will mean loss. However if this loss means I am able to live more in line with my values, more wholeheartedly and more meaningfully, then I believe this is actually all in service of myself.
Originally appeared at The Good Men Project.