I recently read a very cool blog post about Buddhism and giving without any intention of receiving. It was written by a man. A very beautiful soul. And I love his blog: The Accidental Anarchist.
With all that said, it is still abundantly clear that this post was not written for me—or any other American moms with co-dependent tendencies or who are over-giving, people-pleasers. I am laughing right now at how I worded that! See, I’ve been working for about 6 years, maybe more, on my issue with giving till it hurts and people pleasing. I’ve been in a support group about it. I’m a yogi who, in every class I teach, reminds her students to balance their chi: learn to give AND receive. Receiving tells the Universe that you are worth it and that you value yourself and your time. When you allow others to give to you (and that can mean just giving friendship or compassion, not necessarily monetarily) it says that you believe you deserve to receive, that which you also give. Otherwise, when you give and give and never receive, you are telling the Universe that you are not worthy, not entitled to love, friendship, compassion, and trust me, that vibration will be heard loud and clear. You know the person who always throws the birthday parties, or who always gives of her time in a myriad of ways, but THE MINUTE someone asks if they can do something for her in return, she insists NO NEED, DON’T BOTHER. IT’S FINE!, REALLY, I WAS HAPPY TO DO IT! That was me. And I’m now a recovering over-giver. ha ha
Ok, some of you who are reading this may think, well, that’s a bit harsh in the holiday season. Not at all. It’s in the holiday season—when everyone and every agency and every school is demanding of your time, your money and your volunteering—that you are tested and are given the opportunity to discover whether you are an over-giver, and whether you’re ready to slow down and be kind to yourself. That does not mean you don’t give charitably. I’ve already donated to causes, adopted a family and volunteered at one school this season, and yet, I’m viewed by those I did find the courage to say no to, as not giving enough. It’s time to stop the pressure to go, go, go and to stop taking advantage of the givers. That may never happen in our frenetic American society. But you and I DO have the power to slow down. It comes with one word: NO. A No to a taxing demand, is a YES to YOU and your family. Trust me.
So, here’s how to identify if you are an over-giver.
These are the two main types of over-giving that drains your chi, your life force, and creates emotional instability, resentment and health problems:
- Co-dependent giving:
* When giving to others never ceases, as people keep asking for more. You are literally attracting more and more takers because that is the energy you are putting out: Others needs are more important than your own.
* When giving to one individual becomes toxic as they make it clear they might become destitute without your help. They use guilt and manipulation to take advantage of your giving heart. Yet that person’s problems or needs become a burden on you, your family, or thwart you from meeting your own goals or taking care of yourself or your family.
* You are the go-to person in a crisis. You never lack for friends, yet you don’t confide in many of them. Instead, you are their ear, their rock, their support. For instance, do you always pick up the phone every time a friend is in need, even if you are on a work deadline or it means you won’t be able to run crucial errands or take a desperately-needed exercise class? If this is a one-time thing, no biggie. If it’s a daily or weekly experience, you are stuck in the rut of over-giving due to an insecurity of being needed and, therefore, are creating distractions to thwart you from following your dreams, achieving good health, or leading a balanced life.
- People-pleasing giving:
*Do you always say yes to every request to volunteer or to help out, then are later filled with resentment when you are exhausted and on the edge of a meltdown?
*Do you find yourself throwing the biggest parties or fundraisers, yet rushing around filled with anxiety about what others will think, so much so, that you yell at your children while you are putting together the perfect evening to raise money for a school-project?
*Do you find it nearly impossible to speak your truth or say no for fear of what others will think about you or say about you? And when you do finally find the courage to say no to something or to back out of something or a project that is taxing you, do you feel obligated to give a million explanations to smooth things over?
*Is your favorite line: “Oh, whatever you want to do is fine.”? In your attempt to be easy going, to be liked, and to ‘go with the flow,’ do you end up always going to the type of movies you hate, or going to restaurants you don’t like just to not make waves?
If you feel like I’m being harsh, just know that this tough love article is written as a reminder to myself. 🙂 To some extent, I was the woman above. And to this day, I still find it hard to say no to someone, or to back out of a volunteer gig or an activity without feeling insane amounts of guilt and without giving a million excuses. (One of my favorite books on this topic is Women Who Love Too Much, check it out!)
For instance, this past Tuesday I had been running since 6 a.m. After getting lunches done and getting kids settled for school, I worked at a yoga studio from 8:15 a.m. – 2:15 p.m. Then I raced to pick up my youngest from his school, then dropped him at his chess club, then raced to my older son’s soccer game. I missed the first half, sadly. It ran over, so I was late to pick up my younger son from chess, but thankfully, one of the moms stayed with him. Then we raced home, only to recall my older son had a therapy appointment he almost missed, so we raced back out. As I dropped my older, my youngest reminded me that it was also Cub Scouts night and that I was to stay for an additional hour to plan the mistletoe fundraiser and the Christmas party. I pulled the car over to the side of the road and just said “Nope, not doing it.” I was calm, but just decided enough was enough. My youngest said that his friend’s parents would be mad if we quit the Scouts again. (this had happened last year and they begged me to try again as it ‘is so good for teaching morals to young kids.’ I took a deep breath and told him that we just can’t make everyone happy. I need peace. I need stillness. My house was a wreck. There were dishes in the sink, laundry piled high and I really wanted to cook a healthy meal and help with homework and get my youngest to bed on time. I needed to meditate. I needed to edit a manuscript. I needed at least an hour to myself. I had no desire to be in the Scouts den until 8 p.m. and then race home exhausted, eat pizza and crash into bed late, feeling resentful. If the Scout leader and his wife get angry, so be it. I’m exhausted.
As we sat at the table that night my youngest looked up at me and said, “I accept your apology mom. It’s ok. You can’t do everything.” What a sweetie. He really loves the Scouts. He really wants to do camp outs. But mommy really needs some sanity, some quiet, some balance. I can’t be racing about constantly. I had to fight every urge in body not to write a super apologetic note to the scout leader. I don’t need to. It’s just not the right time for our family. Nothing more is needed to be said. What I have learned is that giving a ton of explanations to takers is like giving a bone to a dog. They will chew and chew on it, giving you all the reasons why you can still do what is causing you anxiety or draining you. Why? Because it serves their needs.
Earlier this year I bowed out of an additional yoga training I was in. I so wanted to do it. But it required three days of nearly 6 hour sessions, 2 – 3 classes to take each week, reports, etc. This came at a time when some drama hit my family that was super stressful. That, on top of my increasing editing work load and all the other classes I teach. Plus, my older son’s soccer schedule ballooned into daily practices and 3 – 4 games a week. I was drowning and exhausted and becoming drained.
Will my friend who led the training ever understand? Probably not. But that’s not the point. My health and emotional well-being was taking a toll.
So, it’s been a long road to learning this hard lesson. I can’t do everything right now. I must give to myself. Even if I don’t give to myself at the same level of giving to others (what full-time single mom ever does?!) at least my needs, my health, my life goals, are on my to-do list. Just knowing my needs deserve to be on the list, is half the battle.
My challenge to you, dear friends, is to put yourself on your to-do list this holiday. What can you do for yourself? How can you fill your heart so that you feel abundant and joyful and grateful? When we are depleted, it’s hard to give with open arms joyfully.
Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have the funds to spring for a massage or a mani-pedi. That’s ok. Take a walk. Ask a friend to watch the kiddos and go for an exercise class or to a movie or write in a journal at a coffee shop while sipping foamy hot chocolate. Find something that feels luxurious and just allow yourself to have that. A bubble bath while reading. Take one hour off and give to yourself. Or even better, say no to one request from a taker, even if that means you lose that friendship. You are making space for yourself and for more compassionate and thoughtful people to come into your life.
With love & light ~