Discussions on Giving have been all the rage since Adam Grant’s bestseller ‘Give and Take’ hit the stores last year.
Now, most people would like to see themselves as givers. I mean, it is nice to believe you give for the sake of giving, especially now that Grant has shown that givers can actually be very successful people. Not only are you, as a giver, a good, selfless person, you can be popular, wealthy and successful at the same time!
Let us be honest though – selfless giving is a trait few of us inherently have. And in many ways, being less of a giver is smarter in this (supposedly) doggy-dog world.
However, givers can, and really must also look out for themselves. Givers can watch their backs just like anybody else – in their own giving way. This is crucial so the giver does not feel drained, exhausted or disappointed time and time again.
One of my closest friends expressed her frustration to me the other day:
“I spent six hours decoding our class assignment, and this girl arrives at midnight and asks for help last-minute. I gave her all the answers and explained the processes. Simone, I can’t tell you how many times I have done this for people here. And why wouldn’t I? But then I get so tired because it feels like people around me just take.”
The next day, my friend realized she had left her ring on the sink in the library after washing her hands. It was not a valuable ring, but meaningful to her, so she ran back to the library after morning classes. The ring was not there any more, nothing had been given to the lost and found, and a few days later, it became clear someone had intentionally taken what was not hers. My dear friend was exasperated, “is it so much to ask for, to have people be honest and righteous and just give back?”
Unfortunately, I believe this is a dilemma many kind and generous people face.
As a true giver, you can often feel worn out. You may feel drained. This is not the same as being a matcher, as you don’t expect something back as you give. But in the long run, after accumulated giving and continuous lack of reciprocity, you are, quite frankly, exhausted. It feels like you are not being “filled up”, while you continuously give more of yourself. That is when you may want to stop giving, but before you consider that, consider this:
Give to yourself.
I urge all of us – givers, strategic givers (in Grant’s book called “matchers”), and even those who recognize themselves as “takers” to adopt this simple idea.
It is amazing how much we neglect ourselves. Even takers – because selfish taking does not nourish the soul. When is the last time you truly gave yourself some profound tender loving care?
A few years ago, I told a friend that I kept getting sick from living an unhealthy lifestyle. She asked me, “If I got sick, would you keep me up late at night working and feed me Oreos and cold pizza? No. You would make me hot soup and dim the lights. Why don’t we do that for ourselves?”
I urge us all to treat ourselves like we would our best friend. Like we would our little brother, our daughter, any loved one. You are your loved one, too. The more you treat yourself with respect, the more you will attract people who treat you with that same respect. What you nurture inside you, you put out into the world.
When you take the approach of giving to yourself, giving to others will not feel draining. You are not relying on someone else to fill up your energies, because you have the ability to fill yourself up. Once you recognize you have the power to make yourself whole and recharge your energies, your disappointment in others will shrink as you stop relying on them so much.
Then, when somebody does selflessly give back to you, it is an overwhelming surprise that brings genuine gratitude and joy!
Do one thing every day that shows you are there for yourself. From massaging your own feet to setting a few hours aside to look for your dream Master’s program, take care of yourself. Work on something that is primarily for you and your life. Start with one conscious thing a day, until it becomes a habit and joy to look out for you. There is no shame in wanting to treat yourself well! You don’t need a parent, boyfriend or spouse to do that for you. You have you.
Be proud of being your own best friend while being the best friend possible to those you love. This is how you will feel the energy to keep doing good for others without the disappointment or exhaustion. It is really true that we can only give the love we feel for and in ourselves. Not only will this replenish you, but it will make your relationships with others lighter and truer.
All my good vibes and TLC,