The season of giving arrives with the holidays and it’s a perfect time to think about how you’re giving. You probably see yourself as someone who enjoys giving to others. You bend over backwards for your family and friends. And they know they can always count on you to know what they need and then deliver it. But it’s important to also know when you’re giving too much.
Many of us have been taught that giving is the best way to show kindness. Unfortunately, we weren’t taught how to balance out how much we give and how much we receive. So it’s easy for us to get caught in cycles that become unhealthy. Yes, it can be bad for your health when you start giving more than you should.
What Giving Too Much Looks Like
You might be willing to consider that you’re overgiving. But how can you tell for sure? There’s an easy test that can help you determine if you’ve become an over-giver. When you’re in the middle of doing something for someone, pause for a moment and check in with how you feel.
Are you feeling joy over what you’re doing? Does it energize you? Or are you starting to feel frustrated, angry, or burnt out?
When you’re giving too much, you might start feeling tired more than you used to. Depression might even creep in. You might always feel like you’re in a rush and never able to finish your to-do list. You might start to wonder how other people find time for themselves. Your self-care routine gets put at the bottom of your tasks for the day, which means you never quite find time for renewal.
Why You’re Giving Too Much
There are many reasons why we get into a pattern of giving too much. The underlying factor is usually because you really do care about others. You want them to be happy, loved, and taken care of. So you take on the task of doing it for them.
Other reasons that can propel us to give too much include feeling insecure and taking on feelings of guilt or shame. We also might be dealing with ineffective communication and feeling like our way is better than the way other people do things. These negative feelings and thoughts can get mixed up in our love and care, pushing us past the point of healthy giving.
Why You Need Balance
Sure, our children, partners, families, and friends depend on us for love and caretaking. Communities need interdependent relationships to exist. But the problem is when one person is giving more than another. When you give and give, you’re at risk of getting burnt out and heading toward poor health. Your mental health is always on edge due to the resentful feelings and tendency toward depression. And your physical health isn’t doing so well due to lack of self-care and adrenals wearing out.
As the saying goes, you can’t really give when your well is dry. When we are giving too much, what we give tends to not feel as authentic and loving as it does when we feel balanced and healthy. When our giving comes from a place of self-love and joy, the recipient of our giving feels more cared for. We feel satisfied with the exchange, as well.
How to Restore Your Giving Balance
Start by taking a long, critical look at your giving balance. Try to be as objective as you can be and not allow yourself to get pulled down a spiral of negative feelings. Just look at your balance for what it is. Determine when you’re giving out of love and when you’re giving out of guilt or negativity.
Begin to prioritize your self-care routine again. Take the time to understand how filling your own cup first will help you be a better giver. Get to know your feelings again and learn to recognize when you’re stepping over the boundary of healthy giving. Tune in to those feelings that say, “Hey! You’re starting to give out of shame or because you’re being passive aggressive!” Decide where your healthy boundaries are, then make a plan for how you will correct your overgiving to restore balance again.
Tips for Balance
Here are a few other ideas to help you find your own path back to balance.
- Let go of control over a project and ask for help.
- Teach your kids that you have feelings and needs so they will learn respect.
- Be brave and tell others when you feel taken for granted.
- Know when it’s time to back off and let others pick up the slack (and then let them actually do it!).
- Create clear boundaries around what you’re comfortable doing and what you’re not comfortable doing. Then hold yourself accountable for keeping those boundaries.
- Trust that others will do a good job with something, then let them step up to the challenge.
- Catch yourself when you start thinking that you don’t have time for self-care, then make caring for yourself a priority.
- Work with a therapist to heal issues of insecurity, guilt, or other issues that are driving your overgiving.
- Explain to your partner about your journey toward balance, then ask for their support.
- Write in your journal about your process, documenting your frustrations and successes.
- Push yourself to get comfortable with saying ‘No.’ Then practice saying it whenever it feels appropriate.
- Know your schedule and how much you can realistically fit into a day or week. Recognize when you’re becoming stressed and put on the brakes.
- Work with a family therapist to help your family learn appropriate boundaries and healthy giving.
- Use affirmations to help you feel empowered and validated through the process.
When you feel that you have what you need and are taken care of, giving becomes an act of joy. You don’t have to live with resentment and burnout. You can learn to balance out how much you give so you feel empowered, content, and like you have lots of love to give.