Have you ever heard the saying "It's better to give than to receive?" I am convinced that this seemingly positive cultural belief is at the core of why so many of us struggle to take care of ourselves. Think about it. We've been conditioned to believe that in order to be a good friend, wife, daughter, employee, mother, partner that we must give. And not just give a little, but give, give and give until there isn't anything left. Even if we are tired, even if we don't really have the time, money or energy to offer, we've been conditioned to give to others instead of receive ourselves.
As a result, we operate like banks that only give out withdraws and never take in deposits. You don't have to be an economic genius to run the results of this equation -- bankruptcy. We over-give, under-receive and then end up emotionally, physically and spiritually drained and depleted, internally bankrupt.
As a recovering achievement junkie, doing addict, and super woman who was told she could do, be and have anything, I've been an over-giver for most of my life (and still have to monitor my giving/receiving equation every day). I've worked too many hours, put others needs above my own, and gave it all I had, until I dropped into a heap of exhaustion every several months making myself physically sick so I had a 'valid' excuse to rest. I've become so mentally spent that all I could do was lay in a vegetated state on the couch and watch a marathon season's worth of Downton Abbey or Law & Order in one day. All signs that I was over-giving, I just had no clue I was stuck in this self-sabotaging pattern because I'd never considered there was such a thing as giving too much. But there is.
While giving to others is a good and loving act, giving to the point of sacrificing your own health, wealth and happiness is not loving or good, because living this way is not loving to a very important person -- you.
Loving yourself as well as loving others is equally essential.
Consider this... What if taking care of others and taking care of ourselves didn't need to be an either/or equation? What if we could take care of the people and projects we love and take care of ourselves, too? What if self-love wasn't seen as selfish, but as smart?
How? Well first, change your internal operating equation from "It's better to give than receive," to "It's better to give and receive." A one-word modification that shifts everything. Imagine if the way you gauged your success for the day and the meter to which you held yourself to be a good friend/mom/mate included both how much you gave to others, and how much you retained and received for yourself? I know for me when I realized that if I retained energy and time for myself instead of giving it all away, I could stop the cycle of needing to get sick to rest, and as a result not only accomplish and serve others more, but be happier while doing so.
To get your giving/receiving equation into balance, you need to become aware of the over-giving habits you've developed over the years as you've operated like an ATM machine who never runs out of cash -signs that you are OVER-giving, and bankrupting yourself. Notice if any of these over-giving signs have become bad habits for you.
- Say "Yes" to people or projects, when you know you really want to say "No," and then find yourself stressed out and stretched too thin trying to meet your obligations.
As you start to become aware of these signs of over-giving in your day to day life, you will begin to notice the drain on your energy, time and happiness levels. If you really pay attention, you'll begin to feel the withdraw in your body, see the cost to you, and start making better choices.
How do you stop over-giving? The moment you become aware that you are about to over-give or are over-giving, take what I call a "Power Pause," which is a moment in time where you press the pause button on the outside world and tune into your inside world, to find a solution that supports you instead of sacrifices you -- gives you power instead of takes it. Stop, breathe, and ask your Inner Wisdom, "What would enough look like?" Wait for an answer, and then do that, and no more. Just give enough. This may feel uncomfortable or impossible at first, but that's normal. Still only give enough and no more.
The truth is that you, me and all of us recovering over-givers are in the process of re-patterning generations of self-sacrificing habits, re-attuning our internal operating system to self-love, and proving that if we take care of ourselves we can accomplish and help others even more. Now that is an equation I can get behind!