THE BLOG

Why Do You Give Too Much?

06/08/2011 03:02 pm ET | Updated Aug 08, 2011

Why do you always put others first? What is so wrong with the idea of having your needs met? Are you too insecure to get what you want or is it just that you love nurturing other people? Are you one of those people who can't stop giving? Do you have dog-like faithfulness despite being treated as inhuman most of the time? Do you feel guilty whenever you get anything? This article touches on what it means to be "the sacrificial one," and why it might make sense to change. The following paragraphs contain some of the more subtle challenges to finding your power and what you can do about it.

Firstly, rid yourself of "empowerment magazines." They are all too often overflowing with give-yourself-a-chance-advice, shamelessly disregarding the subtleties of the challenge. By now, you understand the importance of standing up for your rights, for if you don't, no one will. You know that finding your own power requires more than the courage to demand it from others - to do this, paradoxically, you have to stand up to the little voice inside yourself.

The first challenge with overly-sacrificial people is that they enjoy being that way. Even when they lament: "why doesn't he/she appreciate me?", there is always a part of them that does not want to change that dynamic. Sacrificial people delight in being subtly superior, and value this moral position more than they value expressing their needs. One has to reappraise the value of being a martyr, and place it lower on the list of personal priorities. Although people might feed off of your generosity, it ultimately only serves to reinforce their underlying feelings of powerlessness. Aside from the initial thrill of power that comes from abusing you, they never truly end up feeling like they have any real power of their own. The truth is that nobody actually benefits from such massive devotion, not even the sadistic people you engage in your life. The dynamics of power follow a U-shaped curve. Giving to the point of exhaustion is counterproductive, for past a certain point, being a giver leads to diminishing returns. simply put, its an addiction that wears you down.

The second challenge that overly giving people face is that over-giving is the only personal value they think they have. In fact, people who are overly generous rely on this discomfort to feel valued and needed. Sometimes, they even make themselves seemingly indispensable by "trapping" their loved ones with their continuous generosity. What follows is a classic result: hostile dependence. People being cared for feel helpless and jailed by others' generosity. They lash out. They want to keep receiving from you, but they feel bound by the increasing debt to pay back. As a result, you will never be enough because you will never satisfy their own desires to give. In fact, they will often seek out more selfish people to give to. They would rather do so than give fairly. It is their way of finding their own power in giving (they consider you to be too powerful because you give so much.) Being overly "generous" is gluttony in reverse. You might ask yourself: Why do I settle for so little in return? The answer: although you have the desire to receive, you might never give others the opportunity to give you anything. Your giving is like a gushing hydrant that cannot be approached. You'll have to learn the trick of turning down the giving to create the opportunity to receive- you'll have to admit that you need a lot as well.

The third subtle challenge relates to the emotional pain of never acquiring whatever it is you need to avoid recklessly pursuing such magnanimous goals. To really get to the bottom of this, you might have to explore the possibility that there indeed is something possibly more beautiful and wonderful than your righteous nature. This part of you also longs to receive; it too, is beautiful. You praise such qualities in the people you serve daily, so why should they not love such characteristics in you?

I hope that these subtle challenges can begin to clarify things for you and that you start to see your giving as being only a very small part of the expression of who you are. In doing so, you will open yourself to new windows of possibility. And if a person you love deems you to be valueless and threatens to leave you, try to open their eyes to the empowering possibilities of a new and healthier giving and receiving self.