It’s the season for giving, so without much thought you plunge head first into a crowded mall, possibly running a red light just to get the nearest parking space to your desired entrance and grab the last shopping cart, leaving some poor, less fortunate soul to fend for herself while she waits patiently for the next person to return their cart. You must get on with the urgent need to express your over-zealous generosity – for the holidays!
What to give and how much to spend are important questions that plague us as we try to show our loved ones and those who have provided services to us during the course of the year. Some form of gratitude in the form of a gift or gift certificate is appropriate to say thanks and save us from the shame of guilt. For those who need care, finding that special time to share with them during the Holidays can take an extra toll on caregivers.
It’s important to remember that there is more than one way to give and managing our time productively helps us to be mindful of how we can make the experience more pleasurable.
If you are a generous giver, you will no doubt find it easy to give with an open heart and not expect your partner in the relationship to reciprocate. You are giving because your needs have been met, you feel joyful, light hearted and the act of giving feels good. However, when you give because you feel you have a need to, or are morally obliged to, then you are no longer giving from a place of selflessness. You may be giving because you are always on the receiving end of a relationship and don’t want to disappoint someone by not reciprocating.
In special situations, you may know someone who has fallen on hard times and feel obligated to rescue them or you just want to establish a networking relationship which you feel will be advantageous for you and so you’re expecting something in return. When this is not forthcoming the act of giving becomes detrimental to your relationship.
If you find yourself giving because you feel you have a need to or because you want to be loved, admired or liked, psychotherapists suggest that you are an over-giver.
“Over-givers and people pleasers go hand in hand,” says Psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert. He suggests that “they use gifts as a way to gain and keep friends, because they think they need to be overly generous to be liked. People pleasers are afraid of disappointing others, to the point where they neglect their own needs.”
Over-givers need to put other people’s needs before their own and generally have low self-esteem. They’re afraid that if they are not giving excessively, they will not be appreciated. They’re unable to communicate what it is they would like from their partner and so they keep on giving, sometimes allowing frustration to build when demand for excess is placed on them by the recipient, who keeps demanding more.
Over-givers tend to be people who have recently experienced some measure of success and are anxious to give back to less fortunate friends or causes. Their intentions may be to level the imbalance they feel because of their success, but they usually make the other person feel indebted or inferior.
What makes these situations doubly awkward is the inability to stop once they start the habit, as it generally feels good while giving, but it can be hurtful to find the friend or family member who couldn’t afford the gift, flaunting their extravagant vacation or new car on Facebook days later. The giver is left to wonder how they were manipulated into giving in the first place. The truth is, it’s the fault of the giver’s for giving in the first place – not the taker’s for taking.
Several of us have been in situations where our generosity was taken for granted and when expectations of further gifts were not forthcoming, the relationship ended. This is not unusual, according to a study profiled in The Economist recently, which found that “people don’t really like people who are too generous. In fact, they dislike extreme selflessness as much as they dislike selfishness. Simply put, unabated giving makes them look – or just feel – bad. So, even as over-givers try to connect with others by giving gifts, they’re likely to create feelings of guilt instead of gratitude.“
Therefore, if you are the unwilling recipient of an over-giver or know one intimately and your resentment is approaching its peak, take some time to have a conversation with that person. Frequently, they are unaware of how offensive their intentions are, how uncomfortable it is making you feel. It’s up to you let them know.
Faced with this information, you are now ready to go forth into the crowded malls and reek havoc with your credit cards.
Happy Generous Giving!