Coming from Italians I always assumed giving is what everybody does, it
seems quite natural actually: these beautifully crazy Italians cook all this
delicious food and they stuff you up until you fall into a sweet state of
dreaminess turned long Summer naps… Aaah… il dolce far niente! (A little bit of limoncello helps make the nodding more epic indeed)
In spite of what could have been, given the poor parenting I received from my mother, I grew up to be a giver. Like those Italians, always running around trying to provide a full-belly experience for others. At least I always saw myself as a giver, choosing the perfect gift for someone’s birthday, taking time to talk with a friend who needed to vent (or offering the shoulder for the ones who needed to cry) opening my home for dinners and conversations, promoting gatherings and interactions of all sorts. When you have a positive attitude, it is easy to find people who flock around you and everyone has a lot of fun with the limoncello.
It took me my whole life to realize that I was attracting some “guests” that
were ready to have their bellies filled up to extasy but were not ready and
eager to make sure there was food on my plate as well. As someone I knew, a massively hurt-by-trauma person, told me once: “you and me, we are givers, we are not like those others, they are just takers” and I could see the point at the time and I agreed, on that occasion and context, yes, those “others” were full-blown takers, really selfish people. But, at that point the meaning of “generosity” was just anecdotical to me, I was not ready to understand the vicious cycle of givers and takers that exists around all of us and which one I was myself.
If you read my post about developmental trauma you will learn why my upbringing made me want to be liked. It is really simple. You are told you are not worth anything and then you live your life trying to make others see how valuable you really are.
I must say though, trying to be appreciated is a very good trait, it makes
you a nice human being, it tells the story of a person who cares about others.
Moreover, being able to prove your capacities and qualities in a career, for
example, helps you grow with a company and benefits the company too. Helping others and fostering fruitful and generous interactions is an invaluable tool in the professional world.
However, as with everything else in life, how much salt you sprinkle on your food can either make your meal delectable or inedible. Not being able to find the perfect balance is what is dangerous because when we try to get others to like us, we may be at risk of conceding too much, we tend to stay with the abuser/taker and justify them, we accept all sorts of bad relationships and normalize conducts that are not admissible or at least healthy for us. The healthy position is to understand when we are going overboard with the giving, not asking for anything in exchange and being satisfied even when our contributions are not reciprocated.
Contrary to what we may read about how bad it is to keep score of our relationships, which is not healthy, understanding why we tolerate those imbalances is also crucial.
A good starting point could be to keep track of things we do that fall into the category of going out of the way when giving. Are we doing all the leg work or is the other person meeting us half-way? Are they giving us just a twenty percent or is there a balance in the exchange?
I have started imagining my interactions with others as a matter of
percentages. I don’t want to be selfish because I like being a giver, that
quality my inner little kid needs to wear as a badge, I can accept because I
like going the extra mile now and then. I won’t change my essence nor what I like to do, mostly if it doesn’t hurt anyone.
But I certainly want to be able to set proper boundaries.
My new “me” is now paying attention to how much I give and how much I am given back. When I find myself interacting with someone else who gives me at the same time they take, the synergy that is created is an exhilarating feeling of peace and joy and fulfillment. If, on the contrary, I realize I am dealing with a taker and the balance is getting lost, I take notes and I start backing up a notch, and that is it. It is enough. I just don’t invest myself a hundred percent, I save that for the others who are givers as well.
Setting healthy boundaries helps us preserve our energies and respect and turns us into more aware individuals. We start allowing our inner kid to be happier because we now understand that there was nothing wrong with us, to begin with, and that we are human beings that were not appreciated enough at the start of the race, just that. Now we can start giving ourselves a little pat on the back and use our energies to create dynamic relationships with people who vibrate on the same wavelength.
Are you a giver? Want to share your experience at finding that delicate balance? Please do so below, in comments, thank you!
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