Dear OvergiverApr 08, 2022
This is a letter to myself but I also wanted to share it with you.
Dear over giver in me,
Perhaps it the generational conditioning of women, to give until there is nothing left. To turn the faucet on and let it run until the well is dry. It would seem the obvious thing to blame the ones who take, to say givers need limits because takers never will set any.
We can play into the blame game and be the victim of the energy vampires, say people will rob you until there's nothing left then be angry when there is nothing left.
Sure, there's truth in that.
But there's also truth in that it's me that turned the tap in the first place, it's me who thought I had to, it's me who keep cycling and recycling giving and over giving. It's me who opens the door and turns the lights on and says come on in and take what you need.
If I don't know when to turn the tap off or when to close the door, how can it really be anyone else's fault? Once upon a time I used to say "but what kind of people would..." But after many cycles and many themes and many places I've found this in playing on repeat in my life, I get that open doors attract energy vampires.
My mentor Les Brown says "if there is no enemy inside the enemy outside can do you no harm". It's a powerful statement and it holds true for the over giver. If there isn't something inside of me that is conditioned to give at a cost of myself then there would be no over giving, no explanation, not drama, no whining, no show about it.
It just wouldn't be.
A long time ago my financial adviser said "I love to give but my business is not a charity". And I remember knowing I needed that message then. But I still didn't listen. I gave too much once upon a time in my life, now I do it in my business and it's easy to write off as exposure or marketing or advertising or service. But there's a big difference in service and servant.
I'm fascinated by human behaviour, why do we do what we do? Why do people do things at a cost of themselves? Why do we give until we're exhausted, emotionally bankrupt, financially broke (someone told me recently how they won 2 million in a lottery and within 2 years had nothing and were living in a basement apartment. He didn't spend it on himself but gave it to every sob story he heard. He felt bad. And left himself destitute).
Why do some people give until there's nothing left? And do some take until there's nothing left?
Why do people do what they do? Why do I do what I do? And more importantly, how do we stop self destructive behaviour?
As I lay in bed staring at the ceiling one morning, coming off a recently "over giving" period when I literally needed my energy, time and space for myself, I gave at a cost of myself - again.
I didn't have a lot to spare and I asked myself "why". Why did I just do that?
Because I felt I had to do it. I had to be there for people. I had to. It just kept repeating... I had to. I had to. So asked myself "why though?" And I didn't know know. I just felt like I had to do it. I had to show up. I had to be there.
And it washed over me suddenly - I have no self respect when it comes to giving. I give so much because I have no idea that I don't need to. That I don't have to. That I don't owe anyone anything. No, I don't have to do it.
As I lay there I felt how deeply I have disrespected myself, giving up myself instead of of myself. I felt it was no different than when I gave up my body to men who wanted it, because I didn't know how to say no.
I felt the vomit rise to my throat as I realized how little value I feel and the oldest of wounds of self respect raised their head and said "I'm still here". "You might have stopped giving away your body to whoever wanted it, you might have stopped bending yourself into a more pleasing external version of yourself, but you did not in fact stop giving yourself away."
I realized that in all the years of work I had come full circle, staring at myself giving away my work, my time, my energy, my value, my respect in ways that looked better than selling myself out but they were really no different at all.
When we respect ourselves we don't abuse ourselves.
And giving when our tank is empty is self inflicted abuse. Giving when we don't have the bandwidth or the space or the time is self inflicted disrespect. Giving when we didn't want to but felt we must is devaluing ourselves, our time, our energy (the greatest currency we have).
Perhaps after all home still feels like abuse sometimes... not home as in the people who love me... not with my parents or my partner... but within myself.
Perhaps over giving is my way of making ok that I never spoke up when I had the chance. Perhaps giving too much will somehow make my greatest flaw - the lack of courage I once had - less visible.
Perhaps the louder I roar the weaker I become.
Perhaps over giving isn't about giving at all but masking some deeply embedded flaw from when I learned to step aside and let someone take from me that which was mine.
Perhaps over giving isn't at all about giving but about deeply trying to be enough, for sometimes the trauma runs so deep and so broad we forget it's not a natural part of ourselves, that over giving is a trauma response.
That we become used to being taken and anything else just feels foreign. Familiar isn't always good. Sometimes familiar is trauma and sometimes we can justify our actions in the name of goodness. But it is not goodness when we open the door and let the monsters in because it feels familiar.
Sometimes danger feels like safety because it's all we know. Sometimes the tap runs until the well is dry because thirst is all we know. Sometimes the door is open because it feels like home. The inner home, the place we come to know as ours.
But often that home within us became a place to go, a place to be, a place where lived because it was all we had. And we keep finding our way back to it even when it's self destructive.
So why do we do what we do?
Conditioning. That's why. Unravelling decades of self destruction because it feels familiar and centuries of emptying ourselves because it feels normal.
When we step outside of normal it's uncomfortable. But it's in that discomfort that we can find our way to our true home, a place inside of ourselves, where we never have to give at a cost of ourselves, a place where we know limits and how faucets and locks work.
We know what authentic giving and taking feels like and we know what it doesn't. It feels like freedom, not a cage.
So dear over giver in me, today is the last day you give at a cost of me. Today is the day when I filter my giving through the lens of what feels truly good and what feels like "I had to".
Dear over giver, I love you. Because I know you were just trying to be enough. And I forgive you for not knowing what you didn't know. And I thank you for showing me, finally, how to respect myself.
PS... are you an over giver? I'd love to hear how this resonated...
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