“It is better to give than to receive”. How many times have we used that phrase in our lives? Do you genuinely believe it?
Since I can remember, I derived pleasure from making others happy. People-pleasing was easy for me and quite honestly, a way of life. Pleasing others came to life in a random act of kindness here and there or going that extra mile to attain the label of being “good “. It sounds somewhat harmless, doesn’t it? Make people happy, give them what they want. Give of yourself – it’s the right thing to do.
For some of us, this tendency is innate and is part of our “Essential Self”, which Martha Beck describes in “Finding Your Own North Star” as the basic you, stripped of all options and special features, formed before you were born. There are people in the world who LOVE to give of themselves because it brings sheer joy; it is who they were born to be. The willingness or desire to give of their essential selves to humanity is what fuels them because they want to make a difference IN the world, FOR the world (that might include quite a few life coaches!).
But the thrill of pleasing others because we think we “should” is a cultural or social stigmata…at least in terms of the Disproportionate Giver. On the other side of the Essential Self, Martha Beck also describes the “Social Self”, which is the segment of our persona that is shaped by pressure from the people around you (including the people that raised you), or the social rules that define us.
We are taught from a very young age that giving without expectation of anything in return is ‘good’ and continues as we age:
- The elementary or middle school student who gets straight A’s, plays 3 instruments and is already involved in a travel sport or two (at this age, is it really the child asking for all this?).
- The college student who graduates a year early with a 5.5 GPA (that exists, right?), in the field chosen by Mom and Dad.
- The business professional who is dedicated to working nights and weekends just to “get ahead”, who eagerly volunteers for more responsibility (after all, this shows initiative!).
Don’t get me wrong; hard work is important, worthwhile and almost always come with a reward.
WHY do we give this way? How do we become a Disproportionate Giver?
Typically, our first reaction when challenged with the question of “Why?” is justifying our behavior with whatever stories we have in our back pocket at the time. I encourage you to think about this a different way. Consider the concept that thoughts generate feelings; and feelings drive behavior.
Let’s take the example of the working professional. During my quest to climb the corporate ladder early in my career, I worked many nights and many weekends. My justification would have sounded something like, “Why did I work all weekend? Well, because I HAVE to get this work done. The company needs it to be done!”
In our notion of ‘thoughts generate feelings; and feelings drive behavior’, let’s work backward. The defined behavior was working all weekend.
What feelings drove this behavior? For me, it was a pursuit of pleasing “the company”, which was comprised of an infinite number of individuals. I wanted approval from my boss, my bosses’ boss (and up the ladder), my co-workers and my partners. I was certain that if I did all this work, I would be valued. I forever believed my ego would receive one hell of a reward. Ultimately, the feeling was FEAR. I feared rejection.
Now, things get interesting…what were the thoughts that generated these feelings?
Where do I begin?
“You’re too young to be taken seriously as a business woman.”
“You’re just a pretty face.”
“You need to fit the corporate mold.”
“If you want people to know your name, you need to work harder.”
…..and the worst of them all, “You’re not good enough.”
These thoughts swirled around in my head all the time. I was afraid of being rejected and desperately craved approval and validation.
Today, I still work very hard, but in a much different sense. I have worked hard on learning myself, on knowing myself. I now understand ME and the power of my own thoughts. Today, I question every toxic thought that enters my brain and ask, “Is it true?”
Today, I believe a different thought; a thought that says “I am good enough”.
Today, you may identify yourself in the story of the Disproportionate Giver. If so, I invite you to notice the thoughts that occur. Notice the feelings these thoughts are generating and finally, notice the behavior you display when these feelings drive action. This is the beginning of learning you; the beginning of claiming the freedom of your own truth.