Some people are exceptionally generous.
It may be because they’re in a good position, with plenty of money, time, expertise or skills and they feel it’s only right that they share with those who would benefit from some help.
Then there are those who appear to have comparatively little by way of good fortune, but are happy to give what they can to support others.
They’d give their last dime if they felt it was needed, being sensitive to others and their situations.
However, some people are opportunistic friends.
They’re the takers in life, who regard any offers of kindness as their own good fortune. They’re happy to take without a second thought. This can become an issue, especially if someone’s generosity is taken for granted and regarded as an automatic right in the relationship.
It begs the question, should there come a time when you question why you’re so generous, why your natural default is always to be kind, help others and rarely decline requests? There can be many reasons, and whilst most of us want to be supportive and do what we can for others, it’s also important to, at times, be self-aware and gain insight into our motivation, whilst checking whether being so generous has become a problem in our life.
Some people struggle with imposter syndrome and suspect that they don’t deserve their success, that they will eventually be discovered to be a fraud. They use being generous as a way to compensate others, believing that they’re more worthy and entitled to any rewards. They may feel guilty at benefitting from their own success, and so donate gifts and assistance as a way to redress the balance.
Other people want to be liked and be seen as the ‘good guy’, always helpful to a fault, ready to share, be supportive and put others first. This can be okay on ‘good’ days, when there’s plenty of time to spare and everyone’s relaxed, but not every day is like this and sometimes saying, ‘no’ in a positive, yet assertive way teaches others not to expect too much too often.
How do you change, when you’re generous to a fault.
Accept that being generous is your decision, your behaviour and hence, your problem. Yes, none of us should give, expecting to receive in return. But if you find that you’re becoming resentful about the takers in your life and feel that it’s too late to change, maybe start to view your generosity as a way of establishing some good karma. The takers will no doubt receive their just rewards at some point in the future.
It may be that others are so used to your being supportive, looking after and taking care of them that they don’t realise how much you actually do. They may not appreciate how much time, effort or money you invest in helping them. So occasionally say, ‘I did a big shop today’, ‘I collected your dry cleaning for you’. There’s no need to mention everything you do, but why not intermittently put it out there.
If the other person has genuinely no understanding of what your generosity costs in terms of time, effort, finances it doesn’t hurt to let them know that you’ve had to sacrifice lunch, spent hours on the phone, made several trips, travelled miles to help them out. At first, or as a one-off, that might have been okay, but it’s very different if it becomes an expected, regular part of your routine.
If there’s little or no response to this you could voice that you want some appreciation, ‘a thank you would be nice!’ Just because you’re happy to help, it’s convenient for you to do certain things, doesn’t mean that it’s automatic that you should. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘we teach people how to treat us.’ Ask and wait for thanks and then everyone can feel valued.
Why not suggest something they could do in return? Most people have something they can contribute by way of appreciation. Could they help with childcare, spend a little time looking after your garden, walk your dog, do some admin or PA work? They may have thought that you wouldn’t value their input, especially if they see you as ultra-efficient and organised, but let them help and become part of your mutual support system.
Set boundaries, where you’re firm and clear about what you will and won’t do. Refusing to be guilt-tripped into being generous can be tough at first, especially if you suspect the other person is relying on your help. But your first priority has to be to take care of yourself and those closest to you. Spreading yourself too thin, wearing yourself out is not a healthy way to live your life.
You can always put a pause on being generous until there’s some reciprocation. You could even float the idea of sharing tasks, where one does one thing whilst the other does something else. Then both sides gain awareness of what’s involved.
An important way to back off from being generous to a fault may be to source alternative ways they can get the help and support they need, so educating them to become more independent. Suggest online training courses, advice centres, support groups, all of which are often readily available and sometimes free. Doing this may give them access to much of what they need and enable your relationship to become more evenly balanced.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net