Learning to be a Healthy Giver
By Elizabeth Barrera
It’s always been a part of my nature to give. That’s just who I am. If you need a hand, I am going to help you. If you call me crying about your man leaving you (again), I am going to be there for you. I’m going to check in on you the next day, too. I’ll ask how you’re doing and if there’s anything I can do for you. If you’re looking for a job and are struggling in your search, I am going to help you find that damn job. I’m going to push you and empower you to build confidence and trust in yourself.
In essence, I’m always naturally just a giver. I give and I give and I give. I don’t even think about it, I just do it. And from God’s perspective, I’m sure it’s a great thing, right? We should always be giving without expecting something in return.
In human nature and emotional and psychological needs, however, it’s a little draining. It’s draining to always be giving and not receiving. It’s draining to put so much of yourself out there for others without even receiving the bare minimum in return.
Which prompts me to ask the following question: if you’re giving someone everything you possibly can and they’re struggling to give you the bare minimum, then why are you still there?
I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time. And what I’ve noticed and realized is that it's okay to be a giver, but you need to know when it’s time for you to fall back and let things be.
I recently decided to allow people to walk out of my life if they wanted to - without chasing. And that’s unfortunately a big task for me because I didn’t know how to give up on people. I assumed that they’re just going through a rough patch and needed to be checked in on even if they were pushing me away. I allowed myself to believe that there were things going on in their lives that had nothing to do with me and that their unfair actions towards me were simply coping or defense mechanisms; so I forced myself to be understanding and compassionate. Essentially, I stroked egos, built excuses for them, and put myself and my feelings last. Which isn’t the worst thing on earth, but it also wasn’t necessarily the healthiest.
The idea of placing importance on my mental and physical health was never a priority for me. My priorities were to give to people what they needed from me so that they could be happy. And for the longest time, I felt drained and empty and just unfulfilled. I was looking everywhere for the happiness that I wasn’t going to find because I had to search for it and build it within myself, and for myself.
These past few weeks showed me who my true people are. Especially in terms of who’s checking in on me. I was able to distinguish those who wanted to give me a little piece of them from those who kept wanting to take. And, naturally, I became fed up and decided to not react, but instead, tell myself that it was okay. It’s okay to remove myself from situations where I’m being vented to, but the time isn’t made for me to do the same. (I don’t know if it’s some natural healing aura that I give off to people, but geez do I become a shoulder to lean on for friends and loved ones going through hardships. But can you guess how many of those are there for me in the same way? Not even half.) While I think givers naturally provide essential comfort and support, I think it’s only fair to give that same comfort and support in return. There’s a word for it and it’s called reciprocation.
Due to this realization, these past few weeks have been rough. Rough in a good and bad way. But thanks to these past few weeks, I’ve been able to say, “You know what, Elizabeth, we are not going to do this anymore. We are not going to put up with late night intoxicated calls that pour out intimate emotions but are disregarded in the daytime; we’re not going to put up with people who are only concerned about coming to you when it’s convenient for them. Especially when they know that you’re going through a rough patch but don’t bother to check in on you to see how you’re doing, and only think of reaching out when they are feeling some type of way. Not when you are, but when they are.”
It’s okay to take a step back from people sometimes. And I know that God wants us to give and to love without expecting much in return. But as humans who crave that desire, who need all that, I tell you that it’s okay that you can’t keep giving nonstop. Granted, I’m not God and can’t tell you what is and isn’t right. But I do know that it’s okay that you want to feel that same amount of love and support. It’s fine.
Fall back. Do whatever you have to do to refuel and find that inner peace.
Don’t give your everything to people who aren’t going to give a damn (that’s basically where I’m trying to go with this). I know that sometimes it can be difficult to do that, especially for my fellow givers. Don’t be selfless for people who are selfish. Don’t be giving your everything to one person, keep a little bit to yourself. And no, this doesn’t necessarily mean “be guarded”, nor is it dismissing that idea, but I do urge you to protect your inner peace and take care of yourself, too.
In my case, for example, I’m learning that it’s okay to take a step back from those who only take from me. It’s okay to be slightly guarded and not want to continue a one-sided relationship where I’m the only one checking in.
Only we know how difficult something is for us. Let’s really look to remove all those things and people that make us unhappy, and actively make it a goal to do better for ourselves.