We all love to give - to our children, our community, or the
And why not, giving is great - it helps, it supports, it makes
us feel good.
But giving can also deplete. I have worked with a lot of
exhausted parents who give too much, or workaholics who never feel
like they are doing enough, or volunteers who spread themselves too
thin because they want to help everyone (and I know people who
attempt to do all three!).
I have seen how giving can hack away at energy, sanity, or any
feeling of contentment or joy.
Not only I have seen it, I have experienced it personally.
I am not suggesting we stop giving, but that we begin to use a
different word to describe our desire to help - a word that has the
potential to create a completely different kind of experience.
And although I would love to take credit for this word, it was
offered to me by a shaman that I met in Santa Fe while I was on a
trip with my girlfriends.
We were talking about keeping our energy "up" so we could make a
difference in the world, and when I mentioned how much I enjoy
giving, he immediately stopped me.
"That's your problem," he said. "You have to change that."
Confused, I asked, "Change what? I shouldn't like giving?"
"No," he said. "You shouldn't be giving - that means you are
giving away what you need to help. You should be sharing
what you have and keeping some for yourself so you can continue to
Saying that this was a light bulb moment is an understatement. I
have preached self care the majority of my adult life, but this
gave it a clarity I have never experienced before.
If you really want to be there for your children, your job, and
for the world, you have to be healthy and whole to do it. You don't
just need to be near the top of the list, you need to be #1 on the
list if you really plan to make a difference.
Giving is good, but it also has the potential to breed
resentment; that feeling of being taken advantage of or not being
recognized for all your efforts.
But really, it is your responsibility to monitor what you give
rather than get annoyed at the people who willingly accept what you
So the tricky part is that to be a good "sharer," you may need
to say no - to your friend, your child, or maybe even your work, so
you can begin to say yes to yourself.
You may also need to ask for help which can be especially hard
for givers (myself included). We don't want to take from anybody or
make anyone else uncomfortable.
But if we want to share of ourselves we need to learn some new
We need to open up some space in our lives for choice and
flexibility, and we have to realize that nobody changes the world
alone. If we really want to make a difference, we need support.
So we can start by realizing our boundaries and respecting the
signals from our body to slow down or pull back.
And we can begin to look at this as a gift rather than a
roadblock - that our body already carries innate wisdom about what
self love means.
By making ourselves a priority we may be able to avoid the
time-consuming pitfalls of illness, exhaustion, and overall
negativity that manifest because we turn away from our own
And as we begin to practice this behavior of sharing,
we fully experience how good it feels to genuinely offer ourselves
to the people and causes that we love.
While simultaneously role modeling for the next generation what
it means to give back in a responsible and self-loving way.
Click here to hear Cathy and Todd
discuss this blog and more on Zen Parenting
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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