How to Stop Giving Too Much of Yourself

Geordie Bull

Once upon a time I was afraid I had nothing to give. I looked around and saw other women volunteering at the canteen, the playgroup, preschool and school committees – giving their time when they seemed to have none. The idea of being on a committee made me feel anxious but a part of me longed to give, to be part of a community and contribute to the betterment of the whole. I just couldn’t figure out how to give without stealing something valuable from myself – my precious time or energy. I wanted to give from a place of abundance, not martyrdom.

Learning how to authentically contribute requires some creative thinking. I’ve started to question the traditional ways women give in our society because everywhere I look, there are exhausted women giving more time, more energy, without asking anything in return. My husband recently told me that he was finishing a golf game with a mate, and one of the club committee members asked them if they’d sell raffle tickets that night. Before my husband could answer, his friend replied, “sorry, I’ve just finished working a 65-hour week. I’m going to go home and relax.” Can you imagine a woman saying those words? Comfortably, with zero guilt?

I no longer wish to give my most precious resources – my time and energy – to anything that does not sing to my soul or make me feel full. Selfish? Maybe. Vital? Definitely.

Here’s the three-step process I now employ to ensure my giving comes from the right place:

  1. Create a list of things you love to do and that come naturally. For me, this list includes painting, writing, growing veggies, baking and crafting – anything creative. After that, make a list of things you don’t love (hint: observe the things that consistently drain your energy). This list may or may not include selling raffle tickets, attending long meetings or babysitting.
  2. Consult your list every time you’re asked to give, and base your decision on my preferences. This allows you more creativity in how your respond to these requests. You may say no to manning a stall at your child’s school fundraiser but a big yes to baking cupcakes. Something I’ve noticed is that people who love baking are often not the same people who love being on committees, and vice versa. Some people love to be part of a group and thrive heading up a committee and lending their organisational skills to a cause. If that’s not you, it’s ok. Just be on the lookout for ways you can contribute and enjoy it.
  3. Actively look for ways to give that tap into your natural talents, resources and inclinations. If I have too many beans in the garden, give them to your friends. If you want to tell someone you love them and you’re a creative soul, write a poem or make them a card. What matters is how you give – with a spirit of joy and generosity that can only be felt when you’re giving because you want to.

Challenge:    How can you give in a way that fills your own cup?