The Balance of Being a Giver

If you are involved in helping others achieve fitness goals, there is a good chance you are a generous giver. Most people who are involved in positions where they teach and encourage others are naturally inclined to give. Like any other good quality, it is really important to realize you need balance when you are a giver.

I have written several times about the giving nature of fitness professionals and the fitness community in general. I have met so many wonderful people over the years who are always willing to help others. The sense of comradery and encouragement has been so powerful. The inspiration received from others has helped me in so many areas of my life.

People who have found the right balance of giving and receiving feed off of the energy it provides. However, there is a danger if you feel that you must constantly give and rarely receive from others. Over-giving can become a burden which drains our energy and motivation.

Our Emotional Bank Account

Let’s use the example of a bank account to illustrate the balance all of us need to have. In order to make proper use of a bank account, we need to make deposits and withdrawals. We need to make sure that we have money in the account on a regular basis. What happens if we continually withdraw money until there is nothing left? The account becomes overdrawn and we get to incur the penalties that come with draining our savings.

Our emotional account works much the same way. In order to make meaningful withdrawals, we have to make sure we are balanced and also receiving what we need. This is especially important for someone who works as a fitness professional and feeds off of energy. If you are in constant state of over-giving, you probably feel exhausted and resentful of the grind. If you constantly sacrifice your needs in behalf of others, it is something that is simply unsustainable.

I have seen this effect with many clients over the years. When I worked full-time as a trainer, I would meet so many people who met the criteria of over-giving. The vast majority of my clients were women, and they were such incredible people. Most of them were wives, mothers, successful professionals, and volunteers. They were giving people who loved taking care of others.

Taking Care of Yourself

The problem came when it was time to take care of themselves. Some felt a sense of guilt and a pressure to constantly give to others. I remember a few clients who felt guilty about taking the time to come in and work out. Despite all of their wonderful qualities, they generally felt undervalued and unappreciated.

I like to write about this issue since it is something I have always struggled with. While I pride myself on being generous to others, I struggle when it’s time to receive something in return. I can always tell very quickly when things get out of balance for me. It feels good to put the needs of others before your own, but only if you are in balance. Otherwise, it starts to feel like a struggle.

Dr. Karen Kleiman wrote an excellent article about this topic in Psychology Today. In the article “Are You an Over-Giver”, she highlighted 7 points that can help you determine if you might be giving too much:

  1. It feels so good and important for you to be the giver in almost every relationship.
  2. You feel guilty when someone gives something to you.
  3. You put the needs of others before your own.
  4. You apologize excessively if you are not able to “give” the way you would like to.
  5. You avoid or are uncomfortable at the thought of asking for something.
  6. You have considered the possibility that your giving could be the result of some insecurity.
  7. You find that you give because you want to feel loved, liked, or admired.

You can read the entire article right here: Are You an Over-Giver?

Money and Giving to Others

Since I like to focus on financial issues, this is especially true with your money. I have seen many people struggle with their own personal finances because they are too busy trying to give to others. That type of generosity is commendable, but only if it comes from a place of abundance and with the proper motivation.

Unfortunately, I have worked with individuals that gave of their financial resources until the point they were in significant debt. Just like their emotional energy, when they gave too much of their money to other people it was unsustainable. Whether it was in the form of presents, a cash gift to help someone out, or a loan that was never paid back, it hurt their bottom line.  They also became resentful and felt taken advantage of.

Set Boundaries

To help my clients overcome that negative outcome, we had to set boundaries. It was important to understand they could give of themselves in other ways to help people. They had to realize that they were out of balance. They were giving to the point of it becoming a burden and ultimately was self-defeating. It can be really hard to overcome that mentality, but I have worked with people who were able to find a happy medium.

This is really hard for people who are inclined to bail out friends and family members who run into money problems. Many people feel obligated to help everyone who asks them for financial assistance. Again, I just ask that you exercise caution. If you can afford to give some money to a friend or family member in need, it may be appropriate. You have to be cautious about being taken advantage of and also enabling bad habits. If it is to your own financial detriment, you simply have to say no.

The other person may not like being told no, but you have to take care of your needs first. I have seen many instances where disputes over money ended relationships. Sometimes it is better to say no and endure a short period of hard feelings. That is much better than someone exploiting your generosity and running your own personal finances into the ground.

Give From the Heart

Being a giver is a gift that all of us enjoy. Just like the old proverb says, “there is more happiness in giving than receiving.” However, it is important that we also learn how to be a good receiver. If we allow others to give to us, we are giving them an opportunity to experience that same feeling of happiness.

Finding the right balance of giving and receiving can be a challenge. However, it is critical to our self-care that we give it a priority. Remember, whether discussing our emotional or our physical bank accounts, we need the right amount of deposits and withdrawals.  If we can find the proper balance of being a giver, it can bring even greater feelings of satisfaction and happiness.

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