I have a creative assistant who’s worked for me for many months. He’s more than my assistant. He is a friend and support. He helps me run my company more smoothly by just being by my side. I recently flew him to New York to help support me on my book tour. While out for dinner one night, he said something that disturbed me. He looked me in the eye and with concern said, “Why are you so nice to me? Why do you do sooooo much for others? What’s in it for you?”
I was shocked. I felt like our partnership was an even exchange. But through him asking this, I became painfully aware of the imbalance in our relationship.
I’ve heard it my entire life, “You’re too nice. What’s in it for you?” I would naively tell myself what’s in it for me is it feels good to give. It makes me happy to see others happy.
But if I were honest with myself, I was over giving financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I had nothing left in me. Halfway through my book tour for a book ironically about self-love, I found myself exhausted, consumed with worry, trapped in anxiety, and overwhelmed with pressure.
This was the dark-sided outcome of being an overgiver. A person who gives beyond their means in a subconscious attempt to feel accepted, needed, and good enough. There is a point where being nice and giving actually hurts you. I had been coasting along on the fine line for decades. This is the part of being a nice person that no one really talks about.
My deep need to please others was all to fill an empty hole that perhaps I wasn’t good enough. All my efforts were at the sacrifice of my own self.
For most of my life, being nice was my go-to form of existing. I would put others first in an attempt to feel needed and desired. Being an over giver isn’t necessarily seen in society as a bad thing. After all, givers have good karma. They are loaded with compassion and you can count on them. But over giving parades around with a nice hat, while it robs us of energy, self- care, joy, and love.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my over giving and “niceness” was really just a mask for my deep insecurity that I wasn’t good enough.
I wanted to be there for others because that meant I would be needed. At some point we have to ask ourselves, “When is enough, enough?” And let’s be honest, is giving really that bad? The problem isn’t giving but being unable to receive. I was giving all of this love, money, energy, and attention away, but I wasn’t tending to myself first. I wasn’t able to give myself this same love and care.
Over giving is a sneaky, self-sabotaging habit because giving to others whether it is time, money, or energy is “the good thing to do.” It’s what nice people do.
So what’s in it for me? My over giving resulted in an overweight body, chronic headaches and back pain, a fear of losing it all, and extreme anxiety that kept me up most nights.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
I fell asleep that night asking myself this critical question. I discovered that most of my life I was just going through the motions. I was doing what was easy and comfortable, what was expected of me. I wasn’t pushing to new levels of awareness, nor was I allowing myself to grow. I had saturated myself in the comfort of routine. And it was killing me.
When I got honest with myself I soon realized that most of what I had agreed to was out of alignment with myself. I said yes to speaking engagements that didn’t align with my true purpose or soul’s work. I would show up for friends’ kids birthday parties when my body was screaming at me to rest. I’d push through my own discomfort and pain because that’s what “good people” do.
Something needed to change. Change soon became my guiding light.
I asked myself,
What needs to change?
What in my life is no longer serving me?
What is really in it for me? What do I get out of this partnership, relationship, situation, environment?
You see, most of us do this. We give past our means because we want something in return. We want comfort, love, attention, even acknowledgment. But when we give these things to others and fail to give it to ourselves, we will never feel satisfied.
The true gift of belonging is knowing that you are good enough as you are, and you practice this by first tending to yourself.
Be honest with yourself: where are you giving past your means? What’s in it for you? Once you ask yourself the tough questions, you may soon see the changes necessary in your own life.
For me, I made some radical changes, I canceled the rest of my book tour, I basically pulled back from all events and engagements that felt out of alignment. I stopped my coaching practice for a couple of months and focused fully on myself, my health, and healing my own deep insecurity of not feeling good enough.
Taking this time for me to reflect and live my values transformed my entire life.
After giving myself the dedicated time to become my own care-taker, my own savior, my own friend, life become more manageable. I no longer suffer from anxiety or fear that I am not good enough. I no longer give the past my means, and I always ask unapologetically what’s in it for me. I am comfortable in my body and have respectful boundaries. But perhaps the most beautiful gift this experience gave me is realizing that giving to yourself is not selfish, but essential.
Because you deserve your own love and care. When you care for yourself first, your entire life becomes more relaxed and in the flow.
Start today. Start by giving yourself more time, attention, and care.
Your future self will thank you. And don’t be afraid to ask yourself often, what’s in it for me?
Shannon Kaiser is a best selling author of The Self-Love Experiment and Adventures for Your Soul, and an international speaker, retreat leader and teacher. She’s been named “Top 100 Women to Watch in Wellness,” by MindBodyGreen and “One of the freshest voices in mental health and wellness.” by Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon’s the founder of Playwiththeworld.com, named “Top 75 Personal Development Websites,” and “Top 100 Self Help Blogs” by the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Her work has been recognized in media outlets across the globe such as HuffPost Live, Health Magazine, Australian Vogue, Women’s Health, Spirituality & Health and Entrepreneur magazine. Everything Shannon does is to help you connect to your true self and unapologetically live your authentic purpose.
Image courtesy of Brynna Spencer.