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“I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.” ~ Maya Angelou
When I was young, like most other parents, my parents also taught me good human virtues, the lessons of kindness, compassion, and generosity.
I saw my mother rushing between the kitchen and verandah in the morning, setting up the breakfast when she had to leave for work. The anxiety in her voice showed how much she was juggling. She was a school teacher, extremely hardworking, putting up with demanding in-laws, irritating teenaged kids (us), and a husband who himself had a lot on his plate. I grew up with those inherited belief systems and culture that says women should give until it hurts and should give before they take anything for themselves. My dad, a professor, and a social activist taught us how to be of service to others and remain humble, no matter how high you soar in life.
I grew up with such mental conditioning. However, once I stepped out of my comfort zone to seek financial freedom and independence, life came up to me and said, “Hey Girl! Throwing you a curveball. Catch.” Perfect timing! The emotionally vulnerable and naive me, I totally sucked. With all the optimism, I began to approach the world with the same happy heart space that I was carrying since my childhood. No denying the fact that it came in handy while making new friends, yet, at times, it also led me to self-doubt and disappointment. Especially when my generosity wasn’t reciprocated in the same capacity, it left me confused and at times heartbroken. I thought, maybe trying harder would work, hence I tried to overextend myself, but that was my biggest mistake. That is when I realized the difference between being generous and an over-giver.
According to an article in Harvard Business Review, Beat Generosity Burnout, “Although givers are the most valuable people in organizations, they’re also at the greatest risk for burnout. When they don’t protect themselves, their investments in others can cause them to feel overloaded and fatigued, fall behind on their work goals, and face more stress and conflict at home.”
Some of the common signs of emotional burnout are: feeling stuck or trapped in a situation, losing sleep, stressed, irritated, irrational anger, overwhelmed with emotions, and exhaustion.
Here are some ways that can help treat emotional burnout:
1. Stop the cruise control.
The moment you start to feel emotionally exhausted, it is important to pause and take your life off cruise control. Routine, running behind getting things done, being a people pleaser—these all may lead to emotional burnout. Take a back seat and allow life to take its course. This would also mean giving up on some of those perfectionists and controlling tendencies, and letting things flow naturally.
2. The looking glass.
Once you’ve paused, it is time to gain a new perspective. Some soul searching and inner work can help you understand the root of your problem. Where is this drive to over-give coming from? Is it generosity, mental conditioning, or a value-based need for attention? Whatever the case may be, it needs to be addressed and corrected before moving forward.
3. Act mindfully.
Now, you have done all the work, and hopefully, you are in a much balanced mental and emotional space. It is time to act upon your newly acquired wisdom. Be mindful of how much is too much, and a periodic self-check will go a long way to stop you from falling back on the emotional rollercoaster.
An over-giver is someone who keeps giving with an expectation to receive the same amount of love and affection in return. It stems from a place of scarcity instead of abundance. Perhaps, it turns into a moral obligation when they feel that they will receive more appreciation from others if they give more. Self-love plays a pivotal role here, and it is okay to put yourself first without the fear of coming out as selfish, or egoistic. Generosity, on the other hand, comes from an open heart and an abundant space and cannot be accessed until we haven’t nurtured ourselves before giving to others.