Kaitlin Broderick LCPC   

We grow as people by getting outside of ourselves and being able to think of and help others. Some people even say this is a necessary component of finding happiness. However, how do you know when you are giving too much of yourself and neglecting the one person you need to take care of the most (yourself?) The following guidelines can help you in becoming a “successful giver”, someone who thinks of others while at the same time being mindful and taking care of their own needs. 

  1. Limit the time that you are available to others. Block out an hour or two every day where you turn off your emails and your phone and spend time relaxing or doing something that is important to you. This could be as simple as taking a few hours off to watch Netflix, exercise, or work on an art project. Figure out what you need to do to relax and make sure you are doing this on a consistent basis. This may feel a little strange initially to someone who is used to always being available for work or for their significant other. Remind yourself that work and your personal life won’t implode because you stepped away for an hour. 
  2. Instead of feeling like you have to do something for someone else, give them the tools to succeed on their own. For example, it may feel tempting to jump in and take over an art project your child is struggling with but remind yourself that this only hinders their growth in the long run. When you take complete responsibility for someone else this actually harms them more than it helps them. Without meaning to, you are sending the message that you don’t think they are capable of figuring things out for themselves.
  3. Recognize when you’re being taken advantage of. This can happen in friendships, work relationships, or romantic relationships. How do you know when you are being taken advantage of? If you have a friend who you are constantly doing favors for and listening to, but never getting any reciprocity this can be a sign that the relationship is one-sided. Likewise, if someone is always late or making you come to them, this can also be a sign that they don’t respect your time. People who really care about you will want to stop and listen to what is going on with you and your life and be respectful of you. 
  4. Recognize when you are taking on too much and be honest with yourself about it. Our society today is constantly on the go and people seem to place pride in how busy they are. It is important to slow down sometimes and appreciate the quiet. Without this, you will drain yourself of energy and eventually crash and burn. Take breaks, go for a walk outside, get good sleep. This will help you to be more effective in the long term. 
  5. Be aware of and honest with yourself in what your intentions are in giving to others. Giving to others should always be from a place of compassion. Be aware if you are giving of yourself out of guilt or trying to escape something. For example, some people focus on others so they can avoid looking at themselves. They may fixate on other people and in trying to solve other people’s problems, they don’t have to look at something deep within themselves they have been avoiding. On the same hand, giving out of guilt almost always leads to resentment and can ruin a relationship.

If you would like to talk to a professional counselor, Symmetry Counseling can help. Contact us today to talk to a Chicago therapist in-office, or via our online counseling services.