As Christmas swiftly approaches giving is definitely on everyone’s radar. Be it last minute dashes to get forgotten gifts, or worrying about having enough, or the right presents for people. And gift giving isn’t the only type of giving that happens. There’s also the desire to be generous with your time and patience. It’s time to spend with your loved ones and show them what they mean to you. Or bicker over who gets the last mince pie or has to do the washing up!
Christmas isn’t the only time we give to others though. Giving is an important part of the Higher Purpose category in the Ideal Balance Needs Model for a reason. We’re social animals, meant to live in communities and to be connected to one another. Giving is a way to foster that sense of community. And research suggests that giving back is good for you. Volunteering has been shown to be beneficial for a number of reasons including reducing depression and increasing wellbeing.
Too Much of a Good Thing
The thing is, giving is good but too much of it can be bad for you. The desire to give can easily tip over to people pleasing and putting others before yourself. I’m a firm believer that you have to put your needs first. That it isn’t selfish to prioritise what you need and there are excellent reasons to do it. And if you’re giving too much to others to the detriment of your own needs, then you’re not being balanced.
This works the other way as well. It’s possible to be too focused on your own needs, to become self-absorbed. At this time of year, we suddenly get flooded with “new year, new you” messages. The self-help industry starts offering you services and products that allow you to be more or be better. But these messages are intrinsically self-absorbed. They’re about you doing something wholly for yourself. About thinking about how you want life to be, how you want to feel, how you are going to behave. Too much of that will also make you unbalanced.
This is why balance is such an important practice to foster. To prevent you from ending up too far to either extreme. When it comes to giving here are some ways you can give without giving away your power or balance.
Ask yourself why you’re giving?
Understanding why you’re giving in the first place is so important. If you’re giving from a place of balance it’ll make you feel energised. You’ll be giving because you genuinely want to do something nice for the other person.
If you’re giving because you feel you should it’ll be draining and make you feel negative. If you feel any resentment or frustration there’s a chance you’re not giving from a place of balance. People pleasing and putting others before yourself often come with a lot of expectations, guilt and indecision.
Finally, if you’re giving because you expect something in return or to make yourself look good there’s a chance you’re too far towards the self-absorbed end of the spectrum. Giving will make you feel good, but if that’s the primary driver it’s unlikely you’re balanced.
The first step is simply knowing where the behaviour is coming from. Sometimes being honest with yourself is often the hardest step.
Christmas is a good time to identify if either of the negative behaviours is a pattern you repeat all year round. If it is, how often does this show up and what’re the negative consequences for you?
Is it the best way to give?
As I mention above giving comes in many forms. At Christmas, there’s a lot of focus on physical gifts but giving can also come in the guise of time, a listening ear or kind words. Giving is best when it has 2 things – it comes from a place of love and it’s what the person wants.
The 5 Love Languages are a great way to work out both these things. There are, unsurprisingly, 5 different ways people give and receive love (the love languages). Your main love language is a pretty good indicator of how to give in a way which will ensure the giving come from a loving place. If you’ve ever wondered why, at Christmas, all the gift giving can make you feel so uncomfortable, it’s probably because gifts aren’t your main love language.
The theory also allows you to work out what another person’s love language is. And then, by giving to them in their love language you’re truly giving them what they want. This type of altruistic giving has been found to be best for your health.
An added bonus of this is if they feel more loved they’re likely to be more positive towards you, which will make the whole exchange more pleasant. And, giving to someone in the way they feel loved stops you from tipping over to the self-absorbed side of the spectrum.
How can I balance it out?
If you feel your giving has fallen too far towards to people pleasing end of the spectrum it can be a good time to think about what you need to give yourself to get back to balance. Start with forgiveness, as beating yourself up for going out of balance doesn’t do anyone any favours. Then look at which needs are most neglected and plan to do one thing to meet one of them. Lack of time is no excuse. In fact, here are some super quick ways you can meet your needs.
If you feel you’re actually too far the other way and want to give a bit more to others, identify some ways you can give more of whatever you feel you can. That could be a monetary donation, making time to do something for a family member, adding something to the food donations when you’re next in the supermarket, sending a letter or a card to a friend you haven’t spoken in a while. There are lots of options. You can base it on your love language or, for more altruistic benefits, base it on the love language of someone important to you and give to them in a way they’d appreciate.
Where’s the gratitude?
Instantly changing a behaviour to be more balanced isn’t always possible. At Christmas especially, it can be hard to buck the trend of physical gift giving, even if you know it isn’t the main love language for either you or the person you’re giving to. And there’s a lot of expectation and pressure which will make you default back to the hard-grained behaviours you’ve had for years.
Making time to find the gratitude can bring balance when this is the case. Even if that gratitude is that you’ve discovered something about yourself that you can change. That you have the ability to know these things about yourself, and the free will to change it if you want. Being able to find things to be grateful for is a wonderful way to channel the giving spirit of Christmas and stop the season from overwhelming you.
So there are a few ways to balance being generous and giving. And these things apply all year around. Giving will help you meet your Higher Purpose Needs, which is an equally important category of needs as any of the others. But, as with many things in life, there is a balance to get right to ensure you stay in your balance bandwidth.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you enjoy gift giving? How do you get the balance right? Let me know in the comments below.
And I want to wish you all a very happy holiday season where ever you are and however you’re celebrating.
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