I was at a party overlooking the New York City Pride March this past June when I heard a lovely young African-American woman share a powerful statement with a group of listeners. Gay marriage had just been legalized and everyone was filled with joy and excitement. A rainbow of colors filled the apartment as we danced to house music, drank in celebration and poured our overflowing love onto each other.
“Don’t be selfish with your gifts,” she said.
A few days ago, I wrote about my need to set boundaries when it comes to other people. I have a bad habit of giving and giving until I have nothing left to give.
Today — sixteen days into my morning journal and this daily gratitude blog — I feel wonderful. You see, these past couple weeks have showed me that I want to give now more than I ever have in my life, but in a different way than to which I’m accustomed.
Unhealthy giving comes in many shapes and sizes, but it stems from a place of fear or lack. Giving to win approval, get someone to like you or make somebody feel indebted to you are a few examples.
One below-the-surface reason why people give unhealthily is the need to control everything. Finding it difficult to watch someone struggle, we try to ease the load by offering advice or cleaning up the mess. While this is not necessarily bad, it can hinder growth and lead to resentment on both ends if overdone.
I became so practiced at the art of unhealthy giving that my self-image became aligned with the role of a “giver.” This only perpetuated the problem because I started feeling guilty whenever I needed a helping hand. Seeing it as my job to solve others’ problems along with my own, I even got myself into the habit of apologizing for showing any negative emotions whatsoever.
“I’m sorry for crying, Danny,” I frequently sob to my roommate, trying hard to pull my shit together because I don’t want to burden him with my emotions.
“Lyss, you gotta stop apologizing,” he replies every single time.
There are many kinds of unhealthy giving, but there is one I am especially guilty of: Focusing all of my attention on helping other people to avoid looking at myself and the changes I need to make in my own life.
It’s a hell of a lot easier to focus on fixing another person’s life than to deal with the uneasiness I feel when I think about how I could be living a way more impactful life.
Don’t be selfish with your gifts.
Withholding your talent, passion and expression from the world is quite possibly the most selfish thing you can do. It’s what I’ve done for most of my life.
CHOOSE TO BE A (HEALTHY) GIVER.
When you express yourself freely, it encourages others to do the same. When you present your true self to the world, others feel more comfortable being honest about who they really are. When you share your music or your art, others can relate to it and to you. Share your thoughts with the world and they might just inspire someone to do something great.
DO YOUR THAAANG
But Alyssa, I don’t have one passion.
Who the fuck cares? Not me! Follow anything you’re interested in. You’re not marrying your interest. Date around. Maybe you’ll find a hobby that sticks, maybe you’ll slut it up with a bunch of interests. Don’t let the world fool you into thinking you have to choose one thing.
I REPEAT: YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE THING!!!
As of late, healthy giving to me means expressing myself through words and my writing. Maybe it’s a blog post or a song. Perhaps it is just a thoughtful Facebook status. Other times, giving might mean posting a cover song online or drawing a picture for a friend.
I only have a handful of readers on my blog as of right now, but when people reach out to me and tell me they’re enjoying my posts or they relate to what I’m sharing, it sure feels damn good to give.
Stop unhealthily “giving” to others to distract yourself from you and start positively impacting the world by giving yourself away. It feels good. I promise.
"Don't be selfish with your gifts." I was at a party overlooking the New York City Pride March this past June when I…bit.ly