Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve always been the giving type. My Mom made sure of that. When I was in elementary school, she cooked and prepared those beautiful meals that made me the star of the lunchtime breaks. The little boy that I was, faced with such admiration, couldn’t help but share the mouth-watering delicacies on his hand with his fellow buddies.
Life has never been fair, and while I was not the wealthiest in the room, some of my partners in crime didn’t have the same luxuries as me. So, I ended up sharing even more. Sometimes to the detriment of my own cravings. I wanted to do all the good that I could, but still, I was only a little boy. Ask a kid to share his one lollipop one too many times, and he might start eating it while hiding.
The thanks, the smiles, and the happiness I got from sharing with my friends was viciously tampering with my wants, my mood, and eventually my own happiness. I, too, wanted to enjoy my Mom’s meals.
Call it a sixth sense, a mother’s instinct, or simply the teachers snitching, but she picked it up. She knew what was going on at school, and she made a move I still remember till today.
She gave me two things.
The first one was a piece of advice, “give, but always make sure you have enough left for yourself.” The second was an extra portion, “however, if one of your friends really needs you, you can give him that.” I was in awe of her. That day, I met my first superhero.
The Social Exchange Theory
If you walked this earth long enough, you know what you’re worth. The life you lived tested you in so many ways that the individual you are now is the fruit of a tree that survived many seasons. And as balance wants it, and since we all are humans, if you are worth something, then others must be worth something as well.
The social exchange theory is the argument that assumes that all human relationships are a matter of costs and rewards and that people evaluate the worth of their relationship to make a rational decision of whether or not to progress.
It sounds mechanical, but if we are honest with ourselves, this is the basis of any relationship. We all have a pool of energy and resources we bring with us everywhere we go. Things like sleeping, healthy food, having a good time, or making more money, refills the bar. On the other side, things like worry, overthinking, sickness, or hard work not rewarded take a little bit away.
When you interact with someone, a trade is automatically in play. You act dumb in front of a baby to make him smile, and in return, that smile melts your heart and makes you happy. A friend calls, “I bring the food, you bring the wine.” You’re happy to rush to the liquor store, food is on its way.
We unconsciously trade with others because of our expectations and of what we think we deserve. When you give a gift to someone, you expect them to be happy, or simply to say thanks, but if they don’t, a little too often and without any good reasons, you might deem the relationship not worthy enough and break the trade.
There are many types of trade out there, and sometimes, the terms change. You give more than you get, and you end up having to trade with yourself.
Set Up The Terms Of The Trade
Each interaction you have with a fellow human being has the potential to add value to your life, to take a bit of it away, or to change nothing at all. And as balance wants it, the reverse is also true. Within each interaction you have with a fellow human being, you have the potential to add more value to their life, to take a bit of it away, or to change nothing at all.
Two things are important to set up the terms of the trade.
The first is to know yourself.
When you don’t know what you have to offer, you give people the opportunity to take the parts of you they want. And this, without you ever knowing the value of what they took, or with you knowing it too late. Assess your assets and their worth before you go out in the world.
More than what you have to offer, it’s also important to know what you want. Cause if you don’t, you give people the opportunity to dump on you the parts of them that will bring you no value.
The second is to care about others.
We all want different things in life, and concepts like happiness, respect, or lack of consideration cannot be compared one with the other. Hell, I’m more than happy to do your dishes for a chocolate bar.
It’s not because it’s called a trade that it needs to be an equivalent exchange. You don’t have to match what you give with what you receive. If you can give more, if you want to, please do. The world will thank you for it. As long as you make sure you have enough for yourself, please, give away.
If you make it a norm to give as much as you can without impeding yourself, you’ll receive even more than you hoped for. Though, the minute you realize you’re trading with yourself, it’s time to get out.
Every day, every one of us does a trade, a dance for a smile, a gift for a Thanks. These trades don’t always go as planned, but we can set up the terms to profit both parties.
To do so, you first have to know yourself, what you have to offer, and what you want. But you also need to care about others. You need to know that life and alchemy are two different things. The law of equivalent exchange does not apply here.
Make sure you have enough for yourself and give as much you can. You’ll overflow with happiness.
Every day, we all do a trade, but it’s not about who takes the most. It’s to make it so no one loses.
Mind Cafe’s Reset Your Mind: A Free 10-Day Email Course
We’re offering a free course to all of our new subscribers as a thank you for your continued support. When you sign up using this link, we’ll send you tips on how to boost mental clarity and focus every two days.