Tag Archives: Christmas

Overgiving and Disappointment – A Self-Induced Hell…

23 Dec

I could have called this post: Confessions of a Chronic Over-giver …because, unlike regular giving, I believe that over-giving is an affliction/disease/compulsion.

My definition of over-giving (it is not a dictionary term):

Over-giving (verb) – the act of giving too much at the expense of one’s own well-being or needed resources.  An over-giver compulsively gives even when it is not asked for, and sometimes even when it is not wanted, needed or useful.

For me, this is a life long affliction (I recall the Brownie motto: “a Brownie (girl scout) is cheerful and obedient, a Brownie always thinks of others before herself”.)

I first wrote about over-giving a year ago when I read an article by Elizabeth Gilbert (The author of Eat, Pray, Love) titled “How-to-Avoid-Giving-Too-Much-of-Yourself” in the December 2011 issue of Oprah.  (Here’s the link to the my original post “The more you Give, the more you… Give“)

I felt awakened then, yet now, one year later, I’m still doing the same things… and I end up in my own private (self-induced) hell.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote:

“Now, over-giving is not quite the same thing as generosity. Generosity is neither entangling nor aggressive, because the generous person doesn’t expect anything in return. The over-giver doesn’t expect anything in return either—except to be petted and feted and praised and loved unconditionally for the rest of time (and I was)—so that’s not emotionally loaded. Nothing toxic there!

For most of my life, my over-giving problem was relatively contained, limited by my own resources. But then a few years ago I wrote this book called Eat Pray Love, which sold about a bajillion copies, thus transforming me overnight into a wealthy woman, and presenting me with the amazing newfound opportunity to not merely over-give but to over-over-give. Oh, bliss! I was like an alcoholic locked in a distillery—what wonderful and terrible luck!”

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Avoid-Giving-Too-Much-of-Yourself-Elizabeth-Gilbert#ixzz2FziA4bez

Gilbert goes on to say how her over-giving resulted in lost friendships, disdain and lack of appreciation – something I know only too well.  Like Gilbert, I realize that the disappointment that ensues (and the realization that I have to do without by not keeping my resources for me!) – is a self-induced hell.

My journey to unconditional self-love includes the awareness that I need to put ME FIRST and figure out “what’s in it for ME?” before I routinely over-give of my time, my money, and my energy.  (Note, I said “over-give” not give.)

The first step is to recognize my bad behavior

I realize that I over-give instinctively (and thinking it is “helpful”) by:

  • rescuing others when they say they are in pain (I make the mistake of NOT first asking what is needed and assuming I CAN help!  Sometimes I make things worse and it comes back to bite me!);
  • giving to people who haven’t asked or don’t need my help (I’ve given away over a million frequent flyer miles to friends and family in Canada, some of whom now do not visit unless I send them a “free” ticket);
  • offering to over-give of my time or money or energy before confirming I have the capacity or capability to help (and not considering if it could  be detrimental to my own well-being).

I fully realize today that I cannot save the world (or anyone!) and that over-giving hurts others as much as it hurts me.  Other people learn to take advantage of my over-giving (my own fault) and they often respond with disdain or rejection or downright hostility.


Recognizing that my behavior hurts both me and others…

I frequently over-give to my children (I should be apologizing to them for doing this – it has created a sense of entitlement!), family members, friends, and even strangers. I once gave a $600 Delta airlines voucher to an acquaintance to come to Florida for Christmas. When he got here he spent so much on himself he had to purchase and new suitcase for all the “loot” he could now afford from the $600 saving on airfare!  (When I asked him to assist me with a trip to Europe months later, he said he couldn’t afford to help me at all – airfare was my problem to afford!)

When I put others ahead of myself, I realize I over-give.  It always comes at my expense (there is no free lunch or free airline trips or free hotel rooms – there is always a cost!)

Examples of compulsive over-giving…

I routinely give away airline tickets (few points left), hotel nights (ditto), time (without being asked), expertise (that should be paid for by clients!), money, and other resources.  I thought that I gave these things freely and with little expectation of reciprocity, hoping to foster a good relationship of mutual giving and receiving, but I believe that is delusional thinking.

One of my siblings (whose family of 4 I’ve flown to FL on my “points”, visited for 2 weeks in Canada at my expense when they were despondent over a relationship, and flew down again on points so they could vacation), no longer talks to me.  When I had my own crisis and needed support, the sibling didn’t have the time or energy to reciprocate.  It was my own folly to have expected support as a mutual thing. My over-giving led to unrealistic expectations on my part – and I realize today that they could have afforded the trips on their own.

I am learning that people who take without giving, are nothing to do with  me, and my expectations of reciprocity are both narcissistic (on my part) and unrealistic.

Another family member (who I have flown around the world, often to save him/her money – even when not asked) told me that my gifts are conditional to them being my emotional support. Perhaps that is true – the over-giving may be my way of “buying” my way.  Stark reality that my actions hurt me – I need to stop this over-giving.


Water Under the Bridge, time to move on…

Having seen the negative effects of my actions – you’d think I’d have learned to stop them (Recall the Einstein quote:  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)  And seeing the positive effects when people give so much less and are held in high-esteem, should be my wake up call.

My personal history includes  thousands more instances where I gave and was met with disdain, rejection, and even dislike. Like Elizabeth Gilbert, I need to allow people to help themselves when they can. I need to step back and figure out my own life instead of being an unhelpful ENABLER. I need to become a hopeful, generous, good-hearted, giving person – with no expectation of anything from others.  I need to practice TOUGH SELF-LOVE instead of trying to help others through over-giving!

If I had a nickel for every trip I’ve given away, every hotel room I’ve paid for, every trip I’ve taken to support others, every hour I’ve donated more than was necessary – I’d be rich beyond my wildest dreams. Instead, I am flat out of airline miles, hotel rooms, and money – and it’s my own damned fault as an over-giver. Ultimately I’m a disappointment to myself!  (Don Miguel RuizThe Four Agreements cites the first agreement as “Always live with integrity” (i.e., never treat  yourself worse than you would treat a best friend – and I need to learn to live more selfishly with integrity!)

The Solution to Over-giving

Overcoming this compulsion to over-give is not going to be a quick fix where one can pop a couple of aspirin and go to sleep, and I need help.

As part of this journey, friends promise to help me identify and recover from this addiction to “saving the world.”   I will still be a “giving person” but when I am tempted to over-give of my time, energy or money to someone, they promise to pull me back, slap me silly, and confront me… at least until I can realize and recognize the self-abuse that comes with over-giving.

In this season of over-giving, over-consumption, and capitalism, isn’t it about time we all have more gratitude and less disappointment?  If you are like me, I confess that I am an over-giver and it has cost me friends, family, and respect. I can see the level of respect earned by the givers and takers in my family (none of them over-givers!) – I’d like some of that!

Wishing you a happy holiday season no matter how you celebrate – and a happy new year 2013!

p.s. One of the most beneficial sites I’ve found lately is “The Receiving Project” an endeavor that fills you up with life gets you down – it allows you to be open to receive from the universe – especially helpful when you are feeling depleted!

Carol ❤


Happiness is… no expectations

11 Feb

Remember the Charlie Brown song “Happiness Is…”?

Growing up, happiness seemed like something I was born to live (and it’s true!)  Somehow through the years it eroded with mortgages, workloads, family stress, divorce, and life.  When you watch the evening news it is easy to see that happiness is not the mainstay in society but the road back to it can be as simple as the Charlie Brown song.

For me, happiness comes when I remove expectations of others.

This takes away a lot of the disappointment I used to experience when I expected something of others. Without expectations, there is room for positive surprises. Yes, I realize that life is an interconnected web of people, places and events, but it is in discovering my own pure worth where I find happiness. Reliance on anyone else to achieve my happiness is a surefire way to failure.

I believe Einstein’s quote:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The inverse of this is also true: sanity is doing something different each time so that you can expect different results.  Makes sense doesn’t it.

In my first half of life, insanity (from an Einstein perspective) ruled.  Now that I have tried the sane route (different things), I have gained new results.  I would like to share with you my different ways of looking at things that brings about different results.

  1. Hope for the best in others, but never expect it.
  2. Never make anyone a priority for whom you are only an option.
  3. You can only anticipate (and count on) you.

These are new adages for me!  In prior posts I s, I used to think that the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would like them to do unto you) was a universal law, but I know today that it is only an ideal.  People do as they please in spite of or in the absence of me and of you!  Just because your actions may be giving and considerate does not mean that anyone else will behave or  treat you well.

Let’s explore each adage:

Hope for the best in others, but never expect it.

Today more than ever, people are necessarily self-centered and foraging to make ends meet for their family. So, unless you lend them money or give them a high paying job, you are likely a bit player. Expect nothing from others, and it will remove your disappointment. In fact, should another respond positively, it is a bonus.

Instead of expecting that people will be considerate of you or treat you well, remember that you can hope for the best, but know that this may not happen. Expectations lead to disappointment – lower your expectations to none, and your disappointment will slowly disappear.  People will either live up to your new expectations (which are none) or do better. (Yes, I know that supporters of the Secret would argue that the way others treat you is your own manifestation – but this is utter b.s. You can only manifest your OWN behavior.)

Never make anyone a priority for whom you are only an option.

This is my adaptation of a quote I heard a few weeks ago by a dating expert.  As female (and some male) colleagues know – we often over-give our energy to others, prematurely.  We fall in love completely and genuinely and begin to take care of another (and even make him/her a priority in our life) before there is mutuality.

Some partnerships end up with one spouse taking care of the other (with good intentions) and the other taking care of him/herself. This can be prevented by following the adage and taking care of oneself first and foremost. Side dishes may be good at dinners, but not in relationships.

This realization came late for me as I spent too many years in a relationship where we both prioritized his needs. Fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me! Never again will I make someone a priority for whom I am merely an option.

You can only anticipate (and count on) you.

This is one point I have included in prior blog posts but is worth repeating. We can only ever change our own behavior, and live in our own heads. As such, every other person we meet is governed by his/her own beliefs and directs behavior.

Since we have no control over anyone else’s mind (except in the case of temporary hypnosis), we can only take responsibility for and anticipate our own behavior. Removing this illusion of control from our lives frees us up for happiness.

Happiness is… no expectations.

Do you agree?

Wishing you a happy day!


Holidays got you down? Abort, retry, ignore…

29 Nov

This has not been an easy year for many people, including yours truly, and I’m just not getting into the so-called “Holiday Spirit” of giving, giving, giving!  I can understand the frenzy and excitement of the holiday season when one has small children to entertain and family members who gather near and far, but when those are fading memories and if you are not into commercialism, it can get to be just too much ado about nothing (aside from the religiosity of certain days).

As a self-employed professional whose work is exclusively traveling to foreign cities (and countries) to deliver keynote presentations, training seminars and consulting services, I’ve never had the luxury of corporate festivities. In addition, my children are grown and living elsewhere (yes, I’m close to them), and I live a single life enriched with friends and the companionship of one remaining cat.

I have no wish to rehash or restore the married years of yesteryear, and the consumer-retail-marketing aspect of the holiday season really holds no allure.  “Buy, buy, buy – get diamonds for your love – the best time of the year” – it’s all so nauseating.  All I want to say is Bah, humbug, who cares?  I’m living life in the present and I am happy with my choices – they just don’t match the joyous couple – center of the universe – apparently blissful existence that television and media purports as being essential.  So, why then do I feel anxious about the impending holiday season?

Does anyone else feel like this or am I an anomaly?  In the U.S. when there is only one day off for Christmas Day, it is common to find many people celebrating (or getting through the day) alone – it’s the reality today!  But, society, advertising and our media don’t seem to get this.  (I guess the almighty dollar still trumps sanity.)

With 46% of American adults currently single, we ought to celebrate and find ways to thrive without needing to be (co- or otherwise) dependent on others.  While humanity remains a social sport (we are “social beings” say the sociologists) it is not a guarantee that holidays will be a social event.

So, instead of saying bah, humbug, turn off the Christmas music already (hey, we just got finished with the election blues a couple of weeks ago!) – I’ve decided I’m going to resort to the Microsoft way of dealing with the holidays this year: 

Abort, retry, ignore!

Abort retry ignoreHere’s how I propose to use these three IT (information technology) based approaches to solve problems:  The next time that I am irritated by Christmas tunes or frustrated by holiday traffic jams or don’t feel like talking to a “Happy, happy, joy, joy” elf-like acquaintance about their holiday preparations, I’m going to:

Abort — Get out of the situation:  if it’s a store with obnoxious music, I’m going to walk out; if it’s a shopping mall parking lot – go somewhere else; if it’s being besieged by a friend who wants to go on and on about their wondrous preparations, I’m going to excuse myself and escape to my own space.

Retry — If I cannot get out of the situation (abort above), then I’m going to reframe the situation in my mind through meditation or gratitude thinking. For example, when the music triggers memories (good or bad) that I might not be prepared to revisit, I will change the channel in my head to one with positive energy:  think about how fortunate I am to have good weather, good health, good friends, good fortune — whatever it takes to get me out of the funk-of-the-moment brought on by the holidays.

Ignore — if the first two approaches don’t work (or are inappropriate for the situation), I plan to use the MS third tactic – IGNORE.  When I hit the ignore button in my brain it will turn the distraction off!  If it’s someone who is incessantly babbling, I will imagine that their mouth is moving without any sound coming out!  (Think of Peppermint Patty’s teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons saying “Wyap wyap…”  I’ll be sure to say “uh huh” at the end when their mouth stops moving!)  If the offending trigger is music, I want to turn it off in my head and ignore it.  Nothing can enter my brainwaves or make me anything but happy without MY permission, so I plan to ignore whatever it is and go on with my life!

What do you think?  Would this be an option for you as well?

Your life is your choice!

Remember, you are exactly where you are supposed to be today (I love the saying “the Present is a gift you give to yourself!)  and you are the best that you will ever have  – and that’s more than enough for the world.  (Remember you have to love yourself completely and unconditionally – that’s all that really matters in life!)

Have a great week, and let me know how the Abort, retry, ignore approach works for you. I know that I’m going to practice it at least a couple of times this week!



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