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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 ❤


Fear is a four letter (F) word…

27 Mar

Fear plays a huge part in society today, and our public media knows that creating a frenzy based on fear sells newspapers, increases advertising and makes millions!  Globally, fear is a part of almost every society – and it motivates governments, countries, groups and people to take often irrational actions.  Fear is a scary thing!

Pick up any newspaper or listen in on conversations and you’ll find an increasing (and sometimes irrational) list of fears around us.  It is amazing that we get anything done when this mountain of fears are waiting to block our way:

  • Fear of terrorism (globally – and “we” are not necessarily on the friendly side worldwide);
  • Fear of God and eternal damnation (the religious right think they “know” the future);
  • Fear of differences (the Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered and Bisexuals know this more than others);
  • Fear of the unknown (what if the world ends on December 2);
  • Fear of what we think we know (we believe too much of what we read on the internet);
  • Fear of the past repeating itself (which can paralyze us from taking a change on new things);
  • Fear of new experiences (what if I don’t like it);
  • Fear for our children (what will the world be like in 30 years);
  • Fear of change (this one is wide open!);
  • Fear of turning into our parents;
  • Fear of being alone (how can I live without him/her even though it is bad);
  • Fear of being lonely (will I ever finding true “love”);
  • Fear of not being alone (or being stuck in a bad relationship);
  • Fear of losing our house or job or security;
  • Fear of the future (what if’s);
  • Fear of other religions (we do not understand);
  • Fear of other cultures (how can they live like that);
  • Fear of losing face (what will the neighbors/family/friends think);
  • Fear of loss/gains/failure/success;
  • What fears could you add to this list?

I could go on and on with the phobias and fears in daily life, but there is one item missing on this list:

  • Fear of the four letter “F” word: FEAR !

I believe that so many people feel they live a life that is out of control (and dominated by factors they have nothing to do with), that fear moves in.   By seeking and needing to control aspects of our life that we do not, we sometimes allow (or even create) fear to paralyze us and become the excuse that we don’t take action. Sometimes we even use fear to rationalize our irrational behavior!

Moving forward from our past…

Certainly, our experience plays a big part in our present fear – we want to avoid repeating behaviors that caused us pain in the past – but that is like driving forward by looking in the rear view mirror.  When we are soaring over the cliff (we were not watching for the “bridge out sign” ahead of us), we reassure ourselves that at least we were not rear-ended.

I believe that Fear is a Four Letter “F” Word that has no place in an optimistic vocabulary or our psyche.  Maybe we ought to start to ‘wash out our mouths’ for using this four letter F word?  It simply does us little good, and furthermore it clouds our judgment.

If I allowed my past together with fear to decide my future, I would never go out with another man, I would never trust another friend, I would never move to a foreign land, I would stop trying and dreaming and hoping… and that would be, frankly, irrational!

For me, the only way forward in life is to face my fears like the same way I would confront a bully – with strength, determination, and sheer guts.  My hopes, dreams, thoughts and life is too important (to me) to allow a little four letter F word to run amok.

Have a good week!


Baggage Fees for People…

13 Mar

Whatever life takes away from you, let it go.  When you surrender and let go of the past, you allow yourself to be fully alive in the moment. – don Miguel Ruiz

This is true whether life has taken from you your life savings, relationships (toxic or not), possessions, emotions, or people.

In our capitalist society, we grow up with the illusion that whoever amasses the most things – wins!  In addition to material things, we hold emotions and experiences, and keep them forever (even when it is not good for us!)  Sometimes I think we are like the TV showHoarders” with the amount of intellectual and emotional baggage we drag behind us.  (If you do not think you are “packing” baggage, think about how often you serenade friends with the same litany of a past hurt…)

The analogy of baggage fees for emotional baggage hit me the other day at the airport as a fashionista was unloading her luggage on to a baggage cart for an upcoming flight. She was aghast when the agent assessed her with hundreds of dollars in “extra” baggage fees, and I realized that this same situation could work well with the invisible baggage we all insist on bringing with us.

Think about it for a minute – why do we need to bring a “steamer trunk” full of childhood pain along to a family picnic?  The answer is that we DON”T!

Imagine if we could visualize the baggage that we and everyone else bring along when we go out?  Picture this hilarious scenario:  People at a picnic surrounded by masses of steamer trunks (full of crap), garment bags (with clothes that no longer fit) , sports equipment (long worn out), golf bags (with mismatched clubs), garbage bags (filled with discarded papers), and suitcases so old they need duct tape to stay together.

It would be the most bizarre scene from “Hoarders” (people who discard nothing!)

Baggage fees for people?

If we were forced to pay fees (which we do unconsciously) for each unnecessary piece of baggage we brought the world economy would restart in a minute!  The world would change for the better in two ways:

  1. People would carefully pack only the luggage they need to take on a journey and discard the rest (we would all be more emotionally healthy!);
  2. Those who wish to remain emotional “hoarders” would contribute financially for the privilege!

The emotional baggage we carry is invisible, yet we drag, push, and pull way too much of it along like some sort of badge of honor.  If it were real, some of it would smell bad, be oozing out of its containers, and some of it would be so dangerous as to alert the “HAZMAT” team (hazardous materials).

We do not realize that life could be so much easier (with great fitness benefits to our emotional health) by discarding, recycling, reframing, and forgiving the things we lost in the past and that life took from us. Things we thought we need to keep might actually be costing us unconsciously by holding on to them.  Clear out your storage locker and your mind of this clutter and make room for new emotions and wonderful experiences today. (Related post: New Math – Subtraction can add Years to your life!)

We need to take inventory and streamline our journey forward by discarding the worn out and out-of-date from our lives!

Starting today, I am going to work to discard the waste, and watch what bags I pack to go out tonight.

If it is more than I can fit into a small purse – it is tooooooo much!  If I go out and drag along a few extra steamer trunks (out of habit), I will ask my friends to collect baggage fees at the table.  What do you think?

Have a great (baggage free) week!


Fear & Excitement – Two Sides of the Same Coin?

10 May

Perhaps you’ve noticed that when a new situation in life arises, you may alternate between fear and excitement of the same unknown future. Most often the fear is unfounded and excitement should prevail, yet our psyche seems to favor punishing us by hanging on to the fear.

Take a new job or career move.  How often do we allow what should be an exciting new adventure (a positive career move) digress into a set of unfounded what-if questions:  What if they find out that I can’t do the job? What if I don’t perform to the level the job demands? What if I’m not as qualified as I portray?

Yet, for all the gloom and doom this entails, we ought to be focusing on the equally positive outcomes.

We ought to ask questions like:  What if the job is too easy and I am ready for the next level quickly?  What if I exceed all expectations?  What if everyone loves my work?

As children we learn to temper disappointments long before they occur and to prepare for negative outcomes (somehow it was supposed to prevent hurt…) and to face our fears.  But seldom is it taught that one should be excited about positive outcomes – yet those are precisely what we want most.

I believe that when we feel fear in a new situation, all we really need to do is to turn it around into an opportunity where we can be excited, and watch the situation turn itself around in our minds!

For example, I’ve never moved out on my own yet I am in middle age!  Having moved from my parents to my marriage and then having stayed in my house since, it is a scary (and exciting) proposition to think about having to move and find a small apartment.  I was feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of having to clean out 4 bedrooms, an office, 3 bathrooms and a 4 car-garage all by myself and find a new place to live (who knows where?) – and I mentioned to a colleague that I was fearful of the process. His response was that it is an exciting new fresh start in my life – and never have I had the opportunity to make decisions for me alone.  “How incredibly excited you must be” were his words.

That’s when I realized that Fear and Excitement are often two sides of the same coin.  From now on, I prefer to nurture an outlook of excitement! How about you?

Have a great week,



Volunteering… if it’s okay with you

19 Oct

Do you ever find yourself asking something simple of someone and the response is a sigh and a reluctant agreement – even if it’s their job to do what you just asked? And what happens if instead of asking the person for something, you are volunteering to do something to further their cause, and they feel the need to qualify you?

I do a ton of volunteer work in and around Tampa Bay for various charities and events. I find it interesting to see how differently the various groups treat their volunteers.  Some groups are fantastic – they value and appreciate volunteer efforts no matter how many hours you choose to give.  Some events welcome their volunteers with thanks and humility – and leave volunteers wanting to donate even more hours because they feel valued.

Others take volunteers for granted or even worse, some volunteer groups feel that it is your privilege to serve them and that thanks is overrated.  Just as some causes are better than others, so too are some “leaders” of the volunteer groups.  While thanks is never an expectation when donating your time, it is a nice touch to have someone at least recognize that you gifted their charity (through time).

In my humble opinion, every minute that is volunteered is a gift of the “present” – a gift of time that the giver freely donates (and time is the most valuable commodity).  I will absolutely volunteer again and again with the firms and organizations that I know appreciate me.

Then there’s the rare ones that make you feel as if you have to get their permission to volunteer. They screen and qualify and want to turn volunteerism into a full-time job for you.  You might be surprised at this, but unfortunately it’s not as remote an issue as one would think.  I don’t know about you, but if it takes a lot of administrative effort to volunteer, and if the structure is such that you have to volunteer according to very rigid strict rules, I’m not going to give my precious heartbeats to the organization.  Just as purchases are made on emotion, so too are where we choose to spend our time – and volunteerism should be a noble cause – with noble people…  it’s the few rotten apples who need control and who treat volunteers as fodder who create a problem.

Fortunately these are few and far between!  I love to volunteer and further a cause with my talents and energy.  And the return on investment is the joy in assisting others who are less fortunate, camaraderie among volunteers, and new friendships.  I guess maybe it IS a privilege to volunteer after all!

Wishing you a happy week.


Happy Thanksgiving 2009!

25 Nov

Thanksgiving… According to Wikipedia:  

Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. It is a holiday celebrated primarily in Canada and the United States. While perhaps religious in origin, Thanksgiving is now primarily identified as a secular holiday.

As 38.4 million Americans (including me) prepare to travel more than 50 miles from home this holiday weekend, I realized just how profound an effect this day has on our country and our lives.  Regardless of the year, television depicts  Thanksgiving as a traditional, large gathering of family members cheerily assembled around a plentiful harvest feast. This year, however, many people will be in a less than celebratory mood brought on by economic strife abetted by plentiful news reports of how much worse things are going to get before they get better. Our nation is spiralling into a depressive state with the negativity and focus on what’s missing from our lives (jobs, cashflow, unified government, thriving businesses, world peace, etc.).

In a one-person effort to change this trend today – I present to you my list of things I’m thankful for today and this year (please add your own by posting a comment).  While most of us are incapable of reviving the economy, creating millions of  jobs, or feeding all our nation’s hungry, we each can make a difference in our own lives -focusing on what is going right in our lives – and sharing it with others.  No matter your age, your circumstances, your wealth, or status — remember that we only ever have today, this moment, the “now”, the present, and something to celebrate right here.

My thanks list 2009
by Carol Dekkers  

Florida sunsets
The ability to smile when it rains on the beach
 My own bed
Two grown children who are healthy and independent
Coffee (made from clean water)
Unpolluted skies
Frostfree Novembers
The ability to take a walk whenever and wherever
Friends to laugh with
Laughter of children
Friends to cry with
Human goodness
Freedom of association
The ability to choose what I watch on TV (maybe too much choice!)
Clean air to breathe
Golf courses
Wine tastings with friends
Wide open spaces
Alone time
Family members
Humorous jokes
Nature and boardwalks
The ability to travel
Friends with differing perspectives
A beautiful day


Have a good week!


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.


Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2009 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

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