Giving: How much is too much?

Life is about boundaries. I saw a quote on Facebook that I have included in my arsenal as a therapist: The givers have to set boundaries because the takers never will. Our center, our pure loving soul needs to have boundaries to be safe. If we let it be completely open and vulnerable, the takers will do their best to snuff out our light. These boundaries need to be permeable though. When we build them too high, too thick, we lock out love and happiness.

We all are trying to find love and happiness. We learn from our environment and our personality different ways to find them. Some of us find happiness and feel love when taking care of others and giving of ourselves. Unfortunately some find happiness by taking what others are willing, and sometimes unwilling to give. These are people that we have to have boundaries against. Even if motivations are pure, it is easy to take advantage of someone that is willing to give. Which means that for those of us that give, it is easy to be taken advantage of, too easy to lose ourselves when we forget to take care of ourselves.

In both situations, motivations pure and otherwise, boundaries come down to staying true to ourselves. When looking at taking care of others, we have to know what we want for ourselves, then decide if we want to take care of the other person over our own needs or wants. It is difficult at times to know for sure what we want for ourselves. An example I see very often is when one partner asks the other what they want for dinner. “Hey honey, what would you like for dinner?” I got that question tonight. I wanted Freebirds or Chipotle. For years I played a game; before I thought about what I wanted, I tried to figure out what the other person would want. I didn’t want to suggest something that the other person may not want but would feel obligated to go to just because I wanted it. I didn’t give the other person credit enough to have their own boundaries and ability to speak up for themselves. I no longer play that game.

We are responsible for knowing what our own needs and wants are, along with meeting the need to help others. We can feed our souls by helping and taking care of others, and at the same time we have to make sure we are taken care of. That means sometimes putting ourselves above others, even those that I care about, even when my instinct is to help them. This is what I mean by boundaries. It is always my responsibility to make sure that I am acting within my values, needs and principles. If someone else’s needs or wants are counter to our needs, values or principles, we have to make sure to take care of ourselves.

We are all looking for happiness and love, along with getting out needs met. We are social beings, and at times we will use others to help us along the way. Not every person that is using us will be trying to hurt us, it does mean that sometimes even with good intentions we can be violated by others. We have to make sure that we have our boundaries in place so that we are taken care of. If I trust in others to take care of themselves, then I allow myself the freedom to take care of me. I am the one person that is with me from birth until death, everyone and everything else will come and go in my lifetime. If I don’t make sure I am taken care of, then who will?

This entry was posted in Emotional Health, Helping others, Humanity, Interpersonal relationships, Mental Health, Self-Relations on by .

About Marissa Engel

I have been in private practice in Austin, TX since 2007. My focus as a therapist is to help clients uncover within themselves the courage and strength to face life with confidence. In my work with clients I am most interested in helping people develop a compassionate relationship with their own experiences that can lead them on a journey of acceptance, self discovery, relief from suffering, and healing of relational disconnects. In my practice I have worked with individuals, couples, families, and groups, seeing adults, adolescents, and children. My scope of treatment has included depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger and stress management difficulties, suicidal ideation, grief and loss, addictions, eating disorders, and couple/family difficulties.