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The Self-Discovery Digest

by Elizabeth and Katherine Hirsh
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September 2010 Archives

We've been told that we should give to others; that we should give as much and as often as possible. Most of us have heard this many, many times and from many different sources. The message to give, and then give some more, seems ingrained in our culture. While this is a beautiful sentiment and good advice generally, the implication is that the giving should be unqualified. However, some qualifications are definitely necessary. Giving of ourselves is fantastic as long as we are giving the right things (and not giving up what is essential to us) in the process.

Personal things worth giving:

• Time
• Effort
• Companionship
• Listening
• Concrete assistance like baby-sitting or lawn mowing

Personal things worth keeping:

• Values
• Principles
• Dreams
• Self-confidence
• Personal preferences like favorite music or favorite activities

Too often we abandon things such as our values or personal preferences for a job, a relationship, or a social norm, rather than creating healthy boundaries or standing up for what matters to us. We confuse the notion of giving with negating ourselves. Too often our good intentions lead us to disregard what makes us us. This is tragic in two ways.

First, as we do so, we feel phony, and then, over time, this turns into a feeling of being depleted and taken for granted. Second, the job, the person, or the community that seemed so important ends up failing us, deserting us, or rejecting us in the end. By giving the wrong things, we get the wrong results, and end up feeling awful. Instead, we want to encourage you to focus on giving the right things - things that really help others and that don't diminish you. Be yourself, stay yourself, and be good to others. This is what true giving is all about!

Self-Discovery Tool Number 30
Do you find yourself giving the wrong things? How might you try to reframe your perspective on giving so that it preserves your integrity and helps others at the same time? How might being clear on what you need to keep - your dreams, self-confidence, etc. - help to create more energy for giving the right things?