Sunday, April 6, 2014

HSPs: Giving, Not Overgiving

Are you someone who gives a lot to other people? You accommodate, you give without thinking what’s in it for you. Maybe you are an HSP or empath who identifies so much with other people’s feelings that you take on their pain. Giving and compassion are your primary values.

But sometimes, you wish that they weren’t. This thing – this thinking about others first, putting them before you – can leave you feeling depleted. On one hand, you want to give. This is who you are. On the other hand, you feel trapped. You realize that it often works against you.

In my corporate career in India, I made all the mistakes that go along with giving in a way that harms you, instead of propelling you forward. I am empathetic, so I expressed that. But I also played too nice and gave to colleagues in a setting and culture where it was each one for themselves. Looking back, I feel that I wasted precious years. I gave in a way that made me vulnerable to people who were blatant takers. I used up my energy in helping other people fulfill their own agendas.

Maybe you’ve done this too. You can’t seem to give in a way that actually feels good. Is it possible to change? Won’t not giving make you feel inauthentic?

For someone who is both an empath and an individualist, this tension between being good to others while staying true to myself has been ever-present. Fortunately, I am finding answers now. In his hugely comforting book, Give and Take, organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant introduces us to a concept that can help natural Givers shift to giving in a way that empowers them instead of depleting them.

Grant talks about becoming an “Otherish Giver.” Otherish Givers are people who value giving, and who also value making an impact, and so want to use their time in a way that promotes that objective. In that sense, they actually have a strong sense of self. They are not “selfless." 

Research says that Otherish Givers contribute more than purely selfless givers. Their giving is directed, not scattered and they get energy from seeing the impact that they are making. This spurs them on to making bigger contributions. They don’t crash and burn like selfless givers. 

While reading Grant’s book, I realize that we need to strip the common belief that the self is always wrong. For people who have the capacity to be caring and compassionate, the self is exactly what needs to be expressed.  

Grant also emphasizes that givers need to guard against the Takers and Fake Givers of the world. Most givers learn how to do this through hard experience and trial and error. But once they have learnt to differentiate, Givers need to give up their naivete and move from a place of understanding that everyone does not operate like they do.

Becoming more discriminating, more otherish is possible. To do this, what we need to do is expand our definition of what we can and cannot change in ourselves. If we are too attached to simply being nice to everyone, we’ll fail to see when our giving becomes ineffectual.  

If you are a selfless giver who has a fixed mindset, you might think to yourself: I just can’t do this. This is who I am. Then, the real question to ask is: Are you giving because of an underlying value or because it is a compulsive habit? Are you giving because you are too attached to other people thinking well of you?

Adopting what psychologists call a growth mindset can make you more otherish and more productive. Having a growth mindset simply means that you believe that you can change aspects of yourself that are not working and that are coming in the way of your higher values.

By becoming more mindful of who you give to and when, you will be able to translate the best of who you are into the real world instead of letting your energy be used up by whoever wants it first.

No comments:

Post a Comment