I originally sent this out as a newsletter, and it got such a big and positive response, I’ve reposted it here.
In 15 years of coaching, I’ve noticed that one thing many of my clients have in common is they give and give and give… and give some more. They are wildly generous, but beyond that, they are often self-sacrificing.
Generosity is one of my core values, and I very much believe that extending ourselves to others is an important thing. Being generous is the glue that keeps relationships together, whether they are romantic, friendly or neighborly. Generosity is crucial for a healthy, interdependent, functional world.
But I think it’s important to distinguish generosity from self-sacrifice. When giving extends into making yourself smaller, not meeting your own needs, and self-denial, it’s not going to fill up the other person. It just destroys you.
Generosity is not about I’ll go without so you can have. It’s about I have something I’d like to share with you.
Generosity — sharing — is enjoyable, satisfying, fulfilling. You feel just as good giving as the other person feels receiving.
As soon as it stops feeling that way, you’re no longer being generous. It’s quite likely you’re sacrificing yourself.
Self-sacrifice isn’t actually nurturing to others. It’s quite self-centered, albeit in a negative way. Self-sacrifice removes YOU from the equation, and in doing so, it is destructive to fulfilling relationships.
So many of us were taught that “self-sacrifice = being a good person.” I believe that generosity — the enjoyable, satisfying, fulfilling kind — is worth learning and leaning into. There are plenty of opportunities to offer things to others in ways that feel good! But the idea that we have to make ourselves smaller in order to be good is a toxic one.
Self-sacrifice — denying your own needs and the things that make you happy and fulfilled — can lead to feelings of resentment, anger, and unworthiness, especially when it is habitual. It works in opposition to actually being able to be either self-preserving or generous.
You don’t have to give up the things you love to be worthy!
So here’s something to try: Next time you have the impulse to offer something to someone do a quick gut check. Does offering this fill you up too, or does it drain you? Is this a gift you can give with a full heart? If not, that’s okay. Listen to the answers and see where they lead.