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How To Avoid The Trap Of Generosity Burnout

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Jan. 19 2023, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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Many of us may find ourselves in situations where we give too much of our generosity to others, thinking that we’re able to help that person and ourselves in the process.

However, sometimes we end up ignoring our own needs when that’s not our intention, leaving us confused and burned out when we don’t receive the same attention back.

If this sounds familiar, don’t stress! There are ways you can set boundaries and take time to nourish yourself with the care you deserve when this happens.

What does generosity burnout look like?

generosity burnout
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It’s hard to know what burnout looks like when giving too much of your time and effort to loved ones is a daily effort. However, there are signs you can spot to make sure this doesn’t happen often, according to marriage and family therapist Natalie Silva, LMFT. Common reactions to this kind of burnout include cultivating a victim mentality or feeling jealousy toward a partner, friend, or anyone who we direct too much of our generosity.

Thoughts that can arise have a harsh tone such as, “I'm always the one giving,” or “Why is this happening to me and nobody else?" You can become resentful of the person you're in that relationship with, but it often is because that individual who is struggling is not identifying and vocalizing their own needs,” says Silva. “So, a lot of mind-reading happens, especially if we're talking about romantic relationships.”

Silva sees this type of situation happen more with women. In fact, studies have shown that women at a young age are taught to please others at the expense of their own needs, especially in situations where girls are encouraged by their parents to be more submissive than boys. As a result, many women carry unrealistic expectations into adulthood that overextending themselves to friends and family is the key to connection.

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How To Avoid Generosity Burnout

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1. Take time to relax.

For mothers, this can mean looking at your schedule and deciding how much time is necessary and when you can do activities that are beneficial.

Silva adds that each activity can vary depending on each person, but some examples are going for a walk without children or taking 30 minutes each day to read a book.

“I think once we start filling our own cup, we're less angry and irritable when we fill the cups of others because we feel satisfied that we've been taken care of,” says Silva.

2. Pause to think about how much you can actually achieve.

There’s magic in that pause, says Silva, because women are likely to see what they want to do versus what they feel like they’re obligated to do. Once we do that, then we can initiate a conversation with a partner or a loved one about what we can or cannot do.

3. Offer yourself grace and kindness when setting boundaries.

One crucial piece of advice she wants women to know during this process is that it’s important to be gentle with yourself, especially when you feel guilty for taking care of yourself. While some women may have years of experience in personal development and strengthening boundaries, everyone will have days where they make mistakes.

“Even if you struggle with boundaries and maybe didn't hold that boundary the way that you intended to, try it again the next time,” Silva adds. “You can always go back and have these conversations again.”

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By: Karie Pinnix

Karie Pinnix is a public relations strategist and freelance journalist with experience writing content for print and broadcast platforms and creating branding development with start-up companies. She’s written about topics like college nightlife, community organizations in Mississippi, and the nurse shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Occasionally, she writes about climate change, burnout culture, career trends, and other topics about her generation in her newsletter, Gen Z Diary. When she’s not working, you can find her exploring nature, catching up on reading, or traveling to the nearest beach.

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