You may have read in many self-development books and the saturated world of quotes and self-help advice on social media that the secret to happiness in life is giving.
Based on the work we do with men we don’t agree that the secret to happiness is to give more!
Whilst we do agree that giving to others is a beautiful practice, it is only half of the story. In the work we do with men both in our retreats and in private coaching and mentoring, it is evident that most of these men are relentless givers. They have no problem playing the role of the provider and their stories tell a tale of give, give, give.
In fact, we believe that most of the men we work with are ‘over-givers’ (and of course some women too). Yet, over-giving is not authentic generous-giving!
It is much easier for the typical male provider to give than it is to receive. And we believe the journey towards allowing oneself to receive more not only from others, but also from oneself, is a vital one for many men in order to be more balanced in their relationships.
In our judgement, many men give, give, give because they think (or hope) it will be appreciated, they secretly want to receive something in return, because it makes them feel good about themselves or because they feel morally obligated to. The truth is, if as a man you only give and you are unable to receive love, attention, compliments, and help from others and accept it completely, you are giving from an empty heart.
And, over-giving is a paradox. Whenever you give too much, especially in close relationships, the other person has to do less, so you end up not receiving the attention you wanted, through the act of giving!
Think about some of your relationships and try to be honest about whether your giving is from a generous place or a depleted one. Do you give because you expect to receive?
Does this sound like you?
• In relationship you try to be the one who gives the most.
• You feel guilty when someone gives something to you.
• You always put the needs of others before your own, even though this can secretly make you rageful inside.
• You find yourself apologising excessively if you are not able to “give” the way you would like to.
• You often avoid asking for what you want and instead stay silent.
• You find it hard to receive physical touch such as massage.
• It’s difficult for you to receive a beautiful gaze from your partner or a compliment from a colleague.
• When you feel inside you realise that you only give to receive something in return (a secret psychological contract).
• You have considered the possibility that your giving could be the result of some insecurity.
• When you really think about your life you see that you give because you want to feel loved, liked, or admired.
Many men we work with believe they are ‘loving men’ and in some cases ‘great men’ because they are relentless givers. What many men do not realise is that love is a 2-way process, a balance between giving and receiving.
Why are so many men unable to receive?
Like it or not, in our opinion many men find it hard to receive because of psychological wounding around self-worth. Compassionately, we acknowledge some men may have been through intense childhood trauma, making it very difficult to receive, especially if their boundaries have been invaded as a child. It just becomes easier to give for them as an indirect way of eventually receiving through the act of giving.
Yet the journey towards self-acceptance, deep meaningful relationships, and to find one’s true place in this amazing world could very well be in the ability to put yourself first and learn to receive from both yourself and from others.
How can we expect others to lovingly receive from us when we don’t model to other’s how we authentically receive to ourselves?
To offset this inclination to over-give, we recommend that you start to observe your behaviour around giving and receiving. Perhaps, some deep introspection is necessary. Most over-givers are actually extremely kind and nurturing by nature. That’s the beautiful part. The strife comes when you don’t set any personal boundaries and you simply give to attain ego-satisfaction or personal gratification from others seeing how gracious you are.
Start a personal practice.
Find your own unique edge.
For some this may be simply to remain aware when someone gives you a compliment.
For others, it may be exploring touch and slowly allowing either a massage therapist or a partner to touch you more.
It could be that you spend 1-day per week putting your needs first and this may include giving yourself a gift.
Learn the art of saying NO.
Book yourself onto a men’s retreat and learn to put yourself first.
“No one was put on this planet to meet your needs. Putting yourself first doesn’t drive people away. It attracts them. Putting yourself first is essential in getting what one wants in love and life.”
Dr. Robert Glover
Love from the Men Without Masks team