Full Disclosure: Parts of this were written before my boyfriend and I broke up. However, my thoughts and feelings have not changed.
I am a giver. A giver by definition is someone who gives without expecting anything in return. It wasn’t until I started seeing a new reiki healer that I started evaluating all the places that I put my energy. “Are you a giver?” he asked. “I feel like you give your energy to a lot of things.” He then continued to ask me how I give to myself and I could not answer the question. I give to my job, I give to the Armenian community, I give to yoga studies and teaching, to my boyfriend, and to my family. Yoga had always been the place that I turned to as an outlet but to be honest, this year, yoga has felt like work.
For the past two months, I feel like I’ve been giving more to my side gig and volunteer work than I have to my family and my boyfriend and when I do, I’m irritable, short, and make them feel like they’re an inconvenience to me. My sister recently told me that, by her observation, I take from my mom. I’m not available enough to help her with something when she asks for help, but she is always available to do an errand for me. In a way, I steal my mom’s time and attention and yet I don’t give back enough to her because I’m giving too much to my other activities. But the truth is I want to be spending time with my family without feeling resentful. I don’t want to feel resentful anymore and want to enjoy spending time with the people I care about. Shortly after that conversation a few weeks back, I was in a car accident and got a concussion. Despite receiving a doctor’s note to take two days off I didn’t wanted to own the deliverable I was working on that was due the next day and went right back to work for the week. At the end of the week my head hurt so much that I physically could not think. That morning I called in sick, and I subbed out my yoga class for the next morning. I started to cry; I couldn’t remember the last time I had asked for help. I was forced to rest, not read, and stay off screens. Since meditation was one of the few things that brought me relief, I used the time wisely to reevaluate my priorities.
I’ve run successful fundraising events, trained for half marathons, and am at the end of my 500-hour yoga certification. And yet, I lack the confidence to be vulnerable with my thoughts and opinions. Reflecting on my accomplishments, I started to wonder what this is all about. In an aha moment I identified the “achiever” in me as pure ego. I was excited to see that Michael Stone came to the same conclusion in his chapter on Asteya. “Because the ego-self is terrified that it’s temporary and without ground, it seeks wealth and other external symbols to satisfy itself, which in turn creates a society around such skewed ideals.” I was searching for external labels and achievements to define myself. But in reality, it’s the thoughts and opinions from our inner voice that are the most potent. When I am filling my ego to achieve these things, I superficially put myself “above” my family and peers as if I need these labels to define myself and it ultimately creates a me vs. them dynamic.
At some point it became the norm for the millennial generation to be working all the time whether it be through side-gigs, or volunteer work. Sitting still is not a resume builder or an accomplishment you can brag about on a first date or at a networking event. So, we join and join and do and do until we can’t anymore. “Giving too much can deplete us if we are not receiving at all”. There is a need to replenish and nourish we and to receive from others in order to truly be whole.