Nurses are caretakers and nurturers by definition. It’s in our veins. But the line between helping others in a healthy way and helping others at our own expense can get blurry.
If you have a tendency toward sacrificing your own needs for the needs of others, this is a book that might help.
“Stop Giving It Away: How to Stop Self-sacrificing and Start Claiming Your Space, Power, and Happiness,” by Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, is a guide to identifying deeply ingrained patterns of putting yourself last, and how to change them.
Veland doles out sage advice acquired from her more than 20 years of experience as a psychotherapist. Yet at the same time, she seems like an empowering girlfriend you’d want to meet up with for coffee or cocktails.
“Stop Giving It Away” begins with an overview of what Veland calls “the giveaway girl.” Many nurses may see themselves in Veland’s definition: those of us who say yes when we want to say no; those of us who feel responsible for fixing everybody else’s problems.
“Can you relate to or do you know Giveaway Girls like: the mother who has a to-do-list a mile long because she believes she has to, and there is no one else who can help … the employee who thinks she’s being unreasonable or overemotional if she gets upset over the expectation that she carry more than her share of the workload; the woman who plays down her accomplishments at work because she doesn’t want to hurt her colleague’s feelings. Detrimental caretaking means you give in (make sacrifices) for the people and circumstance around you. It can feel like something or someone other than you is running your life.”
Veland writes about some of the distorted beliefs that keep us stagnant in our over-helping tendencies, such as,“It is mean to put myself first,” and, “Avoiding conflict is best.” But Veland isn’t against helping all together. She clearly defines what healthy helping is all about and how to identify when you’ve crossed your personal line, a line that’s different for each individual.
“If you fully see the decisions you make, understand the consequences, can tolerate the risks, and consciously choose to extend yourself for another, that’s one thing. But if you’re doing damage to yourself unknowingly — because that’s all you know and you don’t believe you have choices — that’s another matter entirely, and it shows that you’ve adopted a destructive pattern. Ask yourself: Did I really, really want to do what I just did? How do I feel now that I’ve done it? Am I choking back nagging anxiety, discomfort, a touch of regret, or even a sense of foreboding?”
The first half of the book is essential to gaining a full understanding of our giveaway patterns and how to challenge them. But it’s the final section that takes “Stop Giving It Away” from valuable to invaluable: the concrete how-to examples for transforming yourself from the inside out, from a “giveaway girl” into a “got it girl.” From how to design your life to feel more effortless with Veland’s ease of living scale to seven concrete tools for creating and honoring your boundaries, Veland’s advice just might revolutionize your work and personal life.
The bad news, Veland writes, is learning to put yourself first is a slow process that doesn’t happen overnight. But that’s good news, too. You don’t have to knock the house down with a wrecking ball. You can start with small repair by small repair. In other words, you can still be you. And you can do it in a way that feels authentic and comfortable.
“Stop Giving It Away” is one of those books you’ll read and then buy extra copies for every woman you know. Though it’s geared toward a female audience, if you’re a guy who tends to do more for everyone else than he does for himself, the advice still holds true.