I don't think there's an author alive who isn't a wee bit jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert, whose memoir Eat, Pray, Love sold, as she herself puts it, "about a bajillion copies." You'd think good fortune like that would cause absolutely nothing but exhilaration, but for Liz, who was played by Julia Roberts in the movie, her good fortune (the operative word being "fortune") meant a lot of heartache too. Because she lost a lot of her friends. Did they all bail on her out of raging jealousy? (I would have. Haha. Jk, Liz.) Nope. It was because once Liz's bank account was overflowing with all that Eat, Pray, Love moola, she began trying to fix everyone. And that didn't go down too well.
In a revealing essay in the Daily Mail, Liz admits that she is a chronic "overgiver," which, she says, isn't quite the same as being generous. Where someone with a generous heart might give and expect zero in return, an "overgiver" gives with the intention of being "petted and feted and praised and loved unconditionally for the rest of time."
Once Liz got rich, she began paying off her friends' credit card bills, their mortgages, and buying them homes, cars, and plane tickets. Sheesh, you'd think her friends would be uber-grateful, and hey, maybe they thought they would be too. But it turned out differently. Instead of petting and feting Liz, they began avoiding her. She writes:
When I lost my friends, it was because I had used the power of giving recklessly on them ... I also accidentally erased years of dignity. Sometimes, by interrupting their life so jarringly, I denied a friend the opportunity to learn their own vital lessons at their own pace. In other words, just when I believed I was operating as a dream facilitator, I was turning into a destiny disruptor. Even worse, sometimes my over-giving left friends feeling shamed and laid bare.
This sounds unbelievable, but I think it's true. In fact, I had something similar happen to me. For years, I rushed in to "rescue" a relative who had chronic drama. I'd call her boss if she was having trouble at work. I paid off her car. I sent her money. I sympathized with every bad boyfriend story (always their fault, never hers!).
And you know what? She began to hate me. It took me a long while to realize that she probably really hated herself. Turning to me every time she had a problem must have, on some level, made her resent me. So she began to sabotage our relationship, probably hoping I'd go away so she'd learn to solve her problems herself. (And I did!)
So next time you feel like rushing in to take over someone's life and make everything right in their world, think twice. Parents especially have a habit of doing this with their kids. Ever notice the more you do for your kids, the more hostile they get? If so, then you might be an overgiver.
Are you an overgiver?
Image via ErikCharlton/Flickr