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Giver and Takers


I don’t think life is supposed to be easy. 

I know the only way to grow is to face our challenges, but to be able to do so with some courage instead of doubting we have what it takes. And I don’t think we have to suffer through our challenges - we can doubt if we have what it takes to thrive, or we can choose to believe Yes, I have everything I need to face my challenges and even grow in my identity and confidence. And I think the way to do that is to embrace mental and emotional tools and strategies that you can take with you into your day-to-day. 

I want to talk about Givers and Takers. And this is a concept my dad taught me growing up. And the way he explained it, there are two kinds of people, Givers and Takers. And he’d give me this talk when he noticed I was in Taker mode, probably being selfish as a teenager, but the talk was very effective to me, and I’m so glad he’d take the time to teach me this concept. 

To summarize, he’d say to me: Now Danielle, there are two kinds of people in the world. There are Givers and there are Takers. 

And then he’d pull from examples of people we both knew and he’d illustrate how so and so was a Taker because they’d put themselves first and not care about anyone else. Or he’d tell me about so-and-so is a Giver and how he admired them because they were thoughtful, and they made the world a better place with their thoughtfulness.

 I teach a lot about the balance of being a Giver and a Taker to my clients when they’re wondering and wanting to know about when to be which role. I teach it a little differently than my dad taught it to me because I think it’s okay to be a Taker sometimes, I think there’s such a thing as a healthy Taker, and there’s such a thing as being an un-healthy Giver. I’ll get into more of that in a moment. 

And I am a believer that you should have boundaries around each role of when to be a Giver and when to be a Taker. 

And so sometimes, when I teach about this, the most common sticking point for people, the most common question that comes up is, “well if I don’t do this, who will? If I don’t say yes and be a Giver, then who will do it?”

And I teach them not to do it if that’s your only reason. Because it will lead to resentment and resentment is not good for your mental and emotional health. But I help them explore more of the reasons they are doing something or choosing not to. 


So let’s define the terms the way I use them.

A Giver is someone who does something for someone else. Let’s just keep the definition super simple. A Taker is someone who does something for themselves. That’s it. Those are simple definitions to work from. 

Next, let’s talk about what a healthy Giver looks like, and what an unhealthy Giver looks like, and then we’ll do the same for Takers, a healthy Taker and an unhealthy Taker.  

We can be healthy Givers in our roles as parents. Or we can be unhealthy Givers. 

An unhealthy Giver would be motivated by doing all the right things for their kids, but trying to control a child’s choices that would serve the parent and override the child’s agency. 

Unhealthy Givers do the giving but secretly hate it the whole time, even though they value pitching in, doing their part, and know that giving improves the lives of people around them. 

There’s almost always a level of inconvenience in being a Giver, not always, but almost always. And healthy Givers have made peace with the inconvenience. Unhealthy Givers have not made peace with the inconvenience yet. And that’s work worth doing if you are wanting to be a healthy Giver, but not sure how, maybe you feel stuck in people-pleasing, because you value contribution, but you hate it at the same time. That’s ok! But just know there’s ways to move past that, and part of it will involve getting really curious about your intentionality, what are your Thoughts that are creating your Feelings that are driving your Actions

A healthy Taker knows it’s okay to receive something in return. They are able to identify what it might be - in my son’s case, he identified a chance to see a new and different part of the world, and the possibility of good feelings. That’s enough, really. 


One thing that being a healthy Giver has going for itself is that we do what’s good for us and for others in the long run, versus fixating on what is only good for us in the moment. 

And so when I can zoom out, and get really clear on how doing good for the greater good really is in alignment with my values, then I don’t resent my Giver roles. 

We want our kids to be able to do this for themselves too. We want them to participate in a religion with this kind of understanding about Givers and Takers. We want them to contribute in their schools and their communities where they know how to put in the effort and pull together and contribute because they see the bigger picture. 

But before they can do that, before we as the adults can do that, we have to understand the distinctions between healthy giving and unhealthy giving, and healthy taking, and unhealthy taking.  

 I think there will be times when we can do internal checkins and know we might need to be uncomfortable here and there and still be a healthy Giver, and there will also be times when we feel we’re worn out, and so it’s time to be a healthy Taker.

And the better we get at this as adults, the better we can help our kids, so there isn’t this all or nothing mentality. 

I think the younger generation is looking to us to understand what reasonable giving really looks like in practice. Some of them are wary of giving because they see the adults in their lives resenting the giving they are doing. 

If we can take the time to get to the heart of why we are saying yes to things or why we are saying no, and if we can like our reasons for the slight discomforts that come from giving, and the slight discomforts that come from saying no too, we’ll be a little more balanced, and it will help our kids see that it’s okay to do things for the sake of community, for things that are bigger than ourselves, but it’s also okay to take care of yourself and pull back when needed. 

It comes down to your intentionality. What are the Thoughts you are having and what Feelings do your Thoughts create about whether to be a Giver or a Taker? 

If you can get crystal clear on the Thoughts driving the Feelings, you will gain so much leverage and ownership of liking your reasons, and you will operate from more grounded confidence versus guilt.

We have the power to make a difference. It’s amazing what one person can do when they are in a healthy Giver role. There will be seasons for you to be a Giver, and there will be seasons for you to be a Taker. 

Try not to be too hard on yourself if this has been confusing or messy. 

But moving forward, let’s try to make peace with being okay with needing each other, and being okay if we need to be in Taker mode. 

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