This week, I had the incredible opportunity to give someone more than they asked me for. Long story short, I have been working with someone from my self-love community on the cover of my second book. It was her first time doing a book cover and one of her first paid art projects. She said, her inexperience considered, she wanted $50 for it.
I’ll let her work speak for itself.
I don’t want this to turn into a brag-fest, so I’ll leave the numbers out of it, but let’s just say that I gave her much more than she bargained for. And it felt incredible. It felt like the real, true purpose of the holiday season.
As I was riding this high, I saw a quote on Facebook about treating ourselves better because, otherwise, we’ll attract people who mistreat us into our lives. I share and write quotes like this all the time. But I also share quotes about giving compassion to ourselves and others. And yesterday, I saw how dangerous these ideas of “attracting mistreatment” and “taking responsibility for ourselves” can be if they aren’t balanced with kindness.
How many times have you heard people say that you only get what you think you deserve? For many of us on the journey of self-love and self-discovery, this is an epiphany.
Oh wow, people have been mistreating me because I’ve been neglecting myself! This kind of thinking can be incredibly helpful—to a point.
It can help us stop playing victim and take charge of our lives, yes. It can help us understand why we have certain relationships in our lives that resemble abusive situations of the past, yes. But there are limits to the helpfulness of this thinking.
After all, if I only ever get what I think I deserve, then isn’t it always my fault that people treat me poorly? And, if people only get what they think they deserve, am I not justified in treating others only as they treat themselves?
Don’t get me wrong, I think that most people don’t take enough responsibility for their life circumstances. We certainly can (and arguably should) take charge of our lives and use self-awareness to lead us to a higher purpose, deeper relationships, and a healthier life. I’ve seen this beautiful shift happen dozens of times.
But self-love doesn’t eliminate the possibility of being treated poorly. And people who don’t love themselves don’t always get mistreated either.
I do believe that our mindsets externalize into our circumstances. I do believe that we sometimes allow parts of reality that harm us to linger longer if we have limiting beliefs about what we deserve. But does every self-loathing person invite neglect or abuse? No. And do all victims experience self-hatred before they get mistreated? No.
Sometimes, being mistreated by people is just a coincidence. We end up in the wrong place (or the wrong family, or the wrong relationship) at the wrong time. We inherit someone else’s self-neglect through their actions towards us. We don’t choose these things to happen to us.
Some people (my past included) react to being mistreated by putting up brick walls. We lock everything and everyone out. This makes us more prone to acting abusive. It also makes us unable to accept others’ kindness. For people like my past self, hitting rock bottom is sometimes the only way to come face-to-face with love, with reality, with awareness.
But what about other people, like my cover designer? The people who don’t put up walls. The people who are sensitive, raw, and still so tender, despite anything they’ve suffered. It’s harder to be that person than it is to become iron-clad and impenetrable. What about them?
What about the people who always think they deserve less than they do? What about the people who are so hungry for kindness that they bloom just from one encouraging word?
In our capitalist system, we are so often encouraged to fend for ourselves. Build your own dream. Follow your own passions. Build your own wealth. Strangely enough, much of self-love rhetoric has become this way too. Love yourself. Take care of your own life. Build your own happiness.
But what about giving to each other? What about helping each other?
Sure, it’s each of our responsibility to love ourselves more and to ask for more of what we deserve. But arguably, it’s also each of our responsibility to give more to people who don’t ask for enough because they don’t think they deserve it—yet.
I will show you this picture again, in case it isn’t stuck in your head like it has been stuck in mine.
Maybe I’m biased, but this is one of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever seen. This artist, I have no doubt, will be famous one day. She will have more clients, more jobs, more projects. She’ll learn to charge more for her time. And I have no doubt that she’ll never lose her humility.
And maybe I haven’t done a whole lot for her by giving her that money, but I think I’ve done something. Maybe, just for a second, I helped to show her what I think she deserves, and maybe, just for a second, she saw herself that way too.
I think that the message of “give more to people who think they deserve less” should be just as popular and commonplace as “believe that you deserve more.”
We are social creatures. We don’t live in self-created bubbles, separate from the world. We can heal ourselves and work on ourselves, yes. But we can also affect other people in profound ways. We can impact others’ journeys of self-love by being kind and generous.
So this holiday season, I challenge you to look beyond your obligations and find some room to give more than what is expected. Find those people in your life who don’t expect anything from you and who never ask for a whole lot, and give to them.
Don’t take my word for this, try it. Once you experience the rewards of this practice, you’ll be hooked.
Happy holidays, friends.
Oh and, if you haven’t already, make sure you get a free preview of The Art of Talking to Yourself!