7 signs you give too much (aka, don’t be a stump)

Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASelf-sacrifice.  Often, women are taught it is the same as love.

Self-sacrifice is interpreted as a sign of love and kindness.  Of will power.  Of good moral character.  It suggests a deep capacity for empathy.

But as with all the good stuff, there can be too much of a good thing.

The line between generous giving and martyrdom is thinner than you might think.

I think of Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree as an example of giving gone awry.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a tree who offers a little boy support and love through all the season of his life.

The tree offers shade, fruit, and finally, her trunk, to meet the boy’s demands.

Each time she is able to meet a need, she is happy.

Eventually she becomes a stump.  A stump that the boy sits on.

Am I the only one that sees a problem here?  Can anyone imagine the story if the tree had been male?  The whole tone would be different, don’t you think?

Don’t be a stump

many stumpsBefore you call me a curmudgeon, let me be really clear.

There is nothing wrong with giving.

And relationships do not always have to be 50-50.

In fact, many aren’t—just ask a parent!

But my hope is that even parents, who give so selflessly to their children, do not become “stumps.”

Because parents who do this teach their children to become stumps one day, too.

Or they teach their children to “cut down” other people in relationships in order to meet their needs later in life.

While the dependency needs and “selfishness” of children is to be expected, these relationship dynamics should be outgrown in adulthood.

Ideally, adult relationships should have a respectful, give/take dynamic.

Seven signs you’re giving too much

axeRead on to learn about 7 signs that you’re giving too much.

1.)    You never get.  (It’s never your turn.)  You find yourself in a lot of one-sided relationships.

When you’re in trouble, everyone suddenly has some place to be.  Or, you conceal your struggles from concerned others, so you don’t “worry them.”

2.)    You must give.  (It’s no longer a choice.)  If you don’t know what to do with yourself if you don’t have someone to help, you’re probably giving too much.

3.)    You don’t know what you need.  You’re so attuned to what other people need that you don’t have a very good idea about your needs and wants.

4.)    You can’t say no.  Whether you’re afraid of losing relationships, you feel guilty, or you think people can’t make it without you, you say yes.  Constantly.  You end up chronically oversubscribed.

5.)    You’re the one always making changes.  You don’t really understand compromise because you’re always ready to sacrifice for your relationships.

6.)    You’re kind of falling apart.  (You are a master of self-neglect.)  You have chronic aches and pains.  You’re sleep deprived.  Your stomach is always rumbling.

7.)    You struggle with quiet rage and resentment.  You thought your help was of the no-strings-attached variety.  But when you get caught in the teeth of fatigue, depleted because you’re spreading yourself too thin and working too hard, your resentment shows.  In unexpected and sometimes very unpleasant ways.

Hold onto your leaves and branches

tall treeTrue love is not about suffering and endless sacrifice.

It is not about becoming a stump.

Love is about having boundaries.

It is about being able both to welcome in and to depart from.

It is about compromise and sharing equally, giving and receiving.

So don’t be a stump.

Retain your leaves and branches and fruit– and share thoughtfully.


As always, knowing which changes to make isn’t the hardest part of change.  It’s actually doing it, and sustaining those changes over time, in spite of the resistance and backlash that may come.

Helping people pleasers is what I do!  So, if you’re in Austin, Texas, and you’re looking for a counselor who helps people-pleasing mamas, drop me a line.  I offer free, half hour consultations in person at the office, and I’d be glad to set one up for you.


  1. I stumbled across your website from reading your guest blog on Tamara’s site. I really enjoyed this blog. I have a private practice in Minneapolis and eing that I am in the state of “Minnesota Nice”, I find many people pleasers entering my office. I like how you use the stump metaphor and how you can give too much. I am definitely going to share this blog on my Facebook page for my readers. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to more!

    • Hi Lyndsey! I’m so glad you found me through Tamara’s site– I had a lot of fun writing that post on Jealousy Maps. And you’re right: people-pleasing is so common, isn’t it? I think there are so many people who struggle with the problem of being “too nice.” I’m so glad you found this post helpful and that you plan to share it with your readers– thanks for sharing and dropping by to comment!

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