The term “Human Giver Syndrome” first appeared in 2017, and comes from Feminist Philosopher and Author Kate Manne, and is also extensively described in Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking The Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski PhD and Amelia Nagoski DMA.
“Human givers must, at all times, be pretty, happy, calm, generous and attentive to the needs of others, which means they must never be ugly, angry, upset, ambitious, or attentive to their own needs.
Givers are not supposed to need anything.
Your body, with its instinct for self-preservation, knows, on some level, that Human Giver Syndrome is slowly killing you. Human Giver Syndrome is our disease.”
Kay Coughlin, a Life Coach and CEO of Facilitator on Fire, puts it this way: “Human Giver Syndrome is the belief that some people (the givers) are supposed to exist to put all of their energy into creating comfort and success for other people, and to be attractive and available, physically and emotionally, at all times while doing it.”
When I read this, I wanted to puke.
Because this is how I have lived my entire life. It’s how I grew up, how I entered dating, how I went through training to become a Physician and 100% of how I practiced for many years in medicine.
And it’s now what I work with Physicians to undo.
If you have been socialized as a woman, AND THEN entered a caring profession, AND/OR become a parent, then you are most likely facing this in many deep, deep layers of your existence. It’s why we work so hard and feel like failures. It’s why we struggle to take ourselves to the bathroom. Or put food in our mouth during the day. It’s why we stay up late on our phones after everyone else is in bed or get up at 4 AM to work on charts without inconveniencing the other humans (just ourselves, who trades sleep for “quiet time).”
It's really deep in there for most of us.
And thus, it’s a struggle to turn it down, let alone off.
You have been steeped in the idea that you are here to serve; not to exist, not to enjoy, not to find balance, not to care for yourself. To serve other humans.
And if you are a woman in a caring profession, you most likely don’t see your male colleagues facing the same societal pressures. And you often get paid less while doing more (emotional) labor because we, generally, as humans, expect women to do emotional labor for free. On top of cooking, cleaning, caregiving, educating, etc. And once again, we can find ourselves facing what seems like impossible forces in our lives working against us.
But, and this is important; you don’t have to fix society. You can just work on you.
You, in your sphere, shedding the mantle of Human Giver Syndrome is enough. Trading the discomfort of “letting people down,” for setting healthy boundaries. Allowing people to not like you, but choosing to start liking yourself. Understanding that unlearning the rules of Human Giver Syndrome takes some time and some doing and some difficult emotions; but that the payout of gaining your own life back, and teaching others (kids, spouses, staff, patients, leaders) what is and is not ok DOES change the culture.
Slowly. At first, imperceptibly. And it’s worth it.
I invite you to learn how to give less and get more. To work through the limiting beliefs around being selfish, greedy, needy, etc and allow yourself to have needs, wants and goals that exist only for you. Become a Human Being again.
Schedule a consult with me by clicking here.
Start your healing from Human Giver Syndrome.