If we think of trust as an exchange of faith and giving as an act of generosity that we do based on trust, we quickly see where our sense of reciprocity kicks in. It’s not necessarily that we give to get per se, but we give with the faith that we won’t get screwed over. While we’re not necessarily seeking brownie points, we don’t want to come out of interactions and relationships feeling underappreciated and devalued.

The problem is, though, the origins of our giving: our Why. People pleasers, perfectionists, overthinkers, overgivers and basically the over-responsible folk of this world ‘give’ based on underlying feelings of low self-worth and fear. When we give from a place of connection, we know who we can trust. That, and we also trust ourselves and so we can give from a boundaried place.

But if the ‘why’ behind our giving is about trying to feel worthy or enough, or about avoiding something we fear, we’re not giving because we trust ourselves or the other party.

As a result, we inadvertently give to show our trustworthiness but also to make others be trustworthy too. We give to control and avoid. And when they fail to live up to our expectations, we just up the giving. We assume we’ve screwed up in some way and that we have to try harder. Cue efforting to change the outcome.

Giving without boundaries causes us to be out of alignment with our values and needs. This means that we can be trustworthy people who inadvertently do things that put a question mark over our head due to our quest to be liked and to cater to others.

If we don’t know, like and trust someone, we need to assess what we’re being, doing and giving. That’s how we establish self-trust, the very foundation of trust itself. Continuing to behave like we’re in a mutual relationship or around someone trustworthy when we’re not, sets us up for pain. It’s super confusing to our body, and it’s the equivalent of running multiple red lights. At some point, we will crash.

It’s not that we can’t be, do and give if we don’t trust someone; it’s that we must do these things with boundaries so that we can trust ourselves and also know which people, things and opportunities are in alignment with that.

The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon/HarperCollins) is out now and available in bookshops on and offline. Listen to the first chapter.
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