Here's the pattern: I see many perfectionists; people who work hard, give a lot to others, and don't ask for a lot in return. They may not self identify as a perfectionist, but there is fear of failure or disappointing others under the surface which looks like perfectionism from above. When they get to my office, they are weary and worn out. They cannot understand why they don't get anything back from the people to whom they're giving. So they continue to give, do, be, and turn themselves inside out to try to get something back.
Here's why: They think that others think the way they think. For example, if I do X, Y, and Z for Jim, wouldn't it be safe to assume that he'd do the same in return? Well, no, it's not safe to assume. I'm sure there is a psychological theory Google can find you about a type of attribution theory, but I'm not really concerned with the name of it. It's the experience of it that gets people so mired in resentment, loneliness, and despair.
So what is one to do? Not give? That's not possible, they might say, it's who I am. Ask for something in return? That would be selfish and seem like I'm asking for a quid pro quo. Ugh.
Those are not the only options. Before thinking about what to do in the relationship, they must reflect on their own motivations, needs, and expectations.
Let's pretend this is you, for the sake of this exercise.
What would I do for Jim knowing he will never give anything back?
Is what I'm expecting healthy and fair of him given our relationship and roles?
Could I tell him that I'm happy to take care of X, but I need him to do Y?
How can I tell him how I feel about it respectfully, but not worrying about causing upset on his side.
What we're talking about here is BOUNDARIES.
>> What are your limits, what are your needs, and how do you communicate them? Just because you want and need something does not mean someone will automatically read your mind. If you do ask, they don't even have to agree. They don't think like you, remember? They may see the situation differently, see something else as a priority, etc. It's not personal that they don't think like you, and it's not because they lack common sense, they are selfish, or another judgment you may assign. When it's obvious to you, it may not be obvious to them. When you attack them for something that is not obvious to them, it can end up shaming them causing a whole domino effect of unwanted interaction.
OK, SO NOW WHAT?
>> The next step is to get curious with open ended questions to gather information on HOW they are thinking so you can line it up with your perspective, needs, and boundaries.
Open ended questions sound like:
Can you tell me what you're thinking about Y?
How important is X to you?
I'm trying to understand your approach to the Z situation. Can you explain?
Asking questions like keeps you out of attack and judgment mode, so it will hopefully keep Jim out of defense mode. It can help to learn about his perspective so that it can dispel your anger, assumptions, and judgments.
>> Examine your ability to receive. While you can get angry and resentful about all the giving, you may be inadvertently blocking yourself from receiving what you want. How? You don't allow others to do anything even when they offer. You reject a gift, favor, or other nicety because it's unnecessary or you feel undeserving.
Hint: Undeserving. If you feel undeserving of receiving, this is a deeper issue. You are most likely wrapped up in the idea that your productivity is synonymous with your self-worth. This keeps you on the hamster wheel, builds resentment, and burnout.
If you need a place to start with the idea of productivity = self worth, start by reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.