The Art of Giving
We’ve all heard the saying, “There’s more to this than that meets the eyes”.
Charlotte Lloyd discusses how the simple act of giving can really make all the difference in our lives.
I’m a big believer in karma: what goes around comes around. But I also don’t want you to see this as an incentive for wanting to give back. Whether it be on a big scale, or just to a close friend, it doesn’t change the value of the experience, and sometimes the smallest things can really make someone’s day. Giving a compliment. Paying for your friend’s coffee. Messaging someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Telling your parents you miss them. I for one am probably the worst at being outwardly expressive of how I feel, which most of the time only make things worse – bottling things up until they get too much to handle, where the only reaction that comes from it is anger.
It seems so easy to be able to practice kindness and just saying exactly how you feel, but sometimes it’s not that simple. They say you never know what someone is dealing with, so it’s important to always be kind. With the stressful part of the semester fast approaching us, what better time to chat about giving, kindness, and mental health and wellbeing.
The art of giving back is not for me to be preaching about the importance of being overly attentive. It’s not simply about making grand gestures or giving some material gifts – it is about having someone know when you’re not feeling the best, and you being that friend for someone else. This gives them not only the ability to speak openly and comfortably with you, but lets them know you’re there if they need you. Not everyone will be as responsive to such openness. Sometimes there are different ways of asking if someone is ok and showing support when friends and family are going through a hard time. But by understanding what it means to give back, to reach out to someone, this will then be reciprocated to you.
Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle. Read that again. That is what the art of giving back is all about. It’s not the fact that you’re going to pay for someone’s coffee because you know they’re struggling and you want to seem fine – that’s not how friendships or any relationship work. Giving back is like what I said before – you shouldn’t feel obliged to give back so that you expect good things will come to you. Random acts of kindness, no matter how big or small, are not based on expectations, but rather on trying to brighten someone’s day…without invalidating how you feel.
Relationships can get to a point of complete one-sidedness, and sometimes the line where this happens is unclear. But the art of giving back is also based on an equal relationship, without feelings of an obligation of ‘having to do this’ or ‘having to do that’. That takes the genuineness out of it altogether, which is at the core of giving back. There are lots of ways to know when to check in on a friend; some examples being when they’re socially withdrawn, they’re going through a difficult life event, they have mentioned sleep difficulties, they appear ‘on edge,’ they are disengaged in conversation, they have fluctuations in appetite, or even if it look like they are having a great time on social media. Being able to recognise this can make all the difference and sometimes the smallest things can make their day.
There is a certain stigma behind mental health and dealing with problems. ‘Oh, I shouldn’t be complaining because others have it much worse,’ and while this might be true, it fails to acknowledge your problems for the comfort of others, and more often than not, invalidates it. Honest and raw communication is the key to any relationship. You should be able to say what you feel without feeling bad for how others might react. It is true that sometimes ‘trying to remain positive’ is how people deal with their problems. Not everyone is open about how they feel, and that’s ok. I am a prime example. But there is a fine line between when positivity becomes more toxic than beneficial.
Having mental health check-ins both with yourself and your close friends and family is extremely important, especially with the year we’ve all had it seems even more beneficial than ever. We are in the middle of two major mental health days – R U OK Day, which has just passed us on September 10th, and World Mental Health Day, not far away on October 10th. Sometimes a simple check-in that often gets pushed aside is all that was needed from you. Likewise, if you are in need of support, you shouldn’t have to feel like reaching rock bottom is the only way you can ask for help. Unfortunately, people are not mind readers, so the responsibility is yours to communicate how you feel. Even if you’re scared, you say it. All relationships are equal in their reliance on each other (or, at least, they should be), so let me be clear that no one should have to wait until R U OK Day for a prompt to check in with friends.
So give a compliment. Pay for your friend’s coffee. Message someone, you haven’t spoken to in a while. Tell your parents you miss them. Life is too short to react with anger and build walls. This is more than R U OK Day and World Mental Health Day, this is about genuine human connection – because sometimes the world gets too heavy and that is the only thing keeping us afloat.