Unbounded Generosity: The Double-Edged Sword – PART II
Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland, Moray


In the world of generosity, there's often more than meets the eye. Excessive generosity, while well-intentioned, can be driven by a multitude of underlying causes. From the desire for approval and fear of rejection to cultural norms and a genuine thirst for personal fulfilment, these motivations can intermingle and push individuals to give excessively, sometimes at the expense of their own well-being.

Causes of Excessive Generosity

Before we venture further into the labyrinth of generosity’s hidden dangers, it’s crucial to understand the underlying causes that drive individuals toward excessive giving. These motivations and emotional currents explain why some among us become excessively generous, often at the cost of their own well-being. Here are some potential causes of such generosity:

1. Desire for Approval and Validation: A typical driver of excessive generosity is the thirst for approval and validation from others. Some believe that by constantly giving and helping, they can gain admiration and acceptance from those around them. This need for external validation becomes a potent force propelling their acts of generosity.

2. Low Self-Esteem: Those with low self-esteem may use excessive generosity to boost their self-worth. By giving tirelessly, they seek a sense of importance and validation. However, this approach often results in fragile self-esteem, as it relies on external validation rather than self-acceptance.

3. Avoidance of Conflict: Some individuals are overly generous to avoid conflict or confrontation. They fear that saying “no” or setting boundaries might lead to disagreements or strained relationships. As a result, they overextend themselves, seeking to maintain a sense of harmony, even when it’s detrimental to their well-being.

4. Fear of Rejection: The fear of rejection can be a potent motivator for excessive generosity. People may worry that if they refuse others’ requests or fail to meet expectations, they will be rejected or abandoned by friends, family, or colleagues. This fear can compel them to say “yes” and give in to demands, even when it’s not in their best interest.

5. Cultural or Social Expectations: Cultural and societal norms can significantly shape individuals’ generosity. Some cultures or social circles may have strong expectations of generosity and communal support. People may feel compelled to conform to these expectations, even if it means going to extremes.

6. Guilt and Obligation: Past experiences, such as receiving help from others or benefiting from privileges, can lead to feelings of guilt and obligation. Some individuals may feel they need to “pay back” or “pay forward” the kindness they have received, which can result in excessive generosity.

7. Empathy and Compassion: While empathy and compassion are admirable qualities, they can sometimes be taken to extremes. People with high levels of empathy may feel deeply affected by the suffering of others and have an overwhelming urge to alleviate it, even if it comes at the expense of their own well-being.

8. Lack of Self-Care Skills: Some individuals may not have developed effective self-care skills, such as setting boundaries, managing stress, or practising self-compassion. As a result, they may resort to excessive generosity as their primary coping mechanism, even if it leads to negative consequences.

9. Perceived Duty or Responsibility: Certain roles or positions, such as caregiver, parent, or leader, can have a perceived duty or responsibility to give and provide for others. This sense of duty can lead individuals to prioritise others’ needs over their own excessively.

10. Personal Fulfillment: Paradoxically, some individuals genuinely find personal fulfilment and satisfaction in being excessively generous. They derive a sense of purpose and happiness from helping others, even if it means making sacrifices.

It’s important to recognise that these causes are not mutually exclusive. Often, a combination of these factors influences individuals to become excessively generous. Understanding these underlying motivations is the first step in addressing and finding a healthier balance in one’s giving behaviour. If needed, self-awareness and seeking support can help individuals navigate their motivations and make more informed choices about when and how to be generous.