Learn the Importance of Setting Boundaries on Your Generosity

Setting boundaries on your generosity doesn't mean that you're not able to offer help, but that you must also respect and take care of yourself.
Learn the Importance of Setting Boundaries on Your Generosity
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 16 May, 2023

Knowing about setting boundaries on your generosity is important to establish healthy bonds. There are those who tend to naturally “give everything” in their relationships, from care to gifts or the simple willingness to always be there. But when does this become detrimental, and when should we put the brakes on it?

The truth of the matter is that there are many situations in which it’s necessary to know how to say “no” in order not to compromise one’s own well-being. Being generous all the time can lead to others taking advantage or not assuming their responsibilities. Do you want to know more about it? Keep reading.

Why is it important to set boundaries on your generosity?

Setting boundaries on your generosity also implies safeguarding and caring for the relationship. For a bond to work and be sustained over time, it must be fair; the people involved must feel that they give and receive the same amount and not that one of them makes an effort and gives continuously, while the other is only in a position to receive.

On the other hand, this also has to do with a matter of self-care and self-respect. Therefore, learning to reach out and help others without making demands on oneself or compromising one’s own well-being. Being generous and being respected are part of the social skills that are so necessary for mental health.

Likewise, being able to say “no” also has to do with taking responsibility for one’s well-being. Everyone should be the captain of his or her own life. (But that isn’t to say that we can’t seek a “co-pilot” on certain occasions, of course).

However, taking charge of decisions and not depending on the generosity of others is also an important part of our growth.

¿Por qué es importante poner límites a tu generosidad?
Unlimited generosity can have negative effects on a person’s well-being.

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Some keys to setting boundaries on your generosity

Generosity is a virtue that can contribute to the establishment of good relationships, both personal and work-related. However, if misused, it can lead to feelings of frustration or anger. Therefore, it’s advisable to put into practice some recommendations to limit it whenever necessary.

Don’t personalize your help

Perhaps at first you may think that you are the only person who can offer help and that if you don’t do it, no one else will. However, this isn’t really the case. Remember: everyone is capable of giving and receiving help, and thinking that you’re the only one not only causes you to put unfair pressure on yourself, but is also a big egocentric.

Choose how much you can truly help

If you feel comfortable helping, that’s fine. If it’s in your nature to do so, don’t try to change it. But the truth is that you can’t try to fix the lives of everyone around you either. It doesn’t do you or your environment any good.

Instead, what you can try to do is to offer your support, but also leave a margin of action so that the other person can also become more active. Or suggest that they talk it over or try it with someone else. In short, it’s about collaborating and not carrying a burden that doesn’t belong to you.

Learn to see generosity as a choice, not as an obligation

It’s important to know that you can say yes and no; generosity should be spontaneous and fluid. When you feel that it “corners you” as in a dead end, it’s because it’s imposed. In that case, you need to listen to yourself and be able to decide how far you’re able to give and follow through.

Accept that you won’t always please everyone

Pleasing others should never be a requirement or even a consideration when you think about helping. Remember: not everyone will always be happy, but that’s okay. Also, setting boundaries also implies that there will be those who get upset or can’t accept it.

Learn to accept and ask for help

Many times, those who are characterized as being too generous fall by the wayside when asking for help or accepting details from other people. In this sense, it’s necessary to learn to recognize the time and effort dedicated to others, and that it’s good to balance the balance between giving and receiving.

Avoid always saying yes as a default

We must be aware that each person has his or her own life, plans, and commitments. Therefore, on many occasions, it’s better to say “no” and prioritize yourself.

Mujer poniendo límites
Learning to say NO is crucial to establish healthy boundaries in relationships.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Emotional Boundaries and Their Importance for Your Teenager

“Extreme” generosity and what to do about it

For those who practice generosity without boundaries, it’s also time to ask themselves why they do it. In many cases, such a pattern is the companion of low self-esteem, insecurity, complacency, or the search for acceptance and recognition by others.

Understood in this way, it’s detrimental both to oneself and to the bonds one wants to forge. As long as one’s own desires and needs are ignored, their relationships become self-serving and lack reciprocity.

Now, this situation can lead to very unhealthy comparisons, like “They don’t give as much as I do,” or to false expectations, “If I give now, they’ll give back later.” However, when this doesn’t happen, frustration and even resentment are generated.

Ultimately, being too generous can also be a way of unconsciously putting yourself at the center of attention. That is, it implies a certain degree of egocentrism that leads a person to act in such a way.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rosa, A. I., Inglés, C. J., Olivares, J., Espada, J. P., Sánchez-Meca, J., & Méndez, X. (2002). Eficacia del entrenamiento en habilidades sociales con adolescentes: de menos a más. Psicología conductual10(3), 543-561.
  • Brañas-Garza P, Rodríguez-Lara I, Sánchez A. Humans expect generosity. Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 14;7:42446. doi: 10.1038/srep42446. PMID: 28195218; PMCID: PMC5307963.
  • Bernal, A. O. (1990). Las habilidades sociales y su entrenamiento; un enfoque necesariamente psicosocial. Psicothema, 93-112.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.