I recently spoke about the dynamics surrounding codependency and enabling and I decided to delve deeper into the reasons why many of us allow others to take advantage of us. There are various ways in which we unconsciously permit this type of behavior. Here are a few classic reasons as to why it happens to the best of us and how we can stop it from even starting.
Being the “People Pleaser:” Most people pleasers are known to be taken advantage of simply due to the fact that they rarely say no to others. They often devote most of their time to those around them and typically put their own needs aside. Always worried about others feelings, they frequently put themselves in obligatory situations. With behaviors such as these, it’s no coincidence that people pleasers often attract those who need to be rescued or supported in some way. Always saying yes can inevitably lead to people using up all of our time and energy (being taken advantage of).
A close colleague of mine has a very busy schedule and she rarely has time for herself. With juggling two jobs, community work and a farm in which she helps her parents with, she often feels stretched in many directions. She is always helping someone, whether it’s her parents, her friends or family. I can clearly see that she’s unhappy, but being the people pleaser that she is, she finds it difficult to say no. Until she sets clear boundaries and makes herself a priority, she will continue to work hard to make everyone else happy and lack contentment in her own life. We should never feel bad for respecting ourselves or our time.
The Guilt Cloud: It’s not uncommon for guilt to plague the conscience of parents who often get taken advantage of by their children. This is natural as most parents feel it is their responsibility and duty to help their kids no matter what. Unfortunately, guilt is often the driving factor that causes a mother or father to feed into the habitual cycles of giving/enabling (entitlement). It is these cycles in which children come to consistently expect a helping hand (taking advantage), but don’t desire to help themselves first. The guilt effect isn’t necessarily limited to a parent/child dynamic, it can influence anyone who feels in some way responsible for another person’s well-being. Guilt driven individuals typically feel like they can’t leave a situation or stop helping someone until they feel right about it or that person is ok. This guilt process only delays potential for progress as well as an escape from these destructive behaviors. We are not responsible for another person’s happiness or well-being and while we can help others walk to their destination, it’s not our job to carry them there.
Personal Boundaries: This is one of the most important tools for maintaining healthy relationships with people. If we don’t employ boundaries with others, we can easily subject ourselves to being taken advantage of. For instance, say I have a friend who is experiencing financial troubles. Every time we go out to eat, I grab the tab because I feel sorry for her and I want to help her out. This continues for some time until I realize I’m not helping her at all or myself or my wallet for that matter. This behavior was initiated and continuous because of the lack of boundaries and only happened because I allowed it. Ultimately we set the pace for how we would like to be treated.
Another example that I’m sure many of us can relate to is "walking the line" with in-laws. A few years ago I was invited over to a girlfriend’s house for Thanksgiving. She was both excited and anxious because this was her first time cooking a turkey feast for her family and friends. Her mother in-law had showed up with a turkey of her own, “just in case” as she put it. She had also stated (not asked) that she would be staying over for a few days. My friend looked horrified to say the least. It was apparent that there were no rules or boundaries laid out for her mother in-law as she appeared so very comfortable in her skin, this was the norm. This type of behavior would have continued had their family not communicated their frustrations and concerns. Their mother in-law would have continued to take advantage when given the oppportunity. It’s important to consider what we will accept and feel comfortable with from others, so establish and acknowledge your own personal limits and then attempt to assertively communicate them. Remember “good fences make good neighbors” ― Robert Frost
It’s important to identify the behaviors that might enable people to take advantage of us. The signs can often be indiscernible when our intention is only to help. Communicate your expectations and practice self-love by showing others how you would like to be treated. Setting such boundaries is key in maintaining healthy relationships with others and also helps to keep destructive behaviors at bay.