You’re a ‘nice person’ with a can-do attitude and a generous spirit. But there’s a fine line between being accommodating and…being a doormat.
The difference lies in the intention. Do you want to be kind, or do you want to be liked? The need to please, or what some people call affirmation addiction, can make it hard for you to draw personal boundaries or even to get any real satisfaction from what you’re doing. Read on for more life tips on how identify this cycle.
No is not a bad word
Doing good can make you feel good. We totally get that. But the trouble lies when doing good makes us feel bad.
You know what I mean. You can’t say no or turn down a request because you’re afraid of disappointing others. Or, you do things on your own because you’re afraid to ask for help, or feel guilty doing anything for yourself.
Understand your motives
There are two big motives for behavior: love or fear. You either love what you’re doing, or are afraid of consequences for not doing it.
Let’s say that a neighbor asked you to volunteer for a neighborhood fundraising project. ‘Oh, that’s great!’ you say, count me in!’ Is it because you genuinely believe in the cause, or are you just terrified what others will think?
The problem is further complicated if, say, the requests are constant and demanding. Let’s say you haver a passive-aggressive parent or your family environment is one where everyone seems to count on you to do everything. Then, day in and day out, you are giving and giving and giving to others—without giving anything to yourself . You get tired and frustrated, and you want to stop, but others are so used to you rescuing them. (Read our article on co-dependent relationships.) Instead of feeling good about what you do, your generosity is affecting your well-being. But you’re afraid of just letting go. ‘Everything will just fall apart if I stop.’ Or, ‘What will they say?’
Other motives may be a need to feel needed, or insecurity.
We are trying to earn love or respect through our kindness, but ironically, we don’t actually feel it—or we wouldn’t be driven to get it/affirm it each and every day. Underneath all of this ‘giving’ is the sense of emptiness: ‘If I don’t do this, they will say….’ or ‘If I let them down, I will be…’
Knowing is half the battle
The need to please can drive you to burnout and even hurt your relationships, as resentful builds up. But you have already taken the first step. If you know that you’re caught in a need to please, and start to see patterns of giving too much or giving for the wrong reasons, then you have something you didn’t have before: a choice.
Ask yourself: ‘Why am I doing this?’ and ‘What am I afraid will happen if I don’t do this?’ If you are truly in a loving relationship, then would the other person want to make you feel that way? If you are not in a loving relationship, then would anything you do actually change it? When you know what you’re doing, you can ask if you can do things differently. And then, a whole new world opens.
Photo from michellejames-mlm.com