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When Kindness Turns Into People Pleasing and Codependent Behavior

"You don't have to light yourself on fire to keep others warm!"

Through synchronicity with my clients, similar themes usually arise each week. Recently, I’ve noticed that one of the big themes has become a tendency to people-please. Of course, wanting to please others and/or do nice things for people is part of what makes for a compassionate and moral community. However, when we become so giving that we lose a sense of ourselves and our desires, we get into trouble. Making other people's moods more important than our own is codependent and unhealthy behavior. When we have limiting beliefs that we are not deserving of care and put all of our focus on selflessness, we put ourselves at risk for being manipulated and taken advantage of.

With the possible exception of parenting a young child, we are not responsible for others' happiness. Our responsibility is instead to ourselves, in learning how to make ourselves happy and hopefully finding our life's purpose.

So why do so many people feel the need to ignore their wants/dreams to appease someone else?

Sometimes it's the message you got growing up. Perhaps you were taught some of the following:

  • Selfishness is evil

  • Do not disappoint grown-ups

  • Just suck it up

  • Stop trying to get attention

Some selfishness can be a good thing; if you do not choose yourself first sometimes, you are setting yourself up for failure. You may believe that you should be always available, that you should say yes when you mean no, that you should push your feelings down for others. But this is not sustainable. This will affect your mental and physical health and when you're not healthy, you cannot help anyone.

Furthermore, disappointment is a fact of life. If you disappoint someone, it is up to them to learn how to cope with disappointment; it's their stuff to handle, and you shouldn’t be guilted into prioritizing their happiness over yours. And yes, this even extends to disappointing your parents. If, while growing up, you are constantly told to respect them and take their word as gospel, it feels very uncomfortable when you become an adult and a shift in perspective happens.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to establish our personal boundaries, and practice being honest with our feelings when others are asking us to do things that result in feelings of resentment.

This is not easy, especially if we are used to our self worth revolving around how useful we are to others. I recommend coming from a place of love instead of ego. The next time somebody asks you to overextend yourself, try simply replying "I have to say no this time."

You will find a sense of relief to act as your authentic self and follow your true feelings.

The answer is inside of you; if you sit quietly long enough, you will hear it.

The author of this blog, Lisa Tetreault, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Lisa is licensed in Florida and enjoys helping clients who want to explore their spiritual beliefs. If you’d like to be matched with Lisa for a virtual counseling session, sign up through Unmute and let us know!

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