Being Used By Friends and Family

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You are a yes person. And the people in your life know this. They know they can count on you to say yes to anything they ask even if it is inconvenient for you. Unfortunately, instead of realizing that they are taking advantage of your willingness to be helpful, and selfless – they continue to place their burdens on you.

Can you pick up my daughter from school? Would you mind helping me with the yard sale? Do you have time to bake cupcake for my daughter’s birthday party? Could you pick me up at the car dealership so I can drop off my car? Is it okay if my kids stay at your house overnight so I can go out to dinner? The list is endless. Being used by friends and family not only leaves you feeling resentful, but also somehow punctuates your status as the family doormat.

So how do you stop saying yes? How do you stick up for your own needs? How do you start saying no WITHOUT feeling bad about it? How can you finally opt out of being everyone’s doormat?

We are taught from a young age that we are supposed to always help others and be polite. Unfortunately, as adults this politeness and helpfulness often equates to us being dishonest about what we can, want, and have time to do. We feel bad about saying no to someone in need, even if it means putting our needs on the backburner to suit someone else. Therein lays the problem. If you are a yes yes yes person, chances are you learned along the way that your needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. And chances also are, that you will be left feeling used, abused, taken for granted, resentful and sad.

The reality is that when you become an adult part of your responsibility is to take care of your own life first and foremost. If you have the utilities or the time to help others, then by all means do so. But if helping someone else, especially constantly – means putting you or your own family out, then you need to follow the 1-day rule. Firstly, when someone asks you to do something for them – that you know you don’t want to do, or cannot do, then don’t respond right away. Instead, defer and tell them that you need to check on some things first because you may have plans. This helps you to avoid your first response of saying YES, and gives you time to work up the guts to tell the person you are busy. Plus, when you defer someone who constantly takes advantage of you, you send the signal that you are on to his or her antics. Then, the next day – you can call them and tell them that whatever it is they needed, you are sorry – but you are unable to help.

The worst thing you can do is become so resentful towards the people asking for your assistance that you avoid them altogether. This is a very passive aggressive way to deal with things, and doesn’t internalize or reinforce the feeling that YOUR needs are as important as anyone else’s. In order to feel good about saying no, you have to give yourself permission to say no, and to recognize that you matter as well. Being conditioned for so long to feel otherwise, this can be a difficult thing to do. Just take baby steps.

You will also find that once you stop being people’s doormats, some of them will sever their ties with you. While this may be hurtful, the reality is that this says much more about their character than it does yours. It shows you that these people were not vested in you, and didn’t care about you – but were only concerned with how you could HELP them in their lives. In the long run, these are not the kind of friends or family members that you want in your life.

Additionally, friend or family aside, if you are performing a service for someone that they would have to pay someone else to do – then you should ask for compensation. It may seem rude to do so, but how rude is it of them to ask you to do something for them for free, when they would have to pay others to do so. This is not to say you should make your great grandma pay you to cut her grass. But if your sister in law is constantly asking you to pick up her kids, or baby-sit her kids – then she should be willing to compensate you for your time and efforts. If she is offended by your request, then she certainly isn’t willing to reciprocate you helping her by putting your best interests in mind as well.

There may be people in your life that you will just have to be straight and to the point with. You may have to say the difficult words, “I think you are taking advantage of me,” and see how they respond. They may honestly not believe that they are and you may finally shed some light on your own feelings (which in turn will make them act better) or they may just get mad and choose to not talk to you anymore. It is a chance you have to take in order to stand up for your own integrity. The reality is that once you stick up for YOU – you will be a happier person, and you will weed out the folks in your life who don’t care very much about you.

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