Many of us find ourselves at a place in life where we’re catering to other people’s needs and operating based on someone else’s agenda. Perhaps you believe your own needs aren’t as important as everyone else’s; or that it’s selfish to attend to your own needs if it will inconvenience others. Maybe you feel compelled to keep the people around you happy (even though other people’s happiness isn’t your responsibility) to the extent that you feel as if you’re an actor in a play, merely following the script that’s been handed to you.
Continually ignoring your own needs and submitting to the demands of others might seem effective in terms of “keeping the peace” and not rocking the boat. But internally, living this way can wreak havoc on your emotional well-being. The continual suppression of your own needs and wants, while you capitulate to the wishes of everyone around you, leads to anger, frustration and resentment. You can smile and tell yourself that everything is fine, but these emotions will still be there beneath the surface.
Left unresolved, these emotions will drain you physically and emotionally. Some people will find themselves becoming edgy, impatient, and short-tempered, even if their personality isn’t usually oriented this way. Others will find themselves feeling dull and detached. As the sense of being “stuck” or “blocked” increases, routine tasks become increasingly difficult, and day-to-day challenges become increasingly stressful. You might find yourself struggling with a lack of motivation, even losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. Eventually, this can escalate into depression.
Anyone can find themselves trapped in this cycle, where they’re caught up in other people’s needs and following someone else’s agenda. This includes people who are smart, accomplished, well put-together, and successful. There are, however, certain traits that make some people more susceptible than others:
- you have an excessive need for approval
- you’re uncomfortable (even fearful) of people getting angry
- you feel a need to “keep the peace” regardless of the cost
- you tend to take on too much responsibility for other people’s lives
- you have a high level of self-doubt; you undervalue yourself
When the above traits become extreme, unbalanced, or they start to control us, we’re less able to assert ourselves and we lose the ability to draw appropriate lines in the sand. It then becomes easy to find ourselves tangled up in situations where we “go along to get along”, being swept up in someone else’s agenda.
If this describes you and your life, here’s the good news: you can make changes. However, doing so takes work. It starts with re-evaluating your core beliefs and adopting a new mindset. You need to get grounded regarding your inherent right (and responsibility) to honour yourself and your needs. Your time and your needs are just as valuable and worthy of respect as everyone else’s. Once you truly recognize that and believe that, it becomes easier to take appropriate steps to protect yourself and your needs. You can then work on regaining the clarity and focus necessary to pursue your own agenda.
Important: it’s completely appropriate (and highly desirable) to be considerate towards other people. It’s normal and healthy to give of yourself in relationships, even when it may be difficult or inconvenient to do so. When it comes to those you love, there are plenty of times when you may willingly choose to set aside your needs for the sake of others. Things become unhealthy when you start losing yourself in the process, to the extent that you’re totally being absorbed by someone else’s will and steered by their dictates, and you start to lose touch with what you truly need and want. And if you’re being manipulated through guilt, or you’re complying due to fear of punishment or reprisals, that’s definitely not healthy.
Consideration of others is central to relationships in general. But that doesn’t mean indulgence of every whim, nor does it mean compliance with every request at your own expense. You need to be attuned to your own health and well-being, so you can clearly identify what you can handle vs. what is having negative effect on you. After all, you’ve got your own unique agenda to live out that only you can fulfill.
Struggling to find the balance? Learn more about balancing needs in relationships, and the questions you can ask yourself to gain clarity on the difference between consideration vs. capitulation.