When it comes to the people we love, we often put their needs over ours and do everything we can to make them happy.
Caring for and protecting other people’s feelings is what helps us to form some of the deepest and most meaningful relationships in our lives. However, when the balance of putting others’ needs before our own becomes too skewed, it’s an indication that something needs to change.
Though it might sound strange, sometimes we can be too nice.
Sociotropy, more informally known as people-pleasing, is defined as the tendency to value relationships over personal independence. Often, people fear losing relationships and alter their behaviour to avoid conflict, even if it has a detrimental impact on their own wellbeing.
Setting boundaries and prioritising your own wellbeing isn’t something that happens overnight, but acknowledging the signs and making simple steps towards putting yourself first is always a good place to start.
You will drop what you are doing to help another person, even if it means sacrificing something important to you
If you’re a classic people-pleaser, you’ll often prioritise the needs of others before your own. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when you find yourself compromising regularly, it could be a sign that you’re in a one-sided relationship, and clearer boundaries are needed.
Being “nice” is part of your identity, and you fear you must constantly be this way or you will be labelled as ‘fake’
Of course, everyone wants to be thought of as a nice person, but that shouldn’t come from a fear of being considered otherwise, or at the expense of your mental health. Making time for yourself and prioritising your own needs isn’t anything you should feel guilty for.
You feel overly responsible for others’ feelings, and will go to any length to not cause pain even if that means not standing up for yourself
If you find yourself always playing the mediator within your family or friendship group, taking time to find out who you really are and searching for balance in those relationships is an important step to recovering from people-pleasing.
You often ‘forgive’ easily and allow people to remain in your life with repeat harmful patterns
Forgiveness is certainly a virtue, but only when it’s afforded to those who deserve it. If you have a toxic friend that you just can’t cut off or a draining family member who is always trauma dumping on you, take the time to consider the value they’re adding versus damage they’re causing. If keeping them in your life causes more stress than joy, it may be worth tackling the uneven power balance with them, or taking a break to re-assess the relationship.
When you think someone is upset with you, you begin to people-please, compliment, and try harder for their approval
Though it can be difficult to remember in the moment, when someone behaves badly, it’s up to them, and not you, to fix the situation. Modifying your behaviour to accommodate theirs only sets an unhealthy precedent and makes you being the one to compromise the norm.
You have a history of being ‘nice’ to avoid harm, and this has become a survival skill
Nobody wants to deal with conflict when they don’t have to, but if you find yourself bending over backwards to keep the peace, you’ll likely be dealing with a lot of emotional burden. Freeing yourself from the expectations of others is both liberating and good for your mental health.
You tell people ‘it’s OK’ and comfort them after they hurt you, even though it really isn’t
Expressing how you truly feel, especially in a tense situation, isn’t always easy. But if you find yourself excusing bad behaviour and being unable to speak your mind, it might be a sign that you’re being taken for granted, and need to set clearer guidelines of the honesty and mutual respect you expect from the relationship.
You fear being labelled as ‘selfish,’ ‘toxic’, or ‘not empathetic’ for having reactions that are ‘not nice’
Of course, we always want to be seen in the best light possible. However, we shouldn’t let the fear of being considered a ‘bad friend’ stop us from responding to other people’s toxic behaviour. You should feel able to discuss your feelings – good or bad – in a calm and reasoned way with everyone in your life, without fearing the reaction.