The posts on this blog are generally a direct result of my work with those affected by chronic and/or life threatening conditions. However, this week’s entry is an exception. It directly relates to my experience with an organization, where after voicing my frustration with them yet again, as well as feeling quite used, my husband said, “Stop, they aren’t interested in what you’re doing.” A difficult lesson, but an important one, and the inspiration for today’s post.
People knowingly or unknowingly take advantage of one another all the time. Those affected by chronic conditions may be more subject to feelings of being used than other groups. Caregivers are not only dealing with the significant constraints of their charges, but they’re also having to interact with family and friends’ and their needs and desires. It’s also not uncommon for those living with a chronic condition to think their health issues devalues them in some way and so speaking up becomes a challenge.
Respect, as well as understanding who we are and what we contribute, matters. When it’s discounted, or perceived to be ignored, it can quickly lead to expressions of anger, frustration, and feeling further devalued. It can destroy relationships and ultimately makes people pretty miserable.
Step One: Only you can allow yourself to be used.
Step Two: Recognize the signs you’re being taken advantage of:
• You’re predictable. People quickly learn that if they exhibit a certain behavior, you will respond. For example, they play the victim so you will feel sorry for them.
• You’re perceived as being willing to “put up” with things
• Everyone assumes you’ll step forward-you’re the default or go to person for friends, family, colleagues
• You have difficulty saying no.
• Being brushed off, such as a person or colleague who continually doesn’t respond to your texts, phone calls or e-mails yet still has expectations of you
• You only hear from them when they need something
• You set boundaries about what you will or wont do, but then ignore them
• Working in a job with increasing responsibilities but without increasing compensation
• You put their needs ahead of yours.
• You pay for everything
• You do whatever the other person wants ignoring your needs. You are more concerned with their happiness and well being then your own
• Always laughing off "jokes" from friends or family members that actually hurt your feelings
• Saying “I’m sorry” frequently. Easily “guilted” into doing things
• Will do anything to avoid confrontation
• Allowing others to take credit for your work
• You don’t stand up for yourself, perspectives or ideas
• Giving until it hurts
Step Three: Take stock of what you are doing. If need be, make a list of what’s happening that makes you feel like your being taken for granted. Are you afraid to state how you feel because you fear rejection? Is there no recognition of your contribution? Are you “over giving” and/or is what you are offering something the other person actually wants or needs?
To the latter point, I thought this Buddhist expression was spot on. "Never give anyone more than they are emotionally capable of receiving, or they will have no choice but to hate you for it." If you find yourself over giving read Elizabeth Gilbert’s article “Confessions of an Over-Giver.”
In my situation, not only was I “over giving,” but I was offering something that didn’t really matter to this particular group.
If you feel devalued or taken advantage, what’s happened in the relationship? If you can pinpoint a time or event that caused the shift, chances are you can find a solution.
How well do you understand the other person’s situation? Have they changed in someway? Some people definitely distance themselves when they no longer want to be in a relationship but don’t know how to leave. If you have a serious health issue, the first thought you might have is that you’re being rejected because of it. While that’s possible, it’s also true that relationships don’t work out for any number of reasons. Is fear of being alone a major reason for your putting up with objectionable behavior? If the answer is “yes,” check out The Loneliness of Chronic Disease.
Understand the distinction between coming from a place of generosity, where you don’t expect anything in return, and doing with an expectation of something in return. Also recognize that there are situations where people-particularly kids-take you for granted. For them maturity is a developmental process and most will outgrow their self-centeredness, particularly if they are reminded not to take you for granted.
Learn to communicate frustrations before it turns into anger and becoming accusatory. Say no and don’t be afraid to set boundaries. But remember that you must be willing to stop when boundaries are reached.
Check out How to Deal With Being Taken for Granted for more suggestions and tips.
Given my situation, I notified the organization that I would no longer be volunteering for them.
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