There are few sensations worse than feeling you’ve been used.
Not only do you feel disrespected, disappointed and deceived, you also feel disempowered and embarrassed.
Somebody has used you for money, sex, attention, an ego boost or to further their career…
How did you not see it coming?
Did you somehow bring this on yourself? Sometimes the answer is yes…
Here are the most common behaviors that lead to getting used.
Wanting other people to be happy is a healthy and rational desire.
But people-pleasing goes beyond this to where you hinge your well-being and value on how much you satisfy others.
This leads to being used for two main reasons:
- You are placing the source of your well-being in the hands of other people;
- There are many other people out there and not all of them are going to be honest or well-intentioned. Some of them may use (or even abuse) you.
The issue with people pleasing ties into the next point…
2) Inability to say no
It would be nice to say that we can all get along all the time and never have to say no.
But that’s not how life works.
If you tell me to join a new cult and turn over my possessions to them, I’m going to say no.
So would most people.
But when it comes to seemingly lesser requests, you may be getting used because you find it almost impossible to say no.
- A friend wants a short-term loan when they fall on hard times. You’re not doing great yourself but feel like you owe it to them.
- A work colleague asks that you help them out by sharing files on a related project they’re doing. You know they could end up getting the promotion you want if you do, but it’s hard to turn down their request.
- A salesman talks to you in the mall about a new cellular phone plan that he claims will save you a huge amount. You notice a lot of fine print and read some reviews online that cast doubt on the true savings, but you find it hard to say no and sign up.
3) Naivety or gullibility
Manipulative people often rely on seeking out easy marks and soft targets.
None of us, myself included, would like to think of ourselves as an “easy mark.”
That’s not me, I’m street-smart and would spot a scam or a bad deal a mile away!
The fact is, however, that many of us have blind spots and can be naive and gullible in certain areas.
For example, while you may be very tuned in to pickpocketing while you walk on the street and common marketing scams, you may not realize that the girl you’re dating is only using you to make an ex jealous…
Or you may be dating a guy who only shows up when he wants to sleep with you and realize this aspect, but be unaware that he’s also using you to boost his ego and get constant validation from you emotionally, too.
4) Groundless idealism
Being idealistic is a great thing, in my opinion.
I like the song “Idealist” by the German band Grenzenlos, for example, whose lyrics read (translated):
“No matter how far off it is
I remain an idealist
And I firmly believe
That our time will come.”
The fact is, however, that idealism has to also be tempered by realism.
There are many cases where a belief in people’s goodness or ideal value can blind you to their immediate intentions.
For example, you may know that your sister is a well-intentioned and kind-hearted person who just wants the best for you…
However, you subsequently miss out on the fact that her interactions with you at the moment are just about manipulating you into loaning her money.
5) Downplaying your dreams
Another reason for being used is when we are too self-deprecating.
It’s good to be humble, but being too humble or naysaying your own dreams can be dangerous.
Manipulative or sleazy people see this as an in:
This person lacks self-esteem or is willing to doubt themselves.
That’s what they hear and think, and if their intentions aren’t good then they switch into predator mode.
Highly sensitive and introspective people who have doubt tend to analyze and see deeply into everything:
But this can actually be a big weakness, because if you’re too much in your head or analytical you miss how basic a lot of the world still is.
A person with bad intentions sees that you seem to be weak or unsure and pounces. Just that.
6) Being too generous
Generosity is an admirable trait. But it can go too far and not just in terms of money, either.
You can be overly generous with your time, energy, affection, trust and confidence in somebody else.
Sometimes it’s necessary to enforce your boundaries a bit more strictly and draw limits on what you give your attention to.
You don’t need to say no to every request or only focus on yourself.
You can still give and help out others.
It’s simply necessary that you don’t self-abandon or be so generous that you end up getting used by others and realizing there’s nobody and nothing left for you.
You matter too! And you have to look after yourself first before you have energy and resources to look after others!
7) Deferring too much to authority
Authority has a place, and I believe that competence does deserve obedience in most cases.
In other words, if you’re an experienced computer engineer and tell me that my concept for a new type of gaming system would be better with a different design I’m going to listen to you.
However authority and competence don’t always go together and are often opposed.
Some of the most ignorant people I’ve met also have the most power.
That’s why it’s important to think for yourself from a young age and resist the kind of conditioning that tries to turn people into passive receivers of orders.
Just because your boss or wife or somebody tells you something does not mean you’re obligated to respect, obey and do it.
Maybe you’ll lose your job, maybe you’ll have a fight or break up:
But there has to come a point at which you stand up for yourself and drop the need to be agreeable just because somebody else has power in your life.
8) Falling into the victim or savior role
One of the worst ways to get used is in codependency.
This often happens in close friendships, romantic relationships and family situations.
It happens when people derive their worth from the validation or need of others they’re close to.
Many times it splits into a “savior” vs. “victim” paradigm.
This is where one individual gets attention by being a victim who can’t do anything and needs help every moment.
He or she allows themselves to use the other person as a “savior” and allows themselves to be used as a helpless victim.
It can become almost a form of emotional BDSM.
The other individual gets attention and feels a sense of purpose in being the savior who comes in full of reassurance and promises.
And on and on it goes, sometimes with switching of roles in the course of the relationship.
But the common element remains:
People are using each other and demanding that they play a role in order to feel good about themselves.
Getting used to feeling used
Human beings can get used to almost anything.
If you feel used and it’s happened a lot throughout your life, I’m not saying it’s all your fault.
Some of us have to deal with more narcissists and users than others.
But if you find that you’re falling into some of the behaviors above, then it’s certainly possible to become more self-aware and reduce and eliminate these behaviors.
You’ll be sending a clear signal to predators and manipulators out there that you’re simply not open for business.