7 warning signs people think you’re a pushover (and not just a “nice” person)

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Most of us want to be nice and not ‘rock the boat’. But where does the line between being nice and being a pushover lie? This is something I’ve had to seriously consider in my life, and hopefully, my insights can help you to do the same.

1) They take but they don’t give 

We’re taught that being generous with our time and money is a good thing. And it is. But there’s something else that is very important – reciprocity.

My ex realized that a lot of people weren’t truly his friends. He would always do what he could to help others out, helping them move house, or assisting with other difficult tasks. When he needed to move, do you know how many people offered to help him in return? None.

Other ways that this could manifest include people asking you for other types of favors, but not returning them. Or frequently accepting help from you, but then not inviting you out. Or worse, not being there to support you when you are going through difficult times.

2) They walk all over your boundaries

This is when you clearly express your boundaries to someone, but they completely ignore them, and carry on behaving in the exact way you asked them not to. They repeatedly cross lines around your personal property, space and privacy without a second thought.

For example, think of a so-called friend who frequently “borrows” your possessions without asking, no matter how often you tell them to stop. Or a family member who makes themselves at home in your place, helping themselves to items in your fridge even when you’ve requested multiple times that they don’t.

Some people show zero respect for others‘ clearly defined limits. And when confronted, they somehow pretend it was an innocent mistake – again and again! Don’t enable these boundary violators by being overly forgiving.

3) If you actually assert your boundaries, they look shocked

After a lifetime of quiet cooperation as an amenable pushover, you finally work up the courage to stake out some territory for yourself. And then those people act as if they’ve been stunned! 

Picture this. Your noisy neighbor Steve plays guitar with an amp every night til 1am. You have to get up early, and have gently asked before if he could wrap up earlier, but got nowhere. After months of sleeplessness, you firmly tell Steve his late-night jam sessions must end by 11pm sharp.

Steve reacts with utter disbelief at this unforeseen stand. “Woah, where did this even come from? I had no idea it bothered you that much!” Cue the dramatic wide eyes and gaping jaw. 

Of course he knew full well, but depended on you being too meek to stand up for yourself. Don’t let the faux ignorance weaken your resolve!

4) People get nasty, guilt trip, or sweet talk you when they want something

Think about a wheedling child trying to persuade their mom to buy them the latest video game console. Except these aren’t children, but rather adults who should know better!

It’s uncanny. The friendly vibe vanishes, replaced by entitlement, sulking or aggression.

For example, perhaps your colleague is usually great company in the office. But when a promotion comes up, a switch flips. Suddenly it’s no more Mr Nice Guy.

He makes thinly veiled digs about you not deserving it over after-work drinks. His tone morphs from the cordial colleague to a sneaky competitor, angling his way to the top. He starts taking credit for your ideas and talking over you in meetings.

With people like him, pleasantness prevails when they have no agenda. But as soon as they want something, everything changes.

Stay strong in spotting these emotional manipulation tactics disguised as friendliness. You deserve better than that fake charm!

5) They don’t respect you

In group decision-making settings, you might discover that your wants, needs, and preferences come last in order of priority. Consensus is great, but not when one person’s view dominates absolutely every time!

You may have a friend who always singlehandedly decides your next girls’ trip destination or restaurant choice for group outings. Or the couples within your circle who endlessly steer conversations back to babies and marriage, talking over you and your attempt to speak about something else. 

Ask yourself honestly – do you have people in your life who arrogantly override others’ opinions and routinely prioritize their own needs first and foremost? If so, don’t enable their privilege. Call out selfish behavior diplomatically when you observe it.

6) You regularly feel frustrated, powerless, and resentful

If you are a pushover, you likely keep the peace by staying silent. But inside, anger and sadness simmer away at this unfair treatment. Family and friends take advantage while you dutifully oblige and swallow frustration. This eats away at your self-esteem.

This painful inner resentment builds up gradually over months or years if left unaddressed. Psychologist Nicole Martinez describes the corrosion of mental health that too many people

Getting taken for granted “can have negative consequences of stress, lack of sleep, feelings of being overwhelmed, resentment, frustration, hopelessness.”

I can relate, having had housemates who ruthlessly took advantage while I silently stewed but avoided confrontation at all costs. Over time, bottling up that anger only worsened my stress levels. I realized that this was a pattern in my life, especially in my romantic relationships. And that leads me to my next point.

7) You’re an apologizer

I don’t mean that you are always saying sorry (although this is another sign that you may be a pushover), but rather that you regularly make excuses for people close to you. Even though your friends and/or family think that someone has behaved selfishly.

This one is close to my heart because I like to see the best in people. And I also don’t want conflict or to feel like I need to get angry. 

But when I look back at some of the relationships I’ve been in, people have been telling me that my partner was being selfish. And while I always had an excuse for them, or forgave them all too quickly, I think my friends were right.

I’ll give you an example. Last year I met a man on an online dating app. We were living in different cities so we started chatting by text and video chat. I was clear with him that I was looking for a person with whom I could have a long-term relationship. 

He came to visit me for the weekend, and we had a great time. So great, in fact, that he invited me to come to his city and choose a hotel nearby so that we could see each other every day. He also encouraged us to get emotionally intimate very quickly – revealing more about ourselves than we normally would in such a short time. He told me that being completely honest was how he operated. I chose to trust him, so I agreed.

Imagine my surprise when, after one week, he told me he was moving across the world! It was a decision he had taken before he met me, and he couldn’t reverse it for work reasons.

As you can guess, I was very upset by this. We had become close and shared our values and expectations for a relationship. His reasons for not telling me sooner included ‘I was trying not to think about leaving because I’m regretting my choice’ and ‘If love is meant to be it will be, I’ll make it work regardless’.

Although I was hurt, I decided to forgive him. And absolve him of wrongdoing. Even though all my friends were saying how selfish it was. Although we stayed in touch and continued to meet, I found that I was still upset deep down, feeling resentful, just like I mentioned in the point above. I understood that the decision had already been taken. But he’d had two months to tell me about it.

I’m now committed to holding others more accountable. No one is perfect but I don’t want to be a pushover and neither should you!

The way forward

Firstly, don’t despair if you see yourself in these patterns! Conditioning yourself to show more backbone around those who take advantage requires patience, practice, and self-compassion. Progress over perfection, always.

Start small – pause rather than defaulting to yes next time someone asks a favor. Check in with yourself first before over-committing. Discover the power in saying, “I can’t right now but will let you know if that changes.” Remember your needs matter too!

When you notice resentment creeping up, dig into the reasons behind it. Then communicate those feelings openly rather than letting them silently fester. Judging people’s responses will reveal who deserves your care and energy.

Most importantly, know you are worthy of reciprocity, respect and being cherished for who you are. Demand it unapologetically from those you call friends or lovers.

Lost Your Sense of Purpose?

In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.

Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.

Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.

With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.

Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.


Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

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