• People typically perform acts of kindness for a loved one without giving it a second thought—but setting boundaries is important.
  • Setting boundaries and doing things because you want to rather than feeling like you have to gives you the ability to make decisions for yourself.
  • Spend more time focusing on yourself; it’s respectable to desire to lend someone a hand, just be sure you are taking time to focus on yourself.
  • Performing favors for your loved ones every once in a while is okay! But before you agree to doing a favor for someone, evaluate the situation, weigh the pros and cons, and be sure to still take care of your needs.

Have you ever been told that you are “too nice” and were confused by what that meant?  Aren’t you supposed to be nice to people?  The obvious answer is yes. But how nice is too nice?  When you perform an act of kindness for someone, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and it makes you feel good.  But when a simple act of kindness turns into repeated favors for the same person, you start to question if you’re being taken advantage of.

This issue tends to arise more frequently within families.  As a family, you’re each other’s backbones; you rely on one another for support through the good times and the bad.  So, when one of your family members comes to you, asking for a favor, you feel obligated to perform whatever it is (e.g., loaning them money, giving their son or daughter a ride to school, etc.).  With that being said, it is crucial that when doing a favor becomes a reoccurring instance, boundaries are set—preferably before things get out of hand.

It’s Okay to Say No

It’s difficult for many to say “no,” “not right now,” or “I just can’t.” But it’s important that we learn to stick up for ourselves and take this stance when necessary. Mabel Yiu, MFT discusses the importance of learning how to say “no”:

First things first, you should ask yourself why you feel like you need to please others? What drives you to never say “no”? Does it have to do with your self-confidence, or wanting to be liked/respected, etc. Are you trying to compete with others around you or prove something to yourself or others? Whatever it is, come to terms with it. Taking on all these things and being “walked” on is not good for you. You are worthy of your time.  Your time is important.

Establish boundaries. Be firm but permeable. I am not telling you to shut out the world and turn down everything. I am encouraging you to figure out the things you would like to be doing and do those things. It will do wonders for the relationships in your life because you feel better about how you are spending your days. You won’t feel the resentment you have felt. For example, if you have a friend or family member who is always expecting you to run errands or always wants to borrow money from you, let them know that ends now. Tell them nicely yet firmly that you are not comfortable helping in this way anymore. They may get mad for a little while, but eventually, they will learn to respect your time and energy.”

When you devote a lot of time to performing favors for your family members, you tend to lose focus on yourself.  It is important to learn how to put your foot down and create time for yourself.

Where’s the Line? Tips to Stop Others from Taking Advantage  

Let’s get things straight— it’s not that you shouldn’t do favors for your loved ones, but you should be mindful of how often and to what degree you perform these favors.  Some of the reason we agree to doing favors so often is because we say yes before we think about whether or not we have the time or desire to do so.  Try taking these three steps before agreeing to do a favor for a loved one:

1. Take a step back and evaluate the situation before you agree to it.

Have I been doing a lot for this person recently?  What do they have going on that they can’t complete this task themselves?  Be sure their request seems reasonable.

2. Weigh the pros and cons.

If you decide to turn down the request for a favor, what backlash will it bring you?  Or, if you decide to do it, will it bring an added stress to your day?  Weigh all of the pros and cons prior to making your final decision.

3. Manage your time.

Do you have time to do this?  Have you gotten everything done on your to-do list?  Remember that it is crucial for your mental health to take time for yourself.

You love your family members, and it is okay to want to lend them a hand.  Being a notoriously nice person is a great quality and something to be proud of, just be sure to establish clear boundaries and stick to them. In doing so, you’ll be sure to live a happier, healthier life.