5 Reasons Why Being A ‘Good Person’ May be Bad For Your Health

How people pleasing pleases everyone but the most important person — yourself.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Are you a people pleaser?

I know. You are thinking ‘How can being a good person or a people pleaser be a bad thing?’ From experience I can tell you that it most certainly can be a bad thing when it is done for the wrong reasons.

If you answered yes to this question then this is for you. I want to help you to awaken yourself to the goodness that you are just because you are you!

I have always prided myself on being a ‘good person’. It thought it was the way to be — it seemed to come naturally to me.

Or did it?

Being ‘the good one’ came from a mistaken sense of responsibility, need for validation, compulsion to rescue people, parentification and the huge inability to say NO.

It took me 40 years to realize that while it initially came naturally to me, it morphed into something that was not natural to me.

I was a big helper as a child. I liked to help my parents, my siblings. For as long as I can remember I was one of the ‘helper’ kids in the family during my childhood life. I stress ‘childhood life’ because this was when I was the most innocent and malleable.

My first memories of helping were with my Dad on the farm — trying to help when he did farm chores. I was probably around 4 years old. It didn’t take long to ‘own’ that helping job though because as soon as I could lift a pail of feed for the animals it became a job. I owned it. And that’s what happened to a lot of helping jobs that I enjoyed doing. As I got older they became jobs that I was depended on to get done. From doing farm work to cooking meals for a family of 8 at a young age of 14.

I remember how it made me feel to help my parents — it was a great feeling. To be looked upon and praised as being ‘a good girl’.

This external validation became very important to my childhood survival. Little did I know that I was as being formed into being a people pleaser. This would eventually come back to haunt me.

Photo by Crina Parasca on Unsplash

I continued these ways well into adolescence and then into adulthood. Subconsciously.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that emotionally immature parents had manipulated me, probably subconsciously as well.

A faulty program had been placed into me.

It wasn’t just my parents who used me, who took advantage of my inability to say no, who manipulated the people pleasing devil that sat on my shoulder. Some siblings used to send me to ask for favors from my parents — to be the go-between. It’s amazing what you get sucked into when you don’t know how to say NO.

Reason #1: Internalizing the shame of rejection — when good becomes bad for you.

My siblings did not feel the rejection that I did when my parents said no to me — to a request I was pushed into asking for. I internalized all of those no’s, the hurt feelings when I was told no. I internalized almost any type of rejection with feelings of shame. I didn’t realize that I needed external validation because I wasn’t being heard. Maybe the siblings felt the rejection, I internalized it. And it stuck with me.

But you know, I kept on being good. That has been the story of my life. Because that great part of me that was inherently good and helpful really wanted to be good and helpful. I couldn’t help myself. It was a true part of who I was on a soul level.

I didn’t know that it was becoming part of an insidious development of the codependent me. And because I was not taught the life skill of how to be assertive and say no, or was not even allowed to say no, I did not learn how to set healthy boundaries.

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Do you sometimes feel like you are holding up the weight of the world?

Reason #2: When being a good person — a people pleaser — can be a sign of codependency.

The thing is, it had turned into my doing favors for others willingly to my subconscious pushing me into it. It became an addiction.

I didn’t realize the codependency relationship that I had with my parents until recently. I knew something was amiss- I was becoming more and more resentful of the expectations put on me by them and by myself over the past several years. But I didn’t even know what codependency really was until I got slapped in the face with the realization of it a few months ago. It took my father’s declining health, my mother’s narcissistic betrayal and my almost near breakdown to have the codependency revealed to me. It was like someone had punched me in the gut. Literally.

I felt nauseous with the tornado of feelings I was having.

First it’s important to understand what a dysfunctional family is. This is when problems in a family are not acknowledged. When problems are not talked about family members unfortunately have to learn to repression emotions and disregard their own needs. Behaviors that help the family members to deny, ignore or avoid difficult emotions are developed. Detachments happens. This results in a family that doesn’t talk, touch, confront, feel or trust. This behavior inhibits the identity and emotional development of the members of the dysfunctional family.

All of the energy of the family is put into the ill family member. Family members can become ‘survivors’.

What circumstances can lead to codependency?

  • It can happen in the circumstance where one or both parents abuse drugs or alcohol.
  • It can happen in dysfunctional families where there is an addict — this can be an addiction to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex or gambling.
  • It can happen in dysfunctional families where there is physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • It can also happen in a family where a member of the family is suffering from chronic mental or physical illness.

What is codependency?

  • When a person begins to sacrifice his or her needs to take care of the person who is sick then this is a sign of co-dependency.
  • When a person places other people’s safety, welfare and health above their own then co-dependency is happening.
  • When a co-dependent loses all contact with their own needs and desires and their own sense of self co-dependency is fully entrenched in them.
  • It is a learned behavior that can be passed down through generations.
  • It is often called ‘relationship addiction’ because people with the behavior may form relationships that can be one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.
  • The spouse, parent, sibling, child or co-worker of the alcoholic or drug dependent person can be affected.
  • It is common in dysfunctional families.

How can you tell if you are co-dependent?

  • Co-dependents often have low self-esteem, and as a result look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. In my case I became a people pleaser — I needed external validation that I was good enough or worthy enough.
  • A co-dependent may abuse drugs or alcohol themselves, or have other addictive or compulsive behaviors. One of my addictive behaviors became an addiction to anxiety — apparently the ‘buzz’ of the anxiety feeling can be an addiction. Who would have thought? (That is one of the reasons to see psychologists — they are trained to help you dig deep in yourself to flush out the crap.)
  • A co-dependent tries to ‘rescue’ people, make excuses for behaviors of the ill or addicted individual, and thus actually make the needy individual even more dependent on them. What results is an unhealthy caretaking where the co-dependent develops a sense of satisfaction or reward from ‘being needed’.
  • A co-dependent often ‘swoops’ — this is observing a situation and thinking that you know what is best for a person and then making steps to ‘rescue’ the person — all the while not even asking the person if they want help.

Reason #3: Being a people pleaser forms a mistaken sense of self worth and loss of identity.

As I mentioned earlier, little girl me thrived on the external validation I got from being good. This was so wrong. It was a vicious circle.

I had looked outside for years, almost my whole life for my self worth. For that identity.

I gave and gave and people took and took, with nothing emotionally nourishing being given back to me. Always seeking approval from the outside instead of being taught or shown that a healthy sense of self worth comes from within.

Any lack of approval from of all those around me was internalized as rejection – and I was rejected many times. But this was in my mind and not true. That was my belief. This belief took a considerable toll on my mind and body. I had to be a ‘yes’ person all of the time.

No one had taught me how to set healthy boundaries. The inability to say no eventually rebelled in my mind and body.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Reason #4: The compulsion to do good can cause mental illness, and can be a sign of mental illness.

It is actually an addiction. Working on breaking this addiction has been incredibly difficult. I did not know that one could be addicted to a feeling. I always thought of addiction as being to a substance. Not a feeling.

Trying to heal from codependent relationships — to NOT help those people has made me feel physically sick with nausea and anxiety.

I’ve written more than one story on medium about depression. I believe now and have learned that my depression has been the manifestation of co-dependency, the internalization of all of the rejections I have felt, and my inability to say no and set healthy boundaries for myself.

It’s like I started digging a hole when I was very young, and stood at the bottom of the hole. This was the ‘true me’, the true self. Every rejection and hurt that I felt was another layer of dirt thrown on and I was slowly stifled. My soul was suffocated as was the light of the true and good, the self – worth that I could have had from within if someone would have taught me that just being me was good enough.

Layer upon layer of dirt covered up the feelings that I wasn’t allowed to have as a child and as an adult. I could only have the feelings that my parents and the outside world told me I could have.

Do you remember being told not to be sad, or angry, or upset? To be happy, happy, happy, happy! Like it was a switch that you could turn on.

A lot of the feelings I had were about loneliness, blame, shame and guilt.

It’s sad really that this happens to children. I know that my parents thought they were doing the right thing by ‘telling’ me to not be sad, not be lonely, disappointed, etc. It was as if they believed that by them saying this — a miracle would happen and I wouldn’t feel like this deep inside anymore.

If you are a parent it is vital to recognize and acknowledge feelings that your children have.

This constant disconnection from feeling became depression at a fairly young age. Then came the chronic illness.

Reason #5: Your physical health suffers when you have been a compulsive and codependent people pleaser.

Years ago when I was first diagnosed with depression I came across a terrific book. It’s called ‘When The Body Says No’, by Gabor Mate, M.D.

The list of auto-immune disorders, and other physical illnesses caused because of a person’s inability to say NO was like a forebearer to how my life would become.

Hypothyroidism, (or specifically Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis for me), migraines, chronic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue are just the tip of the iceberg for me.

These are all the body’s ways of saying NO when you don’t or can’t say no. Your body rebels and wants to be heard.

If I had been older and wiser I would have listened to my body better.

I wish now that I would have come across the book years earlier, before damage had been done. Some of it permanent. That someone would have had a crystal ball and told me my future.

How it is with most things in life…we are ignorant of them until they slap us in the face.

If you can relate to any of this then take a deep look inside of yourself. This may be very hard and very emotionally upsetting to you. But it is so worth it. Reflect on why you might be a people pleaser. Even see a therapist trained in codependence. Get to the bottom of it and then do what is needed to heal.

Read the full article about Co-dependeny from Mental Health America. There is a questionnaire that will open your eyes to co-dependent behaviors. Another valuable resource is found online at Avaiya University. There are numerous free mental health talks to listen to, with free periodic masterclasses as well. Also please check out livewellwithsharonmartin.com.

That’s the hugely important part. Because if you don’t take the steps to heal you seriously will not get better. You must do good and nourishing exercise for the brain and then the body will benefit.

  • Remember that being good and doing good are not bad things. But only when it is done for the right reasons. When you make a genuine choice to help — not when you are guilting yourself to help or doing good out of a compulsion or manipulation. When goodness comes from the true self, the part of you that you were born with and shone in you then it’s good.
  • When you do something for someone because YOU want to then there is no expectation put upon yourself. You are giving freely and will feel free doing it.
  • Learn to live from the inside out — where the external voices have to listen and support your thinking. If you can make this a habit then your mind and body will change for the better.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are stuck in a codependent relationship that has become a burden to you. It is totally okay to give up the control of taking care of a loved one. It is always more important for you to ‘put on your oxygen mask before you help others’. Because if you aren’t taking care of yourself first then you can’t give your best to others that you choose to give to.
  • Practice self care and self love. It’s not selfish — it’s life giving to yourself.
  • Always remember that you are worthy because of your uniqueness. Your self worth comes from within and don’t let anybody take that away from you.

(source: mhanational.org)

Thanks for reading.

Still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! Successful wife and mother, avid reader, artist, writer, woman of integrity

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