Kind Or Unhealthy?
Kind Or Unhealthy?
Dear Tacit,

My friend has this habit of always putting other people’s needs before her own.  How does a person know when they have stopped being a kind soul and started being unhealthy?

Signed: Kind or Unhealthy?

Dear Kind or Unhealthy,

Sometimes, I think this world needs more people who are willing to consider the needs/wants of others a little more.  We seem to be a society that is moving towards a mentality of “whatever is best for me” is what everyone else should be doing.  This entitlement perspective can create a lot of conflict – people get offended or threatened when someone else’s needs/wants are contrary to their own.  It can become competitive – one person vying to “win” over another – instead of cooperative, accommodating and respectful.  We start to lose our compassion and kindness towards others (and judgement and criticism start to be all that surrounds us).

But having said that, there is definitely a point when doing for others can go too far.  Instead of being caring and supportive, a person can start to overextend and begin enabling the people in their lives (which stunts the opportunity for growth and resiliency in these others).  A person runs the risk of being taken for granted and misused when they are so regularly willing to give of themselves (and this ends up damaging relationships and causing burnout). And their own needs/wants can often be lost or forgotten as their energy levels and available resources (time, money, focus, etc) dwindle.  This can easily lead to some very unhealthy issues – physically, mentally and emotionally – in the person who is being so generous.

There are a variety of reasons why a person might slip over into the unhealthier side of being nice to others.  Sometimes, the way we are raised creates certain types of personality patterns – people-pleasing needs, co-dependency issues, martyrdom tendencies, etc.  A person may have a deep-rooted need for a sense of control so the more they do for others, the more they feel secure about what is happening.  A person might struggle to see themselves as equally worthy in comparison to everyone they are helping.  They might think that doing for others is the only way that they can contribute enough (to their friendships, or in society in general).  They may feel as though they must make up for something negative that they have done, earlier in life.  Or they may be trying to walk a path of spiritual or altruistic awakening, and just want to be a “good” person.

Some signs that a person might be taking things too far (and may have developed some unhealthy patterns) when they are being caring towards others include:

  • If they have a habit of ignoring or minimizing their own needs/wants/feelings
  • If they are repeatedly doing things they don’t want to do, just to make another person happy
  • If they have a tendency to take on fault that is not theirs, to avoid conflict
  • If they have an excessive need for approval (their self-worth and self-esteem come from what others think of them)
  • If they change their mood to reflect how others are feeling or behaving
  • If they have excessive concern about someone else’s habits (trying to be the author of someone else’s story)
  • If they experience guilt or anxiety when doing something for themselves
  • If they experience a regular fear of rejection or abandonment by others
  • If their own life (family, friends, self) is suffering because they are taking on more than they can handle in an effort to lighten someone else’s load

Only the person who is being so giving to others can really determine whether their choices are keeping them in or out of a healthy balance.  They will need to look inward, and take inventory of their true intentions.  They will need to dig deeper than just what they tell themselves about the reasons why they try to be so considerate of others.  They will need to identify and own the actual gains that their behaviours are providing to their own self.

A person who has a healthy balance of giving to others will also be able to ask for support themselves, when they need it.  They will be able to recognize their own needs/wants/desires and be able to feel safe when they express or act on them. And they will be able to say no or set boundaries when they need to, without feeling terrible about doing so.  If the person takes the time to be honestly introspective, they will be able to figure out if the root of their kindness comes from a healthy or damaging place.

Take care!

Have a question? Please feel free to reach out to us at Your answer will be provided confidentially. 

Want to start your counselling today?
Make an Appointment

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tacit Knowledge Logo

Sign Up For Our Newsletter