Ask Celes – How Can I Be a Good Friend to Others Without Them Taking Advantage of Me?

Ask Celes

“I want to be a good friend and a good person to people. How can I do that without them taking advantage of me?” ~ Victoria

Hey Victoria, thanks for your question. :D

Well, the short answer is that you can’t.

Let me rephrase. I don’t mean that you can’t have people not take advantage of you. What I mean is that if you want to be a good friend and a good person to people, the first thought on your mind shouldn’t be, “How can I prevent them from taking advantage of me?

See, because when you connect with people with that mentality, the only thing you are going to attract will exactly be that—situations where you get taken advantage of. You will be sending out such fear-based vibes that people who genuinely don’t have a desire to take advantage of you will be repelled by that (consciously or subconsciously), whereas people who do want to take advantage of you will see you as a ready target for them to do so. As I often say on the site, people of the same consciousness tend to flock together.

The thought then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Also, your thoughts form the basis for your reality. By thinking “I don’t want to see a pink elephant”, the only thing that will appear in your mind will be a pink elephant. Even if the people who connect with you have no intention to take advantage of you whatsoever, you will interpret their actions as such, and either  cut them off in your life or keep them at a distance because you are afraid they would hurt you. Nobody can get through to you this way, and you continue to be barricaded in your own world.

As a very wise friend of mine told me before, you can’t make a (real, meaningful) connection without first being vulnerable. I have learned this in the area of love. My heart has been sliced and diced before (a few times in fact), but still I do not hold myself back in pursuit of making real connections. In Are You Treating Dating as a “Game”?, I mentioned that “I rather put myself out there, let my heart get sliced, diced and handed to me on a platter, than to be evasive (with others), out of fear of getting hurt”. I hold the same stance today.

The prize (having a real connection with someone, connecting with people I love, etc.) is just too important for me to approach relationships with such fear, because that fear will only prevent me from realizing my intention. That will be the same for you too.

That said, it doesn’t mean you should let yourself get hurt without reservation or self-regard. Some things you can do:

  1. Be people-discerningShady people tend to be evasive, not upfront about their intentions, and inconsistent in their actions and words (i.e. what they do and say are completely different). You get better at sizing people up the more you socialize. Read: Ask Celes – How Can I Be More Street Smart?
  2. Do give people the benefit of the doubt though. Always assume the best of others until proven otherwise.
  3. Remove people who have abused your kindness before. Once bitten, twice shy, third time… well, you don’t want there to be a third time. If someone has taken advantage of your goodwill before, 86 them.
  4. Give what you are ready to give. Be there for others and give them what you can, as your natural self. This way, it doesn’t matter if they supposedly “take advantage of you” — whatever you have given would be something you were ready and okay to give, and hence not incurred as “loss”, so to speak. Simply take it as a gift of kindness to someone who needed it more than you. (People who take advantage of others do so because they are in a place of lack and neediness.)
  5. Surround yourself with good people. As you uncover gems (good friends) in your life’s journey, keep them close to you. Treasure them and love them as you would yourself. Even if you do get hurt by others along the way, your good friends will be there to catch you when you fall. You’ll never be alone in your problems.
  6. Forgive, don’t forget. This may sound vengeful but it really isn’t. By “don’t forget”, I’m simply asking you to be mindful of the past and make conscious choices on relationships and people based on past and present experiences. If someone has hurt you before and wants to be let back in your life, make sure the original problem areas were worked on or are being worked on before reconnecting; otherwise the problem will simply repeat itself.

    There’s no need to bear grudges (and you shouldn’t); just don’t blindly disregard your past.

    On forgiveness, read: Kindness Challenge Day 12: Forgive Someone

Last words… to wonder if people will take advantage of you or not is a highly fear-based thought—one that is rooted in the separation mindset. (I’ve covered separation and oneness mindsets in my social anxiety article, so do check that out.)

You don’t want to start connections by seeing people as separate, foreign, and antagonistic towards you. That is never a good basis to form connections. You want to start connections by assuming the best of others, having a trusting view, and believing they have your best interests at heart. Because most people do indeed have positive intentions, just that often times people (read: we) get misunderstood and our actions become linked with ulterior motives.

If you do get hurt, then big fat hairy deal. Cut your losses and move on. Learn from the experience and apply the lessons, while giving people (who have hurt you before) the benefit of the doubt. Life is too short to live in fear or to bear grudges. The sooner you let go, the faster you can meet awesome people who will thrive in your goodness just as you will in theirs.

Good luck Victoria. I can tell that you have a good heart with good intentions, and I’m sure you will touch many, many lives in your life’s journey. :D

Related articles you should check out:

Image: Question mark

This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

  • JadePenguin

    “I rather put myself out there, let my heart get sliced, diced and handed to me on a platter, than to be evasive (with others), out of fear of getting hurt”

    Love this! It *is* truly worth trying. And even if we do get hurt, there’s so much to learn from the hurt ;)

    BTW, is the “big fat hairy deal” after Garfield? It’s such an amazing cartoon :D

    • Celes

      is the “big fat hairy deal” after Garfield?

      Hey Jade! :D I’m not sure; I don’t watch Garfield (not the series nor the movies). It’s a catchphrase over here (at least in the circles I grew up in). Is it a phrase that Garfield uses often?

      • JadePenguin

        Yeah, he does :P When I googled the phrase, most things that came up were a Garfield video game titled Big Fat Hairy Deal. But hey – people come up with the same things independently all the time :D

        • Celes

          Haha yeah. :D For what it’s worth, it might well be possible that the phrase was around before Garfield, and then it got further popularized with his usage!

  • Daria

    The idea in point 4 of giving simply for the sake of being kind without expecting something in return is really liberating. I also find point 6 (forgive, don’t forget) important because it’s true that we shouldn’t blindly disregard our past … if we have 2 friends and the first never hurt us while the other did, then it wouldn’t be fair at all to treat them both with the same level and extent of kindness. All in all the 6 points totally make sense to me!

    • Celes

      I’m glad you found point 4 liberating Daria. :D It’s something I discovered for myself a couple of years ago (in a different context). Do as I will, give as I can, live my life by my agenda, and give others the space to give/reciprocate in a way they are comfortable in. That is a much freer way to live than constantly acting in expectation that I should get a certain response/reciprocation in return. #1 of the best friends article touches on the same principle.

  • Dan Garner

    “that fear will only prevent me from realizing my intention.”

    Really nice article and a really well thought out answer. I think fear is the source of all of the bad things in this world. It takes real courage to be truly kind, generous, and grateful.


    • Celes

      Thanks Dan. I appreciate your kind words and I’m glad you found the answer resonating. :)

  • Vellata

    I’ve been dealing with the same issue during last year and here’s the short summary of the road I took. One of the things, that took me to facing those issues was that people often took credit for my work and that a lot of relationships were one way, where I was “required” to take care of others, but never got answered with the same. In psychology it’s also called “codependency”.
    I needed to learn a lot about boundaries and healthy (!) egoism. I now even like that word.
    At first I took a deep look at my upbringing and wrote about the true feelings why and when I give something to other people, that later makes me feel used. I learned a lot about FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) manipulation and how people use it to get what they want. I also learned about what goes inside me emotionally in the moment I give in to FOG manipulation and do something, that I shouldn’t be doing, while feeling inside, that it’s my obligation to do it and feeling deep, hidden fear of abandonment and shame, if I reject. So that’s a huge amount of internal work, that needs to be done.
    Then I set some boundaries. At first mine were to never do anything for other people, until they directly ask me to do it. Directly was a keyword here, which immediately filters out FOG manipulators and people, who want to use you for their own good. For example compare those two requests – 1. Would you have time to take care of my child, while I’m in seminar?” and 2. “Oh.. there’s so nice seminar coming up, but I don’t have anyone to look after my child” (and hey – by the way, didn’t you say, you don’t have anything serious planned that day?). Which one of those is manipulator, who doesn’t value your time? For the 1st person I would consider doing the thing asked, if I had time and wish. The second has it’s own lessons to learn first. Of course, those boundaries got tested a lot and sometimes it was so hard to keep from walking the path, I had done before, but instead I just sat back and observed my reactions and connected them to past events. Some people will leave – that’s fine. Other’s will start respecting you more and some connections will turn much stronger.
    After some time (think, around 6 month or so) I started to give people just because I wanted to do it, not because I got secretly manipulated into doing something for them. I still remind myself, that I’m not obliged to do anything, if I don’t want to. And now there’s so much more joy in me when I do it. It also makes you more appreciative of things other people do for you and it teaches you as well to ask directly what you want (chances are, FOG manipulation is going two ways, just the other is not as perceptive or codependent type).
    Hope, it helps you to look at your own situation. Take what you like and leave the rest :)

  • Victoria

    This article really clicked to me. After reading this , I realized that it was all in my head. That when I come into a relationship thinking that the other person is using me then it comes out to be true . I know now that I have to think the best in people .

    Thanks for responding :)

    • Celes

      Aw, it’s so great to know that the response helped Victoria. Kudos to you for coming to the realization by yourself. :hug: Thanks for sending in the question by the way; it was a great one! :D

      • Victoria

        No problem :)

  • Choon Seng

    Like the short answer. My friends take advantage of me all the time and they allow me to do the same thing to them as well. My good friends will help me to the best of their capabilities without any expectation in return. Isn’t that me taking advantage of them? So in a crude way, good friends take advantage of each. LOL.

    The point is to stop worrying about being taken advantage of when you want to reach out to a lot people. Along the way you will definitely find someone that takes advantage of everything that come across their path, just move on. I believe in giving without expectation. And trust me, I usually gain much more than what I gave at the end of the day.

  • Kratika

    Great advice celes! It’s all about building a relationship based on love. Because a fear-based relationship is a definite disaster. Also you should never make friends out of a feeling of lack or neediness because u’ll end up feeling more needy.

  • Bob

    Hi Celes,

    Love the new photo! I like this article it got me thinking…”Surround yourself with good people. As you uncover gems (good friends) in your life’s journey, keep them close to you.”

    I think our group of influence is extremely important, who we communicate with and let into our lives. We don’t want to be influenced by naysayers, we want enablers people who share the same goals, interest and pursuits. Here is a method of Michael Port who has two lists – a list of 90 people and a list of 20 people.
    The list is of 20 people is for people you want to get to know better. Everyday you take the 1st person on this list and share something of interest of theirs, for example tweet a comment, reply to a blog post, email a snippet of info and so on and so forth. Then you move the 1st person to position 20 and everyone moves up a place, ie position 2 to position 1, position 3 to position 2 and so on.
    When you have shared/given enough information and the person responds/reciprocates continually to a level that you preset/decide then you move them on to your list of 90. This list of 90 is for people who you love to communicate with on a regular basis. The list of 90 is a list of people you share values and interests with. With this list you communicate with a handful or more everyday, always sharing information.
    This article by Michael Port explains more in depth how it works – there is also a free template you can download.

    • JadePenguin

      90? Wow, that guy has many friends! For me the numbers would be reversed xD

      I do like the idea of reaching out to different people and trying to find common ground to start from :)

      • Bob

        I think just like you Jade, that the numbers of really good friends seems daunting initially, but with work anyone can build a list into a good list, then great list. Many people have 90+ friends on Facebook which is a start, the idea here is to move towards deeper more meaningful relationships. We all have to start somewhere, so why not start Jade with common ground issues/ides/interests and develop from there.

  • Steven

    I think I have reached a awkward point in a friendship and it become a one way type friendship. I don’t think she is taking advantage of me, but maybe it’s time I need to step away. Even if it’s the hardest thing I will have to do. The reason why I say I think is because her best friend, my friends, etc all say she would be blind if she didn’t know how much my feelings for her as become.

    So my question is should I ask her what her feelings are towards me? Or so I listen to my friends and it’s time to leave her a let her figure out what she is going to miss. And let her make the next move?

    I have mixed feelings about this. Because I read people saying just say what’s on my mind, and tell her. But then I hear “give her time and space.” Then I hear things like if I want something just go out and get it. Or I hear good things comes to those who wait.

    I know we have been friends for a long time, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I could be her friend if she starts a deeper relationship with another person. I think I could bring her everything she would want in a partner. But do I risk making the friendship even more awkward by asking her what her feelings are? Or do I give her time, and hope she eventually develops deeper feelings towards me? Do i risk the possibility that she will never have feelings for me, and end up getting my feelings hurt later down the road?

    • JadePenguin

      How is she behaving towards you? You say “one way type friendship” – does this mean she doesn’t seem to be putting much effort into the friendship?

      • Steven

        She seems to be more reserved and not as frequent in her conversations, more and more as each day passes. Which makes me feel like she doesn’t think about me as much as I think about her.

        • Celes

          Hey Steven, I don’t think your situation is directly tied to the post in question, so this wouldn’t be the best forum to discuss this.

          To answer your query though, I think you have already answered the riddle to your heart by way of your response to Jade. It seems you are clear what her stance is (lack of response and lack of action are, in a way, answers in themselves), so now it’s up to you to decide: What would you do, assuming nothing is going to develop in this area? Would you still want to stick around and be a great friend to her, or move on to other people? The most important thing is not to hang around in hopes of having her change her mind or expecting things to change, because that will be setting yourself up for potential hurt.

          Here’s a post on decision making which might help:

          Feel free to use the Personal Excellence Forums for further discussions and to interact with the other PE readers!

  • Sebastian Junior

    Sometimes, I do think my friends take advaantage of me. Most time it bother me, but sometimes it does not. I know something for sure is that I will try to put this behind me and move forward.

  • Sam

    Hi Celeste,

    This is great advice. I’ve met, here in NY state, U.S.A., where I reside, women who, after having been “sliced” and “diced’ by guys (who in my opinion were unfit matches for them in the first place), walk around with angry countenances and rarely look amused or happy. That’s really sad because I don’t think one is meant to go through life in such a way. I’ve noticed some of these women can be illogically further abrasive when interacting with guys that are genuinely decent and are not disrespectful at all. That’s so puzzling.

    • Celes

      Hey Sam, thanks for sharing. :D That’s sad that these women are hanging to such grievances; at the same time I can understand the hurt they have gone through. The most important thing is they should learn to let go of their grievances, else it would only stand in their way of finding someone they truly like.

  • Christina

    There are some really good points here Celes! It is amazing how you can intuit so much from a simple question without much background. Great question, response, and article!