8 bad things that happen when you always put others first

Putting others first is often seen as a noble and selfless thing to do.

Whilst it’s kind to consider others’ needs, it’s vitally important not to neglect your own in the process.

When you do, it can have negative consequences on not just your well-being but also your personal growth.

It all comes down to balance. When you always put others first, that balance is missing.

Let’s take a look at some of the potential pitfalls and how they can impact your life in negative ways.

1) You start to feel resentful

My mom is the type of woman who will do anything for anyone.

How kind, you may think. Sure, she certainly is, but that’s not the only thing going on.

You see, giving without expectation or irritation truly is an act of kindness. But when we give more than we want to give, it starts to feel more like theft.

When that happens bitterness begins to build. This is what has happened with my mom.

Yet she has nowhere for that resentment to go.

She doesn’t feel like she can say no to other people’s requests of her.

After a while, it becomes increasingly difficult to bite your tongue and bury that resentment.

So it tends to start to spill out in complaining, passive-aggressive behaviors, and moaning about people behind their backs.

In a way, giving too much by always putting others first puts you at risk of playing the martyr.

You secretly begrudge what you’re doing, but feel powerless to stop it.

As a result, the next two bad things on our list can so easily happen.

2) You burn yourself out

Taking care of our own needs can feel demanding enough at times, but at least there is only one of us.

So it stands to reason that trying to take care of everyone else’s needs around you can quickly overload you.

That may be both in practical and emotional ways.

Perhaps you are taking on too many responsibilities and starting to feel overwhelmed by it all.

Usually, that’s down to the fact you find it hard to say no to any additional tasks or requests people tend to throw your way.

Whenever we have to juggle multiple roles and obligations at once, burnout becomes a risk.

But it also means that it’s likely that your own personal commitments and considerations fall down your priority list.

So in the process, you don’t have the time or energy to take care of yourself and do the things that will provide you with a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

3) You can fall into victimhood

Of all the problems that come from a victim mindset, I think the worst is the sense of hopelessness.

No matter how bad things get, you can start to feel like you don’t have options.

Instead, you look for excuses to justify why you are powerless and things are the way they are.

This keeps you stuck.

You may feel taken advantage of for your good nature, but shrug it off and assume that’s simply down to bad people out there who treat you that way.

You might deeply resent how other people don’t put you first the same way that you put them first. Yet ultimately you’re still left saying:

“What can I do about it?”

The answer is: plenty.

But not if people pleasing has eroded your boundaries, as we’re about to see. 

4) Your boundaries get pushed

If you always put others first then it means by default, you come last.

That’s bound to mean that at times, you end up doing things you would rather not.

At best, this is an inconvenience, but at worst, it erodes your boundaries in toxic ways.

You may not be as firm as you should be in letting others know when something is not okay.

You may not advocate for yourself to demand the respect you deserve. That becomes a very slippery slope and leaves you open to abuse.

If you find it very hard to say no, people can end up walking all over you. As therapist Tamara Hill points out in Psych Central:

“Individuals who lack appropriate boundaries often struggle with telling others how they feel (for fear of rejection or ridicule), struggle with feeling burdened by how others perceive them (due to a desire to people-please), strive to make everyone happy with their performance (at work, in school, at home, etc.), and tend to stay in negative relationships (for fear of not finding someone else to love). It’s very easy to identify when we have either little to no boundaries in our relationships because we begin to feel trapped, overwhelmed, or manipulated.”

5) You crush your self-esteem

youre a people pleaser without realizing it 8 bad things that happen when you always put others first

If your needs and wants consistently come last, you are subconsciously sending yourself a message:

You are telling yourself that you are less worthy than everyone around you.

I know that’s not the message you intend to send. But even if you are just trying to be kind, a lack of kindness towards yourself shows up over time as low self-esteem.

You can end up feeling like you are only worthy of love if you are giving something to someone else.

When you stop giving yourself the love and attention you deserve, you inadvertently start looking for it in the approval of others.

As we’re about to see, that’s never a good thing. 

6) You make yourself responsible for other people

Being responsible for others may sound like a nice thing, but it’s not. Because each of us is responsible for our own feelings, thoughts, and happiness.

It cannot be any other way.

If you start to try too hard to “make others happy” it traps you. The truth is that this is way beyond your control.

So it can put you at the mercy of others’ shifting moods in order for you to feel good about yourself.

You may not notice it happening, but if others being dissatisfied makes you feel bad, the chances are, you are looking for too much of your validation outside of yourself.

7) You can end up forgetting who you are

Individuality isn’t a bad thing. We can still be individuals and cooperate and contribute to society at the same time.

If you become overly agreeable to others, you may find that you end up losing touch with what makes you who you are.

Your opinions, ideas, beliefs, and preferences all get crushed.

You get so used to taking the lead from everyone around you that you may not even feel sure about what makes you tick without other people’s influence. 

To counteract this habit, as advice columnist and ethicist at Princeton University Eleanor Gordon-Smith recommends, you need to find your own voice:

“For lifelong people pleasers, sometimes coming up with your own preferences can feel so out-of-reach that your only everyday desires are “no”: I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to go there. Annoyingly, those can be the hardest to voice, because it’s no fun to be the plan-squasher.

Perhaps you could try asking, what’s one thing I really do want to do? It can be as little as ‘listen to that song’, ‘eat a gingerbread man’ or…’sit and read a book’. That way your preferences won’t always feel synonymous with blocking others’, which can help them feel less like sites of guilt.”

8) You end up in unhealthy relationships

If people-pleasing worked, then perhaps sacrificing yourself for others would be in some ways worth it.

Often the whole aim of putting everyone else first is for the sake of better relationships. Yet that’s not what ends up happening, unfortunately.

In fact, it usually strains relationships in the long run.

The truth is, no matter how much you try to sit on it, an imbalance in giving and receiving within our connections will breed resentment.

The more you try to keep everyone happy, the more needy you become — even if that’s emotional neediness.

Without healthy boundaries, we can’t have healthy relationships. Period.

The people who care about you and your well-being want you to have a voice. The ones who don’t are taking advantage of you.

So quality relationships never suffer from learning to put yourself first, they only improve.

The more you learn to take care of your own needs, the stronger you become in general, and that carries over into your relationships too. 

Finding the sweet spot

Here’s the bottom line:

If you always put others first, you end up neglecting your own well-being and personal growth as a consequence.

You probably have little time or energy for self-care and you can’t commit to your own development because you’re busy prioritizing others.

Maybe you’ve heard the analogy before, but it’s always a good reminder:

On an airplane, they always say that in the event of an emergency, you should secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.

It’s not because you’re selfish, it’s because you’re no use to anyone if you pass out.

It’s helpful to think of self-care and self-expression in the same way.

Our relationships with both ourselves and others improve when we engage in self-responsibility first.

So sure, continue to be mindful of doing considerate things for others, but give yourself just as much care, attention, and respect.

By recognizing the potential pitfalls of always putting others first, you can strive for a healthier equilibrium.

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.