Being caring is a positive trait right? Surely, there is no such thing as caring too much? It is good to care about others, but to what extent? When we sacrifice ourselves to please others, we are on dangerous territory. When we care more about what others think of us than how we feel about ourselves, we are heading for doom.
We can still be good, kind and compassionate people when we care a little less. In fact, when you stop caring so much, the care you do give becomes more meaningful. I have spent 40 years of my life servicing and pleasing others. Now, I am learning to say “no” and to stop myself from caring excessively about others. And guess what, my world hasn’t collapsed. In fact, I feel quite enlightened.
Let’s look at ways caring too much is unhealthy. As usual, I will suggest a number of tips to help you stop caring so much.
- What does it look like to care too much?
- Why is it a bad thing to care too much?
- How do I know if I care too much?
- 5 ways you can help yourself stop caring too much?
- Wrapping up
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
What does it look like to care too much?
Caring too much is another term for pleasing people. And people-pleasing is all about trying to be nice to everyone, all of the time. It is saying “yes” when we want to say “no”. It is going out of your way for others when it really doesn’t actually suit you.
Caring too much is thinking that we are responsible for other people’s happiness. And for carrying the burden of responsibility for everyone else.
I am a recovering people pleaser. I am a work in progress. I have overstretched myself for many years to keep others happy. To keep them liking me. I spent too long worrying about what other people thought of me. I have the needs of others before my own. I have fitted in when it doesn’t suit me.
My greatest fear is to rock the boat and cause others discomfort. So I am obedient and of service. My excessive caring is a direct link with my need for acceptance.
Why is it a bad thing to care too much?
Put simply – caring too much by being a people pleaser is exhausting.
It can also lead to feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety and stress. Whilst we may think our people-pleasing is winning people over and they will like us more. We are actually encouraging superficial relationships. We are giving people permission to use us.
We may then get ourselves all caught up in feelings of guilt, frustration and a sense of inadequacy. So what do we do to try and fix this? The answer: we work on caring more and being nicer and pleasing more people of course.
It’s such a vicious cycle. We think the very act of caring will bring us depth and meaning. We are delusional with the belief our people-pleasing will bring us approval and deep connection.
In reality, the opposite happens, leaving us feeling progressively worse about ourselves. Giving us a feeling that there is something desperately wrong with us.
Let me tell you, the only thing wrong with you is that you care too much! And this is literally causing you mental and physical pain!
How do I know if I care too much?
There are some very simple checks online. Here are a few of them. Go through this list and if you relate to most of them, then I’m afraid you care too much. But rest assured, we can fix this.
So, you care too much and are a people pleaser if most of the following points describe you.
- Struggle to say “no” to others.
- Ruminate on previous conversations.
- Pride yourself on being “nice”.
- Avoid conflict.
- Go out your way for others, even when it doesn’t suit you.
- Think other’s beliefs and opinions are more important than your own.
- Spend more time servicing other than on your own wellbeing.
- Apologize excessively.
- Have limited free time.
- Find yourself seeking approval.
- Struggle with low self esteem.
- Experience guilt if you say or do something you think you “shouldn’t have”.
- Desperately want to be liked and fit in.
- Find yourself trying to be someone you think others want you to be.
5 ways you can help yourself stop caring too much?
If you are realizing for the first time that you care too much and are a people pleaser, please don’t panic. The first step in overcoming a trait is identifying it. We can work on this and help bring greater meaning into your life.
Here are 5 simple things you can work on now, to address your over-caring and people-pleasing habits.
1. Read this book
There are some great books out there. A personal favorite that I am working my way through for the second time just now is “Not Nice” by Dr. Aziz Gazipura.
This book is gold dust. It helped me recognize that the opposite of being nice and caring is not being mean, selfish and unkind. Rather, it is being assertive and authentic. We think our lives will fall apart when we stop being so nice and caring. But Dr. Gazipura eloquently explains why the opposite happens.
The book is full of theory, anecdotes, and personal experiences. It also has several exercises to help you reflect and recognize your own habits and help you on your journey.
2. Stop taking responsibility for other people’s feelings
Ooft this is a tough one to implement. If my friends seem off either in person or in text. I wonder what I have done to upset them.
If my boss seems distracted, I believe it is because of something I have said or done. Or maybe it is because of something I have not said or done. If I am at a party, I have a ridiculous notion that I am responsible for everyone present to have a good time.
I am realizing how ingrained this sense of responsibility in me is. But, I am working hard to recognize that I am not responsible for the feelings of others.
I have stayed too long in past relationships for fear of hurting the other person. I have put the feelings of other people before my own. I have endured unhealthy relationships for fear of causing someone upset. And then, I have felt extreme guilt for breaking up with someone who I didn’t even want to be with.
Learn to deal with your own feelings and recognize that you are not responsible for other people’s feelings. If they have negative feelings, that is on them and it is not your responsibility to try to negate those feelings.
This is most regularly demonstrated in apologizing for things that aren’t even our fault. And we do this to try and gain approval and be liked.
3. Learn to say “no”
I find saying “no” one of the hardest things in the world. But you know what happens if I don’t embrace the discomfort of saying “no”? I can find myself resentful and angry at feeling used and taking on too much. Saying “no” is OK.
In fact, it is more than OK. If you don’t want to do something, say no. This will result in doing more of what you want to do and less of what you see as an obligation.
A friendship of mine is falling apart. I dared to say “no” when she asked if one of her friends could join our date. Well, wasn’t I a horrible person in her eyes!
I didn’t explain myself very well. But ultimately, I didn’t owe any explanation. She had every right to be upset. But I also have every right to say “no”. I don’t think she has forgiven me. But, I am not responsible for her feelings. See what I did there?
Yes, I felt horrifically guilty for saying “no”, but I also felt empowered.
4. Allow yourself your own opinions
When I was 9 years old, there was a girl in my class who was desperately afraid of having her own likes and dislikes. If she was asked if she liked something, her immediate response was “do you?” Then depending on your answer, she chose that as her answer.
When we deprive ourselves of our own opinions we are telling ourselves that we do not matter. We are giving the world the message that everyone else matters more than us. That the opinion of others is more important than our own.
Stop caring about other people more than you care about yourself.
Imagine you bought a new outfit and you felt amazing in it. Now, imagine a “friend” laughing at it and making unkind remarks. Would you be able to shrug off their words and recognize that your opinion on what you wear is more important than someone else’s?
This goes for many things. You are allowed opinions on anything. So stop agreeing with everyone. Learn to express a difference of opinion and recognize that this may even earn you more respect and open up conversations.
5. Establish boundaries
Sometimes as well as saying “no” we need to establish boundaries. We have agency over our own boundaries. We can decide what behaviors are and aren’t acceptable in our work environment, family life and relationships.
Maybe a friend is texting you too much and it is draining your energy. Set up some clear boundaries in relation to this. When you set up healthy boundaries, people around you become aware of what is and isn’t acceptable and they learn to respect you more. You actually build stronger connections this way.
An old friend started using me to offload gossip. I clearly outlined I wasn’t interested and didn’t want to engage in such conversations. And then the gossiping stopped.
We can prescribe a set of rules that we want to live by and it is not asking too much to expect others to respect our boundaries. If they choose not to respect our boundaries, learn to be OK with saying goodbye.
Here’s a helpful article that’s all about healthily setting boundaries.
When we start to care less we open up a new world. It’s not selfish to care less. In fact, it means we are giving more time and attention to the right people. When we care less, we actually become more authentic.
What do you think will happen to your relationships when you try to care less? And what will happen to your own mindset? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!