When your decision to remain in an unhealthy or unfulfilling relationship or situation is about ‘investment’ and attempting to recoup a loss, you wind up making the person/people indebted to you. There becomes a sense of entitlement. This is when you have a very strong expectation of what should happen given that you’ve done or are X. When people and life disappoint you, you then feel shortchanged, taken advantage of and owed. Possessiveness, as well as righteousness about your ‘contribution’, blinds you to what you need to do. 

If we could all turn bailiff or debt collector when we’re disappointed despite our efforts that we think should have generated our desired outcome, the world would be a very different place. But we can’t (and we shouldn’t).

Investing yourself is part of the territory of relationships, trying things, and stepping up to your needs and wants.

For instance, don’t invest yourself, and you have a half-assed relationship. Do invest but in a non-mutual relationship and you’re on the backfoot. Over-invest, possibly with a contribution that you cannot afford or shouldn’t be spending (your self-esteem) and you end up bankrupt. That, and the relationship is imbalanced so it can’t grow.

When seeking validation and a ‘return’ drives your investment, you sink in even more of you to get a return. You give to receive–what I call ‘get mode’– so that you can make it a ‘good’ investment, and this changes your intentions. 

Rather than investing from a place of personal security and a shared desire and commitment in the relationship or situation, your efforts are about influencing and controlling the other party. Yep, people pleasing. You think you’re doing ‘good things’ ‘for them’, but the Why (trying to ‘make’ them do something) or the What (crossing yours or even their boundaries) makes it a dodgy investment. On some level, you believe that if they validate you in the specific way that you seek or they meet other old unmet needs from the past, it will prove that you are worthy of ‘investment’.

Proving your ‘worthiness’ isn’t the purpose of a relationship or doing something though.

It’s no wonder, then, that you become fixated on getting a ‘return’; you’ve sunk your self-esteem and this idea that there’s something wrong with you into the relationship or situation. Of course you want to get something back! But you didn’t need to make that kind of investment in the first place.

People pleasing is like you creating debt and then expecting others to pay it off.

Disappointment that things haven’t gone as you’d liked despite your efforts doesn’t mean that you should become guarded. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother to invest or that you should treat people like a means to an end. You will build walls instead of boundaries, and you won’t be more of who you really are.

Feeling drained, owed, ripped-off and entitled are the cues and clues to be more boundaried. If how you invest into relationships and situations leaves you feeling emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually precarious, it’s a sign that you need to invest yourself from a place of self-love, self-care, self-trust and self-respect. In this way, you won’t break yourself trying to recoup something you need to let go of or not even chase in the first place.

The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon/HarperCollins) is out now and available in bookshops on and offline. Listen to the first chapter.
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