Respect Yourself: Stop Letting Others Take Advantage of You

April 3, 2015 Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Everyone needs to learn to respect themselves and stop letting others take advantage of us. Just the other day I noticed that I was about to let someone take advantage of me. It may not have been on purpose, but the gal at the checkout overcharged me for an item. I felt this strong sense of unfairness and asked her nicely to change the price. She apologized and fixed the mistake.

This may sound like a simple example, but the truth is, each time you stand up for what's fair, you respect yourself. When you stop allowing others to take advantage of you and respect yourself, your self-esteem improves.

When others take advantage of you, it can do one of three things: one, tick you off, leading to aggressive outbursts or internal anger at yourself (and them); two, feelings of hopeless and reinforcing the false belief that you don't deserve respect; or three, guide you to act assertively and stand up for yourself. Clearly, the third will help you develop strong self-esteem and more self-respect, but it can feel uncomfortable at first.

Stop Letting Others Take Advantage of You in 4 Steps

It's likely that you are a helpful person by nature, and sometimes you allow people to take advantage of you, because you're nice and you want to please others. Stop this pattern; it's killing your self-respect. You can be kind and nice and have boundaries. Learn to value your own schedule and plans as much as you value others.Learn how to finally stop letting others take advantage of you. Here are 4 simple steps that will help you respect yourself and build self-esteem.

Respect yourself step 1: Think of a time that you were treated unfairly. What did that feel like? Perhaps it was your colleague dumping a project on you at the last minute, the waiter bringing you the wrong food, or your mother calling and keeping you on the phone for an hour. Think about how this situation made you feel physically and emotionally. Did you want to fix it but just didn't know what to say or were you afraid to say something in order to get what you deserved? Think about the feelings and thoughts that come up when you recognize someone is taking advantage of your time or kindness. This feeling is important, it will push you to use the following skills.

Respect yourself step 2: Figure out what you value. Is it your free time, workouts, Netflix binges on the weekend? As a therapist, I have people emailing me at all hours of the day and calls that "need to be answered" at all hours of the night but I can't be available 24/7. That's not fair to me and it isn't fair to my clients. If I'm annoyed, angry, or frustrated, how am I going to be serving them? Instead, I decided to set hours, and let my clients know these were. This helped me spend my time with family and friends

Respect yourself step 3: Start small. Pay attention to the details. Did your cab driver keep the meter running or your friend keep you waiting for an hour? Notice the small things that take advantage of your time, kindness, or your lack of attention. If I wouldn't have been paying attention, the checkout girl would have unknowingly taken advantage of me, and I would have been upset with myself and her if I noticed it later on. Be aware of your interactions and if people begin to make you feel like you are being taken advantage of, then you can act.

Respect yourself step 4: Act. Say something, speak up for yourself. It may just be a question to confirm that your needs are being met, but their answer will also keep you feeling confident and in control. Be nice and polite when you are asking for what you want to be fixed or inquiring about it. Here are some examples:

  • Excuse me, I thought the price was lower; could you double check for me?
  • I have other plans that I can't change. You'll have to find someone else.
  • I only have 10 minutes to talk; how's it going?

Look, at the end of the day, it is you who may be taken advantage of, so you have to step up, be brave, and respect yourself otherwise it will keep happening. The more you practice saying "no" or standing up for what's right for you, the higher your self-esteem will become.

Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

APA Reference
Roberts, E. (2015, April 3). Respect Yourself: Stop Letting Others Take Advantage of You, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Emily is a psychotherapist, she is intensively trained in DBT, she the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are. You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

Debbie Wood
September, 4 2016 at 8:59 pm

My daughter go out and I baby sitting my two grandkids who live with me I love my grandkid but not to baby sit 3/5 day I feel usede and my husband have not been on no dates just helping my granddaughter's what should I say to my daughter?

September, 3 2016 at 11:54 pm

I am in an almost identical situation to Di`s including the disability and years of emotional and physical pain bit. My “friend” does all the stuff Di mentions bar the stealing but I fear she may steal from me one day and I'm nervous of her being around my home for that reason. I feel trapped. I don't know what to do

August, 19 2016 at 10:12 pm

Boo hoo, take a stand for yourselves, set boundries for the way you expect to be treated and accept the consequences of your actions. If they leave because you set a boundary for yourself then accept it and move on. Remember that you are the one who is responsible for training people into how to treat you!

June, 20 2016 at 3:38 pm

I recently took a good look at my life and I realize that the reason I have been used and made a fool of, is due to the way I was raised. My own mother took advantage of me, forcing me to do the majority of the laundry, cooking and housework (especially after she remarried, to a thieving piece of trash). At 18, I had to move out, one month after I got a full-time job at a factory with minorities, who didn't even speak English. My step-sister and her greedy brat were showered with tens of thousands of dollars, cars, a house, etc, yet never did jack for either my mother or stepfather. My life has been total crap, all because of the way my own mother treated me. I can't trust anyone, because they always use me. But at least I recognize what has gone wrong, even though I can't fix it.

June, 6 2016 at 10:19 am

I have a friend I've known for 10+ years. We had a 4 year break for completely different reasons than why I need to end it now. She's always been mean, and kind of racist. I've tried to tell her that her behavior isn't ok, but she doesn't seem to get it. She comes over, unannounced, even after I've said I'm busy, not home, etc. I believe she's sabotaged me in the past, but she's smart, and able to cover her tracks. She also apparently is a cleptomaniac, and a liar. I found some of my belongings in her home last year when I went to take her a bday gift. I know this all sounds nuts, and the answer obvious, but before I found my stolen items we had both gone thru a lot with cheating significant others, and she was a lifeline for me, as sad as that sounds. I was destroyed emotionally when I found things at her house, and then my family is after me for what she may have taken of theres. We didn't speak for several months last year after this, and my life settled down, I started getting all the bs folks out of my life. I'm disabled, and recently received some $$ due to the injuries that caused my disability. Mind you when I was laid up I barely saw her, bc I had nothing. I didnt see a lot of people, my external family forgot I existed. She started asking for everything when we started talking again, from cigarettes, to money, food, gas money, etc. I helped her w her rent. She's supposed to pay me back this month. I feel terrible even talking about this, I look like an idiot. I'm struggling to keep her away from me, I have to lie, not answer my phone. I want to believe she is as mentally ill as she says she is, bc I'm not in the best shape either. But I don't steal from people, I just go too far to help them. Her behavior seems sociopathic at times, and scares me. She's a scavenger, and a user, and a thief. I fear retaliation, and loneliness. I keep waiting for her to be the friend she used to be, but I suppose this is who she always was. I want better for myself after years of physical and emotional pain. I don't want to be mean, but I fear that's where I'm headed. It's like a scary reddit. It needs to stop. Yes, I am in therapy, and I do have some really good friends who don't abuse my generosity, and were there anyway when I had nothing. I've read a few different articles about ending toxic relationships, and this seems pretty textbook. Any ideas how I can cleverly get her out of my life with out causing a lot of waves? I'm a sitting duck here, I don't drive. ...I got rid of the ex boyfriend easier than this, and even we can be friends. Theres a terrible feeling that comes from being used this throughly...last week I was outside helping build a fence, and she spent way too much time inside my home unattended. My daughter and I believe she may have taken some food, and a dollar out of my wallet. Sound paranoid much? Very upsetting to be in this situation.

June, 6 2016 at 8:11 am

I need advice badly, I feel like I am a very kind,helpful,good hearted person. My problem is people love to take advantage of my kindness. I am a good person,simple and love to help others,its part of whom I am. I have had the worst year and a half,and my eyes have been opened to reality. my good friend,well she says were more like family,just keeps taking advantage of me and was not there for me and my family when I needed her most.My husband almost died at work and my world came to a sudden standstill in the blink of an eye, I called her and she came over and was my rock, for the day. the next day she acted as though she was here for us and slowly disappeared. I went through hell and back and made it through, but hold this anger towards her inside for her lack of friendship I truly needed at that time.its much worse the things she took advatage of me through the situation I was going through,she talked me into storing her two gun safes at my house with 50 guns in them,so she could become a caregiver,it was supposed to be for a short time and its now almost two years later, I finally told her she needs to store them somewere else and now she is mad and angered at me? I dont understand how she can act this way? I need advice? am I such a weak person?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

louisa claire johnson
September, 13 2018 at 5:22 am

Hi Hollie and other comments. I have been in a similar position myself. I knew a person for over 25 years. We lived near each husband and myself helped her out when her husband lost his job financially. Took him to job interviews as he doesn't drive. We supported them as best we could. A few years later we stopped hearing from them they never rang us either. I saw another neighbour and asked about had she seen them where they ok. Oh she said they moved 3 months ago to Yorkshire somewhere. I was completely shocked we have never heard from them since and the neighbour said no forwarding address given either. They still hadn't paid back the money we loaned them to buy a new washing machine either £250. We are very careful who we help now and trust after our experience with our So called friends.

May, 27 2016 at 6:34 am

I run a guest house. If I'm kind to people they slowly take just a but more from me each visit. It really doesn't pay to be too kind to anyone really.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 30 2016 at 1:10 pm

Hi Teri, sorry to hear that others are taking from you. I know that it is terrible to feel taken advantage of. I would suggest having them sign something that allows you to charge them for the "missing things" my assumption is that most aren't doing it to be mean but some may. Being kind (for me) is something that feels good. I put up boundaries so that I can decide to engage or be kind to myself by not engaging. Kindness is an action that should feel good to you and you can only hope the receiver. Be kind to yourself first and foremost. Good luck.
Take good Care,

May, 25 2016 at 10:18 am

This is the problem with all the articles that I've read about self-esteem and assertiveness- They draw the line between helping others and being taken advantage of by other people. It seems whenever I help another person (be it adult or child) they always end up taking advantage of me! Whether it's taking way more time than agreed upon, stopping at more stops, using guilt trips to get me to give more, etc... So, do I just say no to everyone that wants help?! And to me assertiveness is different than self-esteem. I know my own value, but my problem is that most times that I agree to help people, they use me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 15 2018 at 1:48 pm

Veronica, I was in the same boat just recently. I had to learn to say "NO" a big tough word that makes people cringe, even the one's saying it. Trust me when I tell you, that I understand you like no other, in that I shared your same dilemma, and I'm not push over, in addition to having confidence and self-esteem. However, I've found that these issues occur to us from our inherent respect for others. We either learned or were thought that courtesy and respect makeup a decent human being. Of course they do, but then there are others that don't share this view. The hard part is drawing the line, and the best way to draw the line that has thought me an invaluable lesson about people in general, is the word "NO" but not just when you say to others, you have to say it to yourself too. For example, "NO. I will not help such and such" and stop there, no more thinking about why or because or based on what they say. The conclusion should always be "NO" only when a person enters into that facet of your life.

May, 19 2016 at 9:10 am

I feel emotionally drained by the rudeness and taking advantage of by my 14 year old step son who Ive known for 4 years. I drove to his dads for 2 years with food, cooked, cleaned, ironed and my two boys had to do what the step son wanted because this was his territory. Father feels guilt over his divorce and has onky just noe at age 14 started to pull him up about being selfish. I feel burned out as Im always trying to please yet all I get in return is critisism, rudeness, disrespect and I cant do anything about it because he is not my son! To give a flavour ... I iron his clothes and hang them up and he scrunches them back into his bag from his mums, he always criticises food I cook, he is defiant about household rules, says they are stupid (simple things like taking shoes off in the house) slams doors, punches things, will not acknowledge my birthday at all and refused to wish his little step brother (5yr old) happy birthday and he lies about stuff too! Then when his dad tries to hold him to account, he argues back and waits to see if I react. He has a kind father who has spoiled him but we are both taken advantage of and hubby just wants to offload hus frustrations onto me and I just feel drained all the time and resentful of all the times he has taken advantage of. Any advice?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 15 2018 at 12:46 pm

Lady, seems like you and the hubby have to set some grounds rules, and enforce them. Perhaps a family meeting, addressing all the issues, etc. However, here is the tough part "enforcing the rules" this in it of itself becomes even more tiresome. However, I've heard that after two weeks of enforcing rules, people start to see them as habitual. Then and only then after two weeks of enforcement does the actual learning and accepting of the rules begin. Try an integrative method of negotiating the ground rules at the meeting, with another meeting scheduled two weeks after. At the two weeks after meeting, if those rules or agreements are not met, use a distributive form of negotiation, whereas you hold back certain responsibilities because the rules are not met, or you use other distributive forms of negotiation that creatively get you what you want out of the relationship. If all this fails, then I resort to an ultimatum, whereas desperate actions resort to desperate measures. Some of which could be moving out, ending the niceties, not doing what you are responsible for doing, etc. The point is that you have to make another effort that makes the group aware, if that fails you interject in your benefit entirely, and if all else fails you put your foot down with measures that distant you from the problem. In the end you can't say you didn't try...

May, 17 2016 at 10:30 am

Thanks, I realize I can't fix her but she's not hearing me at all and I'm going to stop feeling guilty when she's angry that I didn't respond when she wanted me to. It's like being a doormat for someone's convenience. She cuts off a conversation if she needs to and then gets annoyed when she calls back and I can't talk. My husband and I went to movies over the weekend; she'd cut off our conversation complaining about her troubles saying she'll call back early in the afternoon... when did she call that night we were at the theatre; I didn't take the call of course, she hit redial and I let it go to voicemail again, then she texted... why didn't she think I was unavailable and just wait to hear from me? I could have been in bed with my husband if not at the movies... he could have gotten annoyed if I disrupted our date to take her call; our personal time is limited due to our schedules and though we've got no children in the house it is important to enjoy the time when we can have a date or just go for a drive alone. When I did call her back the next day towards the evening, the frost in her tone was clear as windshield in winter, so I just said call me back when you can, she hung up without even an okay. I've resolved not to call her as I think it's a good time to just breathe and let the chips fall where they may...

May, 16 2016 at 1:00 pm

I have a friend who's an independent business owner, she calls me at all times during the day forgetting I'm on the clock at a corporation. She ignores when I tell her I'm at work and have to, and if I try to say something about my life she glosses over it. I have been polite and pointed in telling her she does not have any respect for my time; that didn't work so I just stopped answering her every all and would take a day or two before responding to her. She got an attitude and would then be short in her response or blatant in now responding to anything I say. She has issues with her relationships in work and business and only seems to want to have an ear to voice about it but not doing the same in return. She gives a percentage of a contract to those who help her secure work to date I may be the only person who didn't get it and I did ask her about it. She said oh she forgot and has taken the profit from that contract and donated it to the non-profit business owned by the person I got her the job for... What does that have to do with a written practice of your business and me... is it because I'm your friend I don't get that bonus but you want me to keep being your friend? This is someone who seems impervious to the fact that those who may support her are entitled to respect.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 16 2016 at 4:49 pm

Very frustrating indeed. I have been in a similar situation and started to ignore the calls until the time was right for me. Sometimes texting to say I was busy. Even if I am busy doing my own thing (reading my book or eating dinner). Sometimes people don't hear you unless your actions show them that you are not available, nor should you have to be. You can set those boundaries and my guess is you'll feel better about yourself and your friend may get some time to sit with her thoughts and realize that she's causing some of the drama. You cant fix her but you can respect your time. You sound like a great friend.

May, 6 2016 at 2:04 am

These steps can ABSOLUTELY be used with family members!

May, 3 2016 at 6:56 pm

I just feel that sometimes it is hard to stand up for yourself. Sometimes people start using you in a subtle way and when you find out, it is kind of late and you feel like you don't have the courage to defend yourself because your self-steem is so low for having allowed this people to behave in an abusive way with you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 8 2016 at 2:24 pm

I agree Rose and it takes a few things to turn this around- feeling angry, feeling stuck and knowing that you're being weighed down by others. You can stand up and slowly shift. I recommend being distant, responding less and turning into what YOU deserve in order to continue to create boundaries. I hope this helps and look forward to hearing about your success.

June, 15 2018 at 12:34 pm

Also Rose, don't go back to being open and forthcoming. Otherwise you revert back into the same dilemma, and then the vicious cycle keeps repeating.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 28 2018 at 12:55 pm

I was in same situation in my previous job. My lady boss was so smart. She took advantage of my kindness, Honesty, and hard-working nature and when it was time to give salary she use to extend the dates. But I continued the job even though many of my colleagues resigned. I find myself helpless and I fear standing up for myself. I am very shy and not so talkative and my boss she is very loud, talkative and user. So, I used to feel very sad, depressed.but one day I wake-up early in the morning, wrote a resignation-letter and kept it on the table of office. Next day she made numerous calls on my mobile.....but I didn't received because I don't have place for " User's " in my life. It's been 1 month now....and iam enjoy in quality time with me, doing yoga, meditation, learning Casio, trying new recipe.....iam peaceful now. And feeling good to show courage to take decision for myself.

April, 26 2016 at 10:26 am

You're unbelievable! Move out! You live with your sister and like she's taking advantage of you! Reality check friend!

April, 7 2016 at 5:14 am

Hi. I need help with some of the ways I can use to deal with anger when dealing with loved ones who take advantage of me. They always find a way to upset me and I respond bad unintentionally. when I raise facts they tell me I'm a smart ass

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 15 2018 at 12:26 pm

Dumisani, I'm in the same boat with loved ones. Honestly, I find that being a smart ass, and not being taken advantage of is far better than being a nice guy, and always being taken advantage of. Been there done that, and I find that the best way is not a gradual nicety, but a chopping block approach. If they don't like it, that is there problem, and if they try the whole guilt and argument thing, my respond to that is. "As you are entitled to what is beneficial to you, so am I. and if something I do affects you inadvertently, that is your problem". The reason why? because these kind of people that take advantage of you are calculating, and they know that what they do will passive aggressively affect you inadvertently. Hence, why they are aware of it, and you may not be. Always look out for yourself first, then and only then do you help others if you so choose. There is no rule that says you are obligated to anything, even when agreements are reached and they have to change out of not being able to carry them out. Applying the same rules they apply to you is equitable, not "Smart Ass".

June, 15 2018 at 1:06 pm

Very true Joe, also I tend to just try and be as calm as I possibly can in the face of someone who doesn't get it-- "What do you mean you can't do ___ you did it last time." or if someone is getting frustrated because I don't have the time to do something, I respond with "I'm sorry you're upset and I have to take care of myself right now. I hope you can understand." It's hard to argue (rationally) with someone when we are speaking up with calm and kindness. Glad you are respecting yourself :)

March, 24 2016 at 3:08 pm

Tanks Emily for this write up. I live with my married sister and I help her with her kids. But atimes I get to do chores for her which at the end of the day I don't get to do my own business. I feel like I don't have a life because I can't make any decision without thinking about her or her kids. What do I do?

March, 4 2016 at 3:07 pm

Hi there,
I had 3 girlfriends who really took to much advantage of me.
In many ways. Now i stoppt trusting. I am very hurt.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 7 2016 at 2:23 pm

Rita I'm so sorry to hear about this! You deserve friends who respect you and if these girls don't you will find better and more respecting ones. It hurts, I've been there and the friends that I have kept for years are the ones that I respect and who respect me. The ones who are gone, are no longer serving me or hurting me.
Good luck and keep me posted!
Take Good Care,

February, 3 2016 at 3:33 pm

Oh, I think you can most certainly use those steps with family members. Just because you are related it doesn't mean that someone can treat you disrespectfully. Quite the opposite! Those who love and care for you need to show it by not taking advantage of your kindness. It doesn't actually help them anyway. All it does is teach them that it's okay to be a 'user' and at the same time your own self-worth ebbs away. Relationships MUST be two-way - give and take. So, go ahead and set those boundaries and show others that you are worth respecting and not simply an object to be used to meet their needs.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 15 2018 at 12:29 pm

Kat, that was beautifully stated... Thank you for sharing your thoughts so eloquently, it has inspired me.

January, 1 2016 at 8:16 pm

I came across this article as I was in a similar situation. Although I agree with the steps and ways to overcome getting used by people, I'm not sure if I can use this steps when it comes to family. This is because with family, by saying no, its like they cant depend on you and will seek help from other people instead of you. Im in that situation now, but when I tolerate their nonsense, its taking a toll on me. I am an INTJ, so I kinda notice everything which is going on in the family, but i cant say the same with them. I've tried taking to them to explain that for the family to be happy, everyone got to do their part to make the family going, but seems like my words are just words. Everything is forgotten the next day. If you're reading this, do let me know what can I do to make things much easier on myself

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lindy Hill
January, 15 2019 at 10:31 pm

45 lost my 16 year old daughter she was found in Lee co. Am locked in. A shed had been brutally raped and strangle with a Dog Leash,,, my family's gone down hill I'm the back bone. I have M.S. AND RARW BONE DIESE HAVE PUSH MYSELF MENTALLLY AND PHYSICAL I SEEM TO BE GETTING WORSE GOOD LORS HAS ME. BUT OV ALWAYS HAD BE BACK BONE AND BARELY HAVE ONE LEFT NOT ONLY MY FRIENDS BUT BLOOD AS WELL USE ME. IT BREAKS MY HEART!!! Stress from losing my 16 year old has worn me down as well P.T.S.D BACK FLASHES AO BAD NEVER ONCE DID I GO TO A COUNCLER JAD TO FACE DEATH LOSS PAIN
TOMOROW HER B.DAY WOULD HAVE BEEN 25 TOMORROW. THE OUR LORD ANOBE IS QHY I MADE IT SONCE 2010 4/18 can't believe I'm still breathe,o new,there was NO!! Way I was gonna make,it
Now I am very sick and losing a child of course u never ever ever get over. O just want a live happy stress free what little nitt of years I do have left Shane got murders just about all of me went with her. Fighter boy have I been one March 18 be 9 years still feels like yesterday. Just last year of 2018 I could member what going on with news never new whom our president was nor how many we've had since 2010. I pray GOD PLS TAKE THIA M.S AND BONE DIESES FEOM MY BODY I HAVE FOUGHT TO GET UP PUSH MYSELF GET UP GET UP HAVE FOUGHT TO KEEP LIVING

Hillary Dillery
February, 13 2019 at 9:17 pm

It is important that you realize that you are still alive and you have a very valid and necessary purpose on this earth. Yes only God knows but trust that his will is perfect. It’s not your fault that someone perpetrated this horrible crime. You can’t change the past. Please give yourself a break. I love you whoever you are and I am concerned and your health, wealth, family, career. You are important to me and everyone else around you. We are the body of Christ, a royal priesthood. I will pray for you to have emotional breakthroughs in this area. 2019 will be a phenomenal year for you and your family.

December, 25 2015 at 10:35 pm

One type of person is everywhere-the USER! Yes, they're manipulative too. Trust your gut. It will tell you why they're all smiles and flattery. Why they say that they can't wait to see you. Been thinking so much about you. Why? They want something from you. It's obvious. Their game is really transparent though if you give up your naive notion that everyone is sweet and caring. Some just use that as a ploy. You have got to set firm boundaries with these types or before you know it they'll be sleeping in your bed and using your shower. Get ready for the backlash-they are not going to like it-too bad for them. Let them run away, talk bout you-whatever. Let them go-give them their coat and shoes and hold the door. They're secretly competitive with you and out for themselves!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 15 2018 at 11:57 am

Craig, this is so true. I never noticed this, until you pointed it out. Especially, when you stated "They're secretly competitive with you and out for themselves!" It became clear to me when you pointed this out. When they don't get what they want they try guilt or some other directed at one action, statement, or argument to infringe upon your kindness, however God forbid you try it back on them because that is when you see the true colors shine on through.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 12 2019 at 10:16 pm

Craig, here Iam not clear about that you mentioned “backlash-they” And “too bad for themselves”. I feel like I emotionally falling and thinking like others are so kind and caring even I knew the truth I can’t able to be on my own. Iam totally confused now-a-days and so worried about my life and insecured. So I guess this statement what you mentioned is helpful for me.

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