Not too long ago, while being interviewed, I was first given a compliment and then asked a question. The compliment was, "You seem to have a lot of wisdom in your words." The question was, "How do you keep from getting arrogant whenever people tell you that?" Anyone who writes in the self-help lane knows that writing can be its ultimate form of therapy. In other words, more times than not, when I'm writing on things like self-esteem, self-awareness and relationships, I am getting my own self free just as much as I am trying to free others. Therefore, there is no time or even reason to get cocky. The messages are typically for the messenger—first. And y'all, no truer words could be spoken than when it comes to this…topic…right…here.
If I could find a way to turn the phrase "taken for granted" into my license plate, believe me, I would. I have spent more time than I'd care to admit feeling just that way. Honestly, it's probably only been the past couple of years or so that I've gotten away from being in that kind of head and heart space. A part of what's changed is I've spent time studying things like codependency and narcissism (when those two kinds of people come together, you can best believe it's gonna be a hot mess!). Another thing that went down is I've been more intentional about taken "relationship inventory" on a regular basis; I've evaluated if my relationships are mutually healthy and mutually beneficial on an annual basis. And, perhaps most importantly, I've made the decision to not put myself in the position where I feel taken for granted any longer. And just how did I pull that off? Well, that's where this article comes in.
If you look up the actual definition of "taken for granted", it says this—"to expect someone or something to be always available to serve in some way without thanks or recognition; to value someone or something too lightly". If you feel like people don't recognize or appreciate you, which ultimately means that they don't value what you bring into their life, there's no time like the present to make a few changes so that you can stop feeling like that. So that you can actually get to the point of believing—and then living your life like—something that actor and singer Mae West once said—"I believe that it's better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked."
In order to do that, you have to see the patterns that are creating this type of outcome. Over the course of the next few minutes, I'll share four of my own relationships, the patterns that I recognized and how they helped me to stop feeling taken for granted all of the time (by them).
Four Relationships That Took Me for Granted and How I Got Free
(*Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Guilty*)
*APRIL: “Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted.”—Gretchen Rubin
This. Chick. Right. Here. If there is a relationship that is the poster child example of what it means to be taken for granted, she would be it. Looking back, I think it was because, when we met, things were already off-balance. My self-esteem was pretty low and that always subjected me to what I call "pretty girl syndrome". Meaning, I would be so enamored when a so-called pretty girl even paid me a bit of attention. It was kind of like when the mean girl clique at school lets you sit at their table. You are so busy feeling validated that you don't even notice the web that they are spinning around you; the agenda that they have already conjured up. Then you're so grateful that they pay you any attention at all that you end up being a fan more than a friend; you end up giving way more than you receive.
And here's the thing about these types of dynamics. It's not like there aren't some good times and good memories. Matter of fact, it's those that keep you around far more than you should. But it's just that, when you sit back and think about all that you've done vs. what they've done in return, things don't add up. To tell you the truth, I'm embarrassed by how much money I spent on my "friendship" with April. Over the course of several years, it's been literally thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, I have a five-dollar ring that she bought at some museum and supposedly she bought a pack of lip gloss for me one Christmas that she lost. Not only did she lose it, she was extremely flippant about it when she told me. Countless times she would invite me to her house and fall asleep while I was talking, invite me to lunch and then ask me to foot the bill, and would cry on my shoulder whenever one of her own so-called friends would mistreat her, only to "halfway see me" once they reconciled. In short, it was a friendship of convenience for her and total inconvenience for me. No wonder I felt totally taken for granted.
These kind of people? They aren't the ones who can hear that they are taking you for granted. That's because if you're not constantly telling them about how awesome they are, they are going to play the victim and act like you are attacking them (or are jealous of them). So usually, the best thing to do is just…release them. Not cut them off (that is such a violent way of handling things); just, stop investing so much when you're not getting the same type of time, effort and energy in return.
These days, whenever I see April, as one of my boys say, "It's love" in the sense that she doesn't piss me off. Nor do I even try and avoid her. At the same time, I'm not proactive about the relationship anymore either. One thing about remaining close to those who take you for granted is they can drain you to the point where you're not as available to those who actually do pour into your life; which isn't fair to your true friends. Basically, I give April the same type of energy she gives me, which isn't much, which keeps us both from getting worn out. Problem solved.
*MICHAEL: “Even the strongest feelings expire when they are ignored and taken for granted.”—Unknown
Remember how I said that a part of what got me out of the destructive pattern of being in relationships with people who took me for granted was that I studied narcissism? Well, a YouTube channel that provided me with quite a few light bulb moments is Assc Direct. He actually has a video entitled "Why You Get Taken for Granted". In his intro, this is what he says:
"If you gave a two-year-old a one-hundred dollar bill, and you left for a length of time, I can almost guarantee you that you will not come back to the same hundred dollar bill…this is because a two-year-old cannot recognize, cannot understand and does not understand the value of that hundred dollar bill. So, to them, it gets treated the same as any other sheet of paper."
Do you see where he's going with this? Narcissism is a beast because, if you don't know all that much about it, you can find yourself in the kind of situation that I was in with Michael. Michael was smart, funny and handsome. Michael was charming as hell. Michael and I had a lot in common. To this day, Michael is also one of the most narcissistic people I've ever met. His sense of self-entitlement, coupled with his arrogance and lack of empathy for other people's pain (including the pain that he tends to cause) created the perfect scenario for me to give and give and give, and for him to take and take and take. What's really sad is, whenever my self-esteem would nudge me and say, "Girl, what the hell are you doing?!" and I would bring my feelings to him, he would do something else that is a signature narcissistic trait; he would deflect and somehow try and make my discontent be totally my fault.
What caused me to finally remove myself from Michael and his grandiose selfishness is I realized just what the video said. It takes a sense of humility and maturity to appreciate the value that someone brings into your life. People who are extremely self-important and/or emotionally stunted don't really care about nurturing or preserving relationships. Why? Basically it's because their pride makes them think that people are disposable and that other folks are lining up to take the place of the ones that they dismiss.
If you are in a relationship, whether it be personal or professional, with a narcissist, sociopath or selfish individual, I can promise you that it is only a matter of time before you will feel taken for granted by them. Set boundaries. Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23). Also, study the traits of those kinds of individuals. Then, accept that the late and great Maya Angelou once warned us about—"When people show you who they are…believe them." Don't try and change them. Don't seek to overcompensate for where they lack. Believe them and then decide if you want to participate in a one-sided relationship. Or not. If you stay, accept what comes along with it—consistently being taken for granted.
*MICHELLE: “Sometimes you need to distance yourself from people. If they care, they’ll notice. If they don’t, you know where you stand.”—D. Crysis
Last fall, I wrote a piece for the site entitled "I Was 'Ghosted' By My Best Friend". Long story short, it was about a friend of mine who, after over 30 years of friendship, they vanished into thin air. Well, that's not completely true. After they went through a life situation that totally infected their character and totally drained me in the process and I brought that fact to their attention while also letting them know that, moving forward, I was going to require more reciprocity, they vanished.
Some people might say that since that is the way they chose to handle matters that they were never really my friend to begin with. Eh. We've been through enough together where I'll give some push back on that. What I will say is that while Michelle was caught up in her totally dysfunctional situation, something that came out of her mouth, more than once, was she wasn't sure if she knew what true love was or if she actually loved anyone in a healthy manner.
Because there was so much time and experience between us, although I heard what Michelle said, I still tried to hang in there. But now that I've healed from the ending of that friendship, what I have come to accept is, you can never really have a healthy relationship with someone who isn't healthy. And since she said that she didn't know what love is or even if she was capable of loving someone, her confusion had automatically put me into the crossfire. Therefore, it's no wonder that it was so easy for Michelle to "get ghost" on me.
Love is loyal. Ambiguity is unreliable.
The lesson here is this—It's unrealistic to look for perfection in a person or a relationship. But when it comes to your close intimate circle, make sure that you connect yourself with individuals who have a healthy sense of self. Otherwise, they aren't really all that equipped to love you well and, since they are so emotionally all over the place, it can be expected for them to be there one day and gone the next. They won't really notice that they don't value you because, honestly, they don't value their own selves very much either. Therein lies a huge part of the problem.
DAVID*: “When you're always there for people they stop appreciating you because your favors are now an expectation.”—Unknown
Sometimes, feeling taken for granted isn't rooted in anything super dramatic. It simply comes from a lack of clear communication between friends. So is the case with me and David. David is my man, one-hundred grand. But when he first came into my life, he was so giving and I was so not used to it, that when I started to give in return, even I can see that I was overdoing it. I started making it my mission to try and meet his needs, even before he had them, which eventually put me in the position of "doing" all of the time and him not giving as much.
After about a year or so, I brought up to him that it didn't seem like he was as much of a participant in the friendship as he used to be. It was interesting what he told me in response. He said that in most of his other friendships, he was used to being the one who had to do all of the work. So, with me, it started out being the same way. Then, when I came along and "trumped" his giving, he was so taken aback that he admits that he slacked off because he liked actually being on the receiving end. Ever since that conversation, he and I have been working on being more "even" in our giving to one another. It's not about "keeping tabs" so much as "taking each other's temperature", just to make sure that we're both getting our needs met.
And y'all, I think this is a great place to bring this particular piece to a close.
A lack of communication is one of the main things that can make someone feel as if they are being taken for granted. If you sit on those feelings for too long, you can become so resentful or even angry that you assume your friend, family member or loved one doesn't appreciate you when, the reality is, they had absolutely no idea that you felt the way that you did.
Bottom line—none of us like to feel as if we are being taken for granted. When you feel that way, it's a clear red flag to share those emotions with the people you are in relationship with. If they do indeed value you, if they can clearly pinpoint the worth that you hold in their life, they will put forth the effort to make some changes. If they don't, well, now you know where you stand, right? Now, if you choose to stay, you are the one who is taking yourself for granted. And isn't that a big ole' buffet plate food for thought?
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