The Toxic Childhood Habit of Over-Accommodating Putting another person's needs or comfort before our own is a self-destructive

Are you the one always giving in or accommodating the needs of your family, friends or sometimes even perfect strangers? Do you always let your friend or partner always pick the movie you will watch? Does your child ignore your requests to take the garbage out knowing that you will eventually do it?  Or do you constantly give up your seat on the bus even though you may be tired?

No, you are not being nice, you are just playing out your childhood program, I don’t matter, other people come before me or else… dad may get violent or mom will coldly reject me.

Over-accommodating to everyone else’s needs has become a toxic habit which affects us on all levels – physical emotional and social.
toxic childhood parent habit self-destructive
Over-accommodating is a toxic program of an abusive childhood

Our combined need to avoid conflict along with our need for acceptance makes us constantly accommodate the needs and moods of other people.

The Dysfunctional Family Power Play

In a dysfunctional family, there are no equals. It is usually a well-demarcated power set-up. The one with the money or brute force comes right on top. He/she dictates the rules and the rest are puppets who have to adjust their needs and feelings to what is deemed right.

Unfortunately, in this power hierarchy, the parent pushes their shit on to their kids and if there are 2 or 3 kids, it is usually the youngest or the weakest who ends up being the scapegoat. The one who has to accommodate the family’s shit.

My father dumped his rage onto to my brother and my brother displaced it on me. My survival strategy was to stifle my needs and feelings and be a version of Mother Teresa.

I felt I had to fix everyone else’s problems while being a doormat. Gradually, it became a habit to put others before me. I was the classic codependent.

Accommodating Is Not Empathy

Sadly, this survival of childhood behavior becomes an automatic habit in our adult life. We become adept at predicting other people’s needs, moods and reactions. Even before we are asked we instinctively jump to be of service or make them feel at ease. We can’t bear even the thought of an unpleasant situation.  Subconsciously, we dread the thought of people blowing up and blaming us.

Deep down our childhood program of being a good girl means being helpful even though the other person is quite capable of taking care of themselves. I desperately wanted to be liked that I was the ever helpful, considerate pleaser. Most of the time I would only be used and abused which made me feel resentful and drained both emotionally and physically.

We delude ourselves into thinking we are being nice people. But if we are honest we know we hate allowing someone else take precedence over us. Empathy is not always good, self-care comes first

Great Expectations – Unending Demands

The more you give, the more is expected, the demands will not stop. That is what people identify you as the ‘The Nice Person’ dependable and ever helpful – ready to adjust to their needs.

In this world, being nice and over-accommodating gives the message – here’s a ‘sucker‘.  The more you give in the more you have to keep on giving. Most takers are not even aware that you are accommodating their needs out of goodness.

People start to expect it, they feel entitled. That’s where the toxic cycle of codependency begins.  People identify you as the giver, the fixer, the pleaser, the doormat. And you believe unless you do something they will fall apart. The weight of the world rests on your shoulders.

That becomes the relational dynamic  – help is always on the way – YOU.

However, consistently rescuing or caretaking an adult is not an act of love. It is just us replaying our own toxic childhood histories.

Changing This Toxic Childhood Habit

First, we have to realize that putting another person’s needs before mine all the time is toxic for my well-being. (Only your children’s needs come first that too when they are actually CHILDREN).

Become aware of what you really want, how you feel.

Speak Your Truth

Second, practice speaking your truth. Dr. Jordan Peterson talks about how we need to start expressing how we feel. If you don’t say, how will anyone know? Even if people are mind readers they will presume you are fine with something unless you protest loud and clear.

Initially, it may feel stressful to vocalize your needs without feeling emotionally charged but keep practicing.

You could start with your sneaky dog who is always jumping on your couch when he is not supposed to. Or your child who consistently fails to pick his things. Start small with people or situations that are your equal or down the chain

Getting Over Our Identity Level Belief

The most important step to erasing our over-accommodating habit is getting over our identity-level belief that we are not important, worthy or our needs don’t matter. That if I  don’t give what my parent/partner/child/colleague/part wants he will get angry, or will not love me.

We need to change our subconscious program and stop operating from the shame, fear, and loss messages of our childhood. I have found guided meditation and listening to uplifting talks like the one below very useful in zapping out the subconscious negative wiring in my brain. Listening, again and again, overwrites the critical voices of our parents and caregivers.

Stop Auto-Accommodating – Terri Cole

Choice Theory

According to Choice Theory®, every individual only has the power to control themselves and has limited power to control others. We are responsible for our life, our needs, and our feelings. It is just not right to always accommodate someone else’s needs or feelings before yours.

Furthermore, you can choose if you want to help. or not. Say ‘No‘ if you cannot or don’t want to do something.  Stop being hyperaware of what someone else needs. Learn to focus on what your heart is telling you.  Expect equal serve and return in all your relationships. One-sided relationships are unhealthy and mess up your emotional and physical health.  Learn how to fight and negotiate a compromise. Just giving in to another person because you are afraid of negative outcomes is not the way out.

Everyday make it a practice to listen to your feelings, whether you want to do something or not.  Be aware of your day to day reactions.

Start with little things. Don’t offer your seat, or tell your friend you want to see another movie or tell your child to better clean his room else..

Melody Beattie, author Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, sums up what happens when we stop our over-accommodating other people

“I used to spend so much time reacting and responding to everyone else that my life had no direction. Other people’s lives, problems, and wants set the course for my life. Once I realized it was okay for me to think about and identify what I wanted, remarkable things began to take place in my life.”

That’s the truth, want to be happy and successful make yourself the priority. The universe is watching and listening. That’s the law of attraction.

Image Source: Pixabay

Further Reading:

Unhealthy Helping: A Psychological Guide to Overcoming Codependence, Enabling, and Other Dysfunctional Giving –  Shawn Meghan Burn

Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get On with Life – Margalis Fjelstad

Setting Boundaries® with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents – Allison Bottke

 Breaking Toxic Soul Ties – Tom Brown

Your Sixth Sense: Unlocking the Power of Your Intuition – Belleruth Naparstek

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1 year ago

Hi. Your was the first google hit when I searched for how to deal with codependent friends who are over accommodating to me… However, your article seems to be from the opposite perspective. It was interesting to hear that side and also I appreciated your non-defensiveness in your comment responses.

I did disagree with where it says “People start to expect it. They feel entitled.” I think assuming what others feel is always risky business. Maybe some people do, but for me yes I expect it (as in it’s predictable they will keep doing it), no I don’t feel entitled, and I definitely don’t like their behavior. I feel annoyed and exhausted at what they believe is accommodating and nice behavior.

When I make plans with a non-codependent it is stress-free and easy. When I see texts from a co-dependent friend, even before I read it I let out a sigh because I know they need so much from me. They are wanting my approval, my validation, my energy, my attention, my time. And if I don’t give enough of it to reassure them then they spiral out. Often this means a bunch of texts or it means waiting months then calling me crying because they made up some story/meaning about how when I canceled on them when a family member died that they interpreted that I no longer wanted to be their friend…. If I do show anger or annoyance, they seem unable to deal with it and try to overagree, or accommodate even more to get me to like them or to not be upset anymore. I don’t get genuine vibes of them wanting to understand my feelings or accept them, I get the vibes they want me to feel a certain way around or to them. This isn’t a dynamic I want. To me that isn’t being nice, that is being manipulative. You phrased it well when you said, “consistently rescuing or caretaking an adult is not an act of love. It is just us replaying our own toxic childhood histories.”

Often the communication they find accommodating feels like they are needing me to accommodate them – their insecurities or desperation to be liked. Like they’ll say, “Hey I’ll be in town tomorrow and want to see you. Are you free at 1?” (Normal text that is not stressful for me). Then the codependents will keep writing before I respond “only if you’re free, no worries if you’re busy. I’m with a friend but I can leave whenever, and I know you work tomorrow so it doesn’t have to be late and we can just do whatever you feel like doing.” And so on.

Apart from being verbose (taking time), it’s like we’re in two realities. They think they’re being nice and predicting my needs. When we do hang, they will make choices where they either assume my feelings or what I want instead of asking, or they will over-ask every little thing. Some sprinkle of this is normal and positive in a friendship, doing it nonstop as a way of trying to control the other person’s experience to be positive is when I find it exhausting and needy. Maybe they believe if they can “control” of all our interactions in a way that they feel I cannot possibly have a negative time, that that will somehow secure our friendship. Maybe they think intimacy is born out of making the other person never upset.

If I could magically change those people, I would have them stop assuming they have the ability to know what anyone else wants or feels and to stop assuming that people find their behavior nice or accommodating. Usually they are wrong about me and what makes me happy and often I see them wrong about others as well.

If they attract shitty people, it’s probably that those shitty people are users or like being able to control the insecure person by easy things like if I show anger then they will do anything I want. The abusers like the non-stop attention (obsession) and bending-over backwards from the other person, perhaps?

For the rest of us, or for me at least, it’s exhausting. I like my friends who aren’t too “nice”.

I don’t know if my intention was to just vent, or to maybe represent the other side, but thanks for taking the time to read. I can tell you’ve done a lot of growth and I respect your work.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sara
1 year ago

So, like Ayn Rand, you will not ask for accommodation from the society?

Jamie D
Jamie D
1 year ago

I really appreciate so many things that you pointed out and share like experience. I’m sorry you were also scapegoated. I asked my therapist once “what about me was so weak that my NF knew he could scapegoat me!” D she said “You’re not weak, you’re strong and intuitive and he wanted to Control that.”

Pointing this out because you mentioned the youngest or weakest are most likely to be scapegoated. That may be how it appears, but narcs pick strongminded, not weak. They go for the person most likely to dissent, to speak up. So, if you were considering yourself the weakest, you weren’t.

Reply to  Jamie D
1 year ago

I believe it’s not that they “knew” you were “weak”, it’s that they treat everyone that way, and when someone reacts the way they want, they keep behaving that way around that person. It becomes a vicious cycle. You maybe want to make them happy and it’s not until later you realized oh wait this isn’t reciprocated, they aren’t trying to make me happy, it’s one-sided. I agree with your therapist that it isn’t weakness on your part, but I disagree that those types go for people who are strong-minded /dissent/stand up to them, because I think they gravitate towards people they feel they can control. Often I see them choose the youngest family member, or the person most eager to make them happy.

We’re all strong in some ways, weak in others. The trick is to surround yourself with people who are respectful, reciprocal, and love in the way you define as loving. Stay strong in your morals and who you are and stay loving strong in your boundaries and I believe selfish people will become uninteresting and ugly to you and those who are loving and supportive and respectful will become super interesting and attractive.

Shulamith Bond
Shulamith Bond
2 years ago

I think Jordan Peterson is probably the last celebrity psychologist you should be associating with any writing about toxic family, or being kind to yourself, or the idea that adults can’t just treat children however they like. Because he stands for the opposite of most of that, lol. Quoting him detracts from this article’s trustworthiness and quality (which is otherwise high in my opinion).

Reply to  Shulamith Bond
1 year ago

Absolutely agreed. I had a similar thought and felt anxiety reading his name. I don’t care if he’s “objectively right” about anything. I do not condone reading anything this man says, as it is likely rife with manipulative tactics and/or is not someone I want to support even by consuming his content. Everything he stands for is bigoted. There are better resources to suggest to survivors that aren’t from someone who is overall narcissistic in his messaging and ideas, in my opinion. Narcissists are very good at saying the right thing especially online with a lot of visibility, and sprinkling in opinions stated as fact to further abuse and manipulate victims/survivors who seek them for support, as well as emboldening abusive people in a way that seems counterintuitive. This is all too common, unfortunately. Again, I do not condone engaging with him in any way.