In aiming to please others at your own expense, you risk being set up by less scrupulous persons who wish to take advantage of your good (or gullible) nature. Avoiding being manipulated by other persons is a skill, a skill of noticing when people go beyond accepting your help and care and begin to actively cultivate it in order to avoid having to do things for themselves or in order to get financial, emotional, intimate or other benefits from you. In order to avoid being manipulated in any such way, here is what to do.
1. What are you insecurities? What are your fears? What do you want most? You can only be manipulated by those who have power over you, but you choose who has power over you. If you are highly insecure, then people who tell you what you want to hear, or promise you what you always wanted will be able to manipulate you. Know yourself, sort out your fears, and learn what you’re tempted by. Be aware of when someone is promising you exactly what you want, and why they’re promising this.
2. Who controls you? You figure this out by asking who do you want approval from the most? Who do you live to please? Who are you trying to get validation from? For some people- this could be just one person. For most of us- it’s many people, if not all of society. Men want to feel validated by beautiful women- so they achieve and work and gain status to receive the attention of the women they desire. Maybe your parents are immigrants who struggled, and you want to become a neurosurgeon so they can brag about you. This goal isn’t your own, you live for their approval. Whoever you want to impress, and whoever’s opinion you care about most- they control you. The more you can shed the need for validation and make peace with who you are and where you’re at in life- the less you’ll be able to be manipulated.
3. Have an abundance mindset. People who think that the world is scarce and that any good opportunities- be it partnerships, work, health, love etc. are hard to come by, are going to be more easily manipulated. If someone can promise you something that you don’t believe you could get on your own, they have power over you. Trust yourself, develop competencies, receive help from trusted others, and don’t be tempted by immediate promises or things that feel too good to be true.
4. Develop critical-feeling skills. I can’t stress this enough. For those of us who are highly empathetic, it’s easy to be taken advantage of by those who are opportunistic or who recognize that they stand to gain from exploiting out empathy. For example- some people play the victim and play up their suffering because they know we’re likely to caretake in some way. They try and guilt us, they gaslight us by insisting their perception is the Truth and that we’ve done wrong. Just like critical thinking skills are extremely beneficial- it’s also beneficial to question your emotions. Not every feeling requires an action, and not every feeling is to be trusted.
5. Allow yourself to be disagreeable when it’s called for. Often manipulation depends on the person being manipulated conforming to the manipulators perception. Many people who end up being manipulated are those who are highly agreeable. The people who want to people please, who want to be liked, who trust the word of others for the sake of social harmony etc. Sometimes you need to dig your heels in and call out when you sense shady dynamics or dishonesty. If you have a reputation for being honest and having a low tolerance for bullshit, I swear you are so much less likely be manipulated because manipulators depends on their victims submitting to their perception and interpretation. Being grounded in reality is the best thing you can do for yourself to protect against manipulation.
6. Be loyal to yourself and to your own needs and stay grounded in your principles. This means having firm boundaries and refusing to act in ways that are out of line with your principles and values.