Can you recall a time in your life when you were used? Unfortunately for most of us, this usually occurs sometime early in life. Some of us might have been used for our intelligence, some for our athleticism, and others for our popularity. Can you remember the moment when you realized that you were being used? The split second when it finally dawned on you that you were being manipulated and exploited? This is an awful, confusing minute that is often characterized by swirling emotions. First you experience disbelief and incredulity. “There is no way that they could have done this to me!” Then the tears roll and are accompanied by a heavy wave of anguish and sadness. Shortly thereafter, anger and fury storm in until you finally settle on disgust and self-loathing. You wonder how you could have been so foolish and naïve to have fallen for this. Your self-esteem checks out and your confidence plummets into a cold, dark abyss.
Unfortunately, you are in good company, as it happens to the best of us. It usually happens to a kind, unsuspecting, good hearted person who chooses to believe the best in everyone. And, at times, it will happen to someone who deeply deserves it, perhaps somebody who has used others in the past. Nevertheless, being used is not healthy for the human psyche and does nothing for one’s confidence or self-esteem. Thus, it is important to be able to spot a user before you fall victim to their selfish ways.
Thankfully, there are several ways to spot a user. First, a user will only make contact with you when they are looking for something or when they need help. A user may be seeking financial help, emotional assistance, or for you to complete a task or errand for them. A user will never contact you to chat, socialize, or check in, as they are generally uninterested or concerned about you or your life. They may utilize flattery to get what they want and once they achieve it, the smooth talking will end. If you happen to reach out to them for a favor or similar assistance, you will likely be ignored or quickly disregarded.
Secondly, a user can be identified by the level of theatrics and commotion occurring in their lives. The constant chaos and drama are a result of them using other people and then discarding them without cause, regret, or guilt. A user views others as invaluable and abandons on a whim (or when they happen to find something better).
A user can be recognized by focusing on their actions rather than their words. A user is inconsistent, sends mixed messages, and will make promises that they do not keep. They are absent when they say they will be present, they fail to repay you when they say they will, and they say they value you only to scorn you shortly thereafter. They say they will be there to support you during the hard times, except when those hard times come, they are nowhere to be found.
It is important to note that a user can be a friend, family member, co-worker, boss, neighbor, or romantic partner. Despite their relation to you, it is important to identify them and immediately remove them from your lives. It is critical to surround yourself with compassionate and caring people who are going to be there in both good times and bad. It is imperative that others value you and treat you with the respect that you deserve. Relationships should be honest, open, and equal in that they always go both ways.
So when you recall a time when you were used, don’t despair, the joke is actually on them. Paradoxically, it turns out that your user unknowingly gave you much more than they took. They gave you the opportunity to grow from a painful experience, in addition to providing you with the invaluable lesson of self-respect.
Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.