Updated: May 8
All most parents and teachers ever hope for in raising up little humans is for them to be considerate, happy humans.
While it’s possible for those two things—considerate and happy--to exist at the same time, as a child grows older, it is sometimes the case that a person who is very “considerate” experiences more anxiety, stress, and burnout than others.
Of course, being considerate is noble and is socially beneficial to the individual, as well as those around them. Considerate humans are likely to be well liked by those around them. To be considerate means to be careful not to cause harm, discomfort, or inconvenience to those around them. Therefore, they are often thought of as kind, compassionate, agreeable humans. They pride themselves in doing their best to show others love and patience and often feel rewarded because of it.
While being considerate can be fulfilling and rewarding, it can also be intensely draining. Believe it or not, there are downsides to being a considerate human. Considerate folks are constantly considering all of the options around them at all times. That means their brains are continuously at work thinking about all the “what if’s” and “what could go wrong’s.” They carry out every possible social scenario in their minds and attempt to prevent any hard feelings, awkwardness, or conflict. All that consideration can take several tolls:
Considerate folks often imagine tons of different situations and social exchanges in effort to select the best one—the one that will go smoothest and will benefit the most people. Their thoughts might quickly intensify into catastrophizing, as they begin to think about all that could go wrong. The more and more a person’s brain trails off into worst-case-scenarios, the more anxious and stressed their body will respond. Our body responds to perceived and actual threats in the same way, by activating our fight-or-flight response. A person may even have feelings of panic or a full-blown panic attack if something activates their stress response. While this awareness and anxiety serves them well in being a considerate human, it is certainly not always fun or easy.
All of that mental energy spent on constantly thinking of others is exhausting! Constantly running through lists of who needs what and what would make others happy is a lot of time and effort spent. Lots of mental gymnastics have to happen to ensure that others feel respected, included, thought-of, and cared for. While there is some gain and reward for being considerate, it is sometimes not enough. Overly considerate folks are likely to suffer from physical, emotional, or social burnout.
Establishing and enforcing boundaries can sometimes feel uncomfortable or downright wrong for considerate humans. It is typically the overly considerate person’s nature to bend to whatever they think would appease or please someone else or the greater good. They often have a harder time speaking up for themselves and tend to have looser boundaries with others. It is important that these folks rethink boundaries and understand that boundaries exist to protect and preserve all parties involved. Boundaries can and should be maintained in a loving, respectful, considerate way and do not have to be selfish, aggressive, or contentious.
Since considerate folks are very much concerned about the well-being and comfort level of others, they are likely to put their own needs on the back-burner. It might even be their comfort zone to focus on others’ needs and struggles and may feel extremely uncomfortable for them to take time for themselves. Considerate people are often stricken with the “empty cup” syndrome. They spend all their mental energy pouring out to everyone around them. So much so, they have nothing left for themselves. These individuals must work on recognizing that they cannot continue to pour from an empty cup. They must care for themselves and do things to fill back up regularly.
Considerate humans work incredibly hard to think of others, as well as all the ways to listen to, respect, and predict the needs of others. This is certainly noble and admirable, as these folks make such great friends, partners, advocates, colleagues, and neighbors. The work of the overly considerate person is to give themselves an equal amount of respect, care, and attention as they give others. They must also learn to take mental breaks—recognizing that it is not selfish, only self-preserving to press pause on thinking outward in order to look inward.