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Here’s How Passive Behavior Is Hurting Your Life (But You Can Fix It)

Stop letting others dictate the terms!

Researched, written by Amber & The Team
Updated on July 9, 2023

Trying To Cope With Passive Behavior Consequences

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When you behave passively, you don’t take charge of your life or your own happiness.

Instead, you let things happen to you, and you don’t actively work to make yourself happier in any way.

Passive behavior is usually negative, and it can hurt almost every part of your life. When you are passive, it means that other people or forces control what happens in your life. You might not go after a new job opportunity because of fear or anxiety, for example, or refuse to end a toxic relationship out of some sense of obligation.

But passive behavior also impacts even more areas than this.

Passive behavior might affect decisions about what happens with your finances.

You might give up on plans for a vacation because of laziness and apathy.

You may choose not to exercise because of a lack of self-discipline, and so on – passive behavior can slowly infiltrate your life on a daily basis.


Passive Behavior Characteristics


There are many ways to define passive behavior, but we love to define it as letting other people or forces control your life. It means not actively pursuing the things that you want.

Instead, you’re just letting things happen. It often involves not standing up for yourself and letting go of feelings of anger, frustration, or disappointment.

In addition, passive behavior usually involves not setting goals or actively pursuing things in your life that would make you feel better, such as taking a vacation, trying a new hobby, or reading more.

Other examples of passive behavior include always making excuses, blaming others for your problems, and putting yourself on the back burner.

Passive behavior is almost always caused by a lack of self-discipline, or the ability to control your own negative emotions and impulses, combined with a lack of energy, or apathy.

Some people are born with less self-discipline and energy than others, but can also be learned behaviors.

If you grew up in an environment with a lot of chaos or stress, you might have learned to be passive as a way to cope with that environment.

Passive Behavior Causes Apathy


How Do I Know If I’m Passive?


Are you the type of person who would rather sit on the sidelines than dive into a new and challenging experience?

Do you often avoid putting yourself out there because you fear rejection, or are you the type of person who prefers to stay under the radar and not stand out?

If so, it’s likely that you fall into the category of someone with passive behavior.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry — passive behavior is something that almost every person experiences from time to time.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either.

In fact, having some degree of passivity can sometimes be beneficial for various reasons.

However, if it becomes a habit or something that happens frequently in your day-to-day life, it could have negative consequences down the road.

Let’s take a look at passive behavior examples and how passivity can negatively affect various parts of your life.


How Passivity (Passive Behavior) Hurts Your Personal Life


When you are passive, you are more likely to stay in a bad relationship, even if it is unhealthy or hurtful. You may not fight for your own happiness, your own relationship needs, or to take time for yourself.

You may not even realize that you are being hurtful to yourself and your loved ones. Many unhealthy relationships will end anyway, but being more passive in them can make them end more painfully and negatively.

It can cause your loved ones to resent you, and it can make you feel like a victim.

It can cause you to feel angry but never take action.

It can cause you to have regrets when you look back on your life.


How Passive Behavior Hurts Your Professional Life


Passive behavior in the workplace means you don’t take chances. You might also have trouble with work relationships, whether they be with your coworkers or your boss.

You may be perceived as weak or less useful to your team, and you may not get the promotion that you deserve.

You may get stuck in a position that you don’t like, and you may not be able to change careers or work toward a promotion that you would enjoy more.

You may even miss out on opportunities that would advance your career in a way that you would enjoy more, such as a chance to travel for work, attend a conference, or take on a new project.

You may lose out on the chance to network with people who could help advance your career.


How Passivity May Be Hurting Your Financial Life


Financial passive behavior means that you may not actively pursue financial goals, such as paying off your debt, investing, or saving for retirement.

This can cause you to lose out on interest, compound interest, and other financial benefits that would help you financially in the long run.

You may also miss out on job opportunities that could help you earn more, get a raise, or even advance your career in a way that could help you make better money, such as by working in a different industry or moving to a different city.

You may also lose out on the chance to negotiate a higher paycheck.

Financial passivity can also cause you to not be financially healthy (think not budgeting at all, budgeting poorly, or not saving enough for retirement).


Passive Behavior Can Even Hurt Your Physical Health


When you are passive, you may be less likely to get enough exercise, drink enough water, eat well, or go to the doctor.

You might even be less likely to go to the dentist.

You may be less likely to take time to relax or do things that you enjoy, such as reading or watching a movie.

You may also be less likely to attend events that could provide benefits to your health, such as going to a yoga class, joining a fitness club, or trying out health-related gatherings.


How Passive Behavior Hurts Entire Families


When you are passive, you may be less likely to communicate honestly and openly with your loved ones.

You may be less likely to take the time to enjoy your family relationships and do things that bring you joy with your family.

You may also be less likely to ask your loved ones for help, which could cause resentment.

You may be less likely to forgive others when they make mistakes, which could cause resentment to build within yourself and your relatives.


Why Is It Important to Overcome Passive Behavior?


The obvious reason why it’s so important to overcome passivity is that it’s not a good quality to have! If you’re the type of person who prefers to stay under the radar and not stand out, it’s likely that you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. You might be missing out on professional advancement, as well as personal and interpersonal relationships.

Another reason why it’s important to overcome passivity is that it could indicate a larger problem.

If you notice that you’re constantly being passive, it could mean that you’re experiencing low self-esteem, depression, or that you feel like you’re not good enough for whatever reason.

If you feel this way, it can be helpful to start doing things to boost your self-esteem so that you can embrace your strengths and weaknesses and start standing up for yourself.

If you think that the culprit might be depression, talking to a professional therapist can be even more helpful.

Passivity also indicates that you don’t have a healthy amount of confidence in your abilities. If you’re constantly being passive, it could be because you don’t trust in your abilities or because you think you’re not good enough.

If this sounds familiar, you need to learn to trust yourself and develop a healthy amount of confidence in yourself.

You also need to learn to assert yourself, so that you’re actively participating in the situations in which you find yourself, rather than remaining passive and letting others dictate the terms of the situation.


Three Most Important Steps To Overcome Passive Behavior


If you want to break free from your passivity, there are three most helpful things to do.

1. Set goals. If you’re being passive about your health and well-being, start setting goals for yourself.

Make a plan for exercising at least three times a week, and set dietary goals for yourself, as well.

2. Engage in activities that challenge you. If you’re being passive about your social life, try getting out of your comfort zone and attempting activities that challenge you.

This could mean attending a social gathering that intimidates you, like a concert or sporting event.

Or it could mean engaging in activities with people who are different from you, such as those who have a different religion, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

3. Start pursuing new things in your life (new activities, hobbies, or ideas). If passive behavior is deeply set in your life, it’s time to start actively pursuing new things.

If you have an idea of what you’d like to do, start researching and pursuing ways that will allow you to do that.

If you don’t know what you want to do, start taking classes or participating in extracurricular activities that interest you and might lead you to discover a new path.

These steps will set you on the right track.

However, if you want to go the extra mile, keep on reading as we share how to seriously tackle passive behavior with action.


5 Ways To Replace Passive Behavior With Active Improvement


1. Set small, achievable goals


When you’re trying to do things without getting active, it’s important to set small goals.

You don’t have to see your dream coming true in one day, or even in one week, but you do have to see it as a bundle of separate, small goals achieved over time.

That’s all that matters.

To set goals, we recommend using a journal or a project planner.

You can sketch out your plan ahead of time or just let it flow based on your mood.

If you’re in a negative mood, just let it flow out of your hands and onto the journal.

If you’re in a positive mood, let it flow onto your journal as well.

Either way, it’s important to make sure you are keeping a journal so you can refer back to your plan if you need to.


2. Let go of perfectionism


While you want to set small goals and work towards them, you also want to keep in mind that it’s okay to miss a goal or two.

There’s no one way to do things and there’s no one way to be a person.

When you try to be a “perfect” person, you miss out on the whole point of being human.

When setting goals, you might find that there are others who are not “perfect” and yet still manage to accomplish their goals.

It might be helpful for you to aim for “good enough” with your goals, instead of aiming for “perfection”.

Related: Powerful Perfectionism Quotes That Actually Help You To Let Go Of It


3. Communicate more


Socialization is good for you in so many ways, and it doesn’t have to be a formal, organized activity.

It can be as simple as hanging out with your family or friends in a casual manner, talking to each other, or just being present with each other.

Socializing can be a source of ideas, a way to share your struggles when dealing with passive behavior, and a form of support.


4. Don’t stress about small changes


Too many people stress themselves out about small changes and whatnot.

Remember, it’s not the end of the world if you miss a goal.

It’s not the end of the world if you drop out of school.

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get that job you were hoping for.

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t make it to the top of the class.

It’s not the end of the world.

It’s just a change in your life, and everyone goes through changes in their life.

So don’t stress about them.

Just try your best, and don’t beat yourself up over it.


5. To successfully overcome passive behavior, focus on your “why”


Before deciding to do anything, make sure it has a clear reason why you want to do this.

Having your “why” keeps you motivated and helps you to change yourself and your life in order to achieve your “why”.

Maybe you want to overcome passive behavior so you can be a better parent?

Maybe you want to stop being passive in your relationship because it’s falling apart?

Maybe you just want to do it because you deserve it? Find your “why” and hold on to it.




Being passive isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it becomes a habit or something that happens frequently in your day-to-day life, it could have negative consequences down the road.

If you want to overcome passive behavior and stop sitting on the sidelines as much as possible, start setting goals for yourself, engaging in activities that challenge you, and allowing yourself to be imperfect in the process.

Once you overcome your passive behavior, you will feel more confident in yourself as a person, and you’ll be actively participating in the situations, rather than remaining passive and letting others dictate the terms.

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