I think, Saslou, that being sensitive and caring about other people is ultimately a strength. It's a matter of having enough self-confidence and respect though to draw boundaries for others at an appropriate time instead of leaving it all in their hands. It is natural for people to test the limits to see where those boundaries are, much like kids do. They actually like and appreciate knowing that you have some, and will respect you more for defending them. This comes out of a place of believing the best in people and having confidence to care for yourself. You teach people (kindly) how to treat you. They actually will show you a lot more respect if you show them where and how by treating yourself with that same kind of respect. The wonderful thing about this, is that you don't have to do it as a knee jerk reaction, expecting that they are probably out to use you. You are helping them to act in the way that you need them to, so that you can continue on together. I find sometimes that it is invaluable to keep my circle of support close enough that they have some barometer of the dynamics between me and other people. That way, I also can see what the perceptions and reactions of people who really have my best interests in mind are.
My cousin, in particular, spent years becoming increasingly isolated from her family and friends because of her negative and insecure husband. Finally in her later 30s, she decided to stay with him, but have her own life as well - going to family gatherings, having friends - normal things. That ended up giving her the confidence to decide to lose a significant amount of weight. She realized that she needed to carve out time for her to walk, so that she was around for her family later and emotionally had something to give them. There was huge resistance at first, but she stuck to her guns, which she had never done before. Her husband was discouraging and did not want her to do it. However, over the course of a couple of years, she had lost 90 pounds, felt more confident and also noticed a huge difference in the way her whole family treated her. They expected that she would need time for herself every day. They were much more appreciative of the things she did for them than they had been before. Her husband could needle her with comments about her weight as justification for his own behaviours, and even quit smoking himself. He also started getting worried that other men might be attracted to her! He ended up not wanting to be left behind, so he made more efforts to be nice to her friends and family and sometimes come along with her when she went to visit without being rude to them. The kids have, for the first time in years, been freer to spend time with grandparents. I have become close friends with my cousin and our friendship has been mutually beneficially for us.
The point I'm making, is that paradoxically, the way you treat yourself has a big influence on how others think of you and act towards you. Not only that, but it brings about bigger growth and happiness in the people around you. As a result of what happened, her marriage was improved by re-drawing some boundary lines, she gained more friendships, she lost weight, she was happier, she had a circle of support, her kids learned more about how to be strong and also had the benefit of new people in their life and her husband quit smoking and also widened his circle of support. Of course this did not happen overnight and it is not an easy process to establish healthier patterns and boundaries than those in place for the previous 15 years. It is something she is still working on, but at least now has the confidence and other's perspectives encourage her to continue.
One of my problems is that I really like to understand what's going on and why someone acts the way they do. Therefore, it takes me awhile interacting with them to figure out the patterns, and then to be sure of my perceptions. Unfortunately, I then spend a lot of time exhausting every possible way I can see to fix the situation. Only after I have tried everything (and even then reluctantly) I walk away. However, I do understand when people are overstepping their boundaries. Usually I have chosen to allow it for a limited period of time (I'm not talking about hugely bad behaviours though) to get it figured out.
Over the years, I have had to decide where to draw the boundaries of what I will tolerate or not. This does not have to be in an angry way, but just very matter-of-factly. It is absenting yourself when it is appropriate or recognizing a behaviour for what it is, in a very unemotional, calm manner. There need to be some behaviours that are outside of a big black line. People cannot go there without there being very serious consequences. However, you do not just start dealing with it when the big worst behaviour manifests itself. Usually there are littler ones leading up to it. That is when it is time to make it clear that you will not accept it (verbal/emotional abuse, sulking, lying etc) and be prepared to back your words up with action if it is required. Your behaviour needs to change so that it does not accommodate others' bad behaviour.