What is People Pleasing?

People-pleasing is when a person commits themselves to meeting the needs, opinions, or requirements of others, to the detriment of their well-being.

A people-pleaser will go to great lengths to please other people, even at the cost of their own needs; this could be due to the fear of rejection, abandonment, or the desire to avoid conflict, or another person’s disappointment.

A people-pleaser wants to feel loved, safe, and secure.

What Makes a Person a People-Pleaser?

There are a number of reasons a person becomes a people-pleaser;

People-pleasing can develop because of childhood trauma, it could be that to feel safe and avoid conflict within the home, the child learned to protect themselves by going out of their way to appease their parent or caregiver.

The devoted love and attention or harsh criticism experienced as a child can have a lasting influence on a person’s world perspective.

If people-pleasing is something that a person has done since childhood, it becomes the norm for them, and this is frequently carried through to adulthood causing a whole host of problems.

Similarly, societal expectations that people should be passive and compliant might lead people to please people, there is also a cultural and generational element to the belief that if you please others you are polite, considerate, and generally a good person.

Sharon Martin writes about an evolutionary component to people-pleasing. Our early ancestors were known to form tribes so they could pull resources, and help protect each other. The more a person had to offer within the tribe, the more they would be protected. If they were not accepted in the tribe or community the more likely they were to die of being attacked by a predator, or of starvation.

What are the Consequences of Being a People-Pleaser?

Trying to make other people happy may, for a short time, ease tensions in social interactions, however, people-pleasing often results in unhelpful outcomes. The following are some of the most significant problems that can occur because of people’s good intentions.

Suppressed Emotions
When you consistently put the needs of others ahead of your own, one of the unintended consequences is that you learn to suppress your own emotions.

Stopping your feelings and putting another person’s needs before your own can result in physical health problems such as digestive problems, headaches, and muscle pains. A person’s mental health has a direct link to their physical health.

Reduced Self-Worth
You can risk losing your sense of self when you are frequently influenced to accept things from another person’s perspective or adapt to suit another person’s preferences. A people-pleaser may find it difficult to construct long-lasting and deep relationships as they are not allowing the other person to get to know their authentic self.

People-pleasing can result in feelings of shame if a person behaves in a way that is not in alignment with their values, in order to please another person.

Exploitative Relationships
People who tend to be more passive or considerate can put themselves in harm’s way by allowing others to take advantage of their kindness or lack of boundaries. This may lead to a vicious circle of misunderstandings and hostility between the parties.

Stress and Burnout
Constantly putting the requirements of others ahead of your own may result in stress and burnout; both are detrimental to your mental and physical health and should be avoided at all costs.

The Connection between People-Pleasing and Resentment

You can become resentful if you try too hard to make others happy in various ways. People who routinely put the needs of others before their own could one day find that they struggle to articulate dissatisfaction or displeasure. It can be the case that a people-please can lose sight of what makes them happy.

We all want to see our friends and family happy, but when you continually sacrifice your own needs to do this, it won’t take long for you to feel resentment develop.

When individuals fail to meet the standards set by others, people pleasers often experience feelings of regret and humiliation. This can instigate critical self-talk and feelings of “not good enough”.

Breaking Free from People-Pleasing

1. Self-Reflection:
Reflect on what motivates your drive to attempt to improve the lives of others around you. The first step in implementing change is recognising and managing the factors that previously prevented you from progressing.

2. Boundaries:
The ability to set boundaries is an important life skill that we should all learn; it’s acceptable to put our needs above those of others, so don’t feel guilty about it!

3. Assertiveness:
Be assertive; let people know your needs, preferences, and goals. Through open and honest conversation, working on existing resentment or conflicts and strengthening relationships with others is possible. Learning how to be assertive will help you in your personal and professional life.

4. Mindfulness and Emotional Awareness:
One benefit of regular mindfulness practice is gaining a deeper understanding and tolerance of your feelings. Recognise that your feelings are genuine and deserving of being expressed. Journalling can help increase self-awareness and provide time to reflect.

5. Embrace Conversation:
Try to see differences of opinion not as something to be avoided but as an opportunity for personal development and improvement. Learning to engage in healthy debates may benefit the quality of your relationships and keep your mind active.

6. Seek Support:

Be proactive and get help by discussing your issues with family members or a professional counsellor. If you want to overcome your tendency to please others, having a solid support system may be one of the most important things you can do.

7. Self-Care
Self-care is scheduling time for fun and calming activities. If you take care of your physical and mental health, you could find that you can regulate your emotions better, get to know yourself and what you like and dislike, and get a clearer idea of what’s okay.

8. Self-Compassion
Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, acknowledging that you deserve love and respect.

Wrapping it all Up

Remember that the path away from people-pleasing tendencies requires patience and self-compassion. Learning to prioritise your needs and communicating your feelings in an uninhibited manner may lead to a stronger sense of inner calm and emotional resilience, particularly in the middle of conflict.

Giving up trying to please others is not the same as being selfish; instead, it is putting one’s health and happiness first and learning to value one’s perspective. Doing so allows you and others to develop more meaningful connections with one another and yourself.

If you would like to stop people-pleasing, but feel you need some support Clear Haven Therapy can help with this! Book a free Discovery Call.