Do you have trouble saying no? Do you constantly worry what people think about you and you find yourself apologizing frequently? Do you avoid confrontation and feel responsible for other people’s feelings? If you struggle with any of these things then you may be a people pleaser.
Let’s get to the bottom of what it is and why you do it.
What is People Pleasing?
Merriam Webster defines a people pleaser as a person who has an emotional need to please others often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires.
It’s common for people to want others to like them and to desire to make others happy, however, people pleasing behavior takes this to the extreme.
“A desire to please people can manifest in many ways. A person may find it hard to say no to requests, regularly take on extra work, even if they do not have the time, often over commit to plans, responsibilities, or projects, or avoid advocating for their own needs, such as by saying they are fine when they are not.” (Villines, Zawn. “People pleaser: What it means and how to stop”. Medical News Today. March 1, 2023. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/people-pleaser#signs.)
People pleasers put the needs of others above their own to the point that they can become depressed and resentful.
Reasons Why You People Please
Maybe you grew up in a culture that elevates selflessness and shames those who do things for their own enjoyment or to make themselves happy. If you grew up thinking other people always come first and you are not important, then naturally you will be conditioned to people please as an adult.
If you experienced relationship issues within your family where your parents’ love and affection was conditional, then you grew up thinking it’s normal to have to “earn” love. This can lead to becoming a people pleaser because the behavior modeled for you as a child was that love is only given when you do something for someone else.
Low self-esteem can also lead to people pleasing. If you feel like you are worth less than other people then you may not speak up for yourself and show concern for yourself. You may feel like helping others gives you purpose. If helping others makes you feel important it can be an emotional boost that you start to depend on to feel good about yourself.
How It Works Against You
People pleasing can have negative effects on you and others around you. If you are constantly trying to please others then you are probably not taking care of your own needs. This can lead to stress, anxiety or even medical issues.
If you are constantly trying to keep up and make sure others like you and are getting their needs met, you will eventually become physically, mentally and/or emotionally exhausted. It just becomes too much to handle and you will not have the energy you need to take care of your personal needs or stay focused at work or other activities.
Another way it works against you is by creating relationship problems. You may become resentful of people close to you because you feel like you are contributing more to the relationship, even though you are doing it on your own, not because they have asked you to.
What To Do Instead
An important first step to reduce your people pleasing behaviors is to take a look at where these behaviors came from and how they have been linked you surviving in the world.
It’s important to know that this is a strategy that has worked and makes sense, but you’re ready to move beyond it so your relationships with yourself and others can be healthier.
It will take practice to rewire these patterns. Start just noticing where you overextend yourself for others. Watch it happen, then you can consider afterward: how could I have responded differently or handle it differently. Start to build awareness and open up possibilities as to different ways you can respond that would honor you and the person you’re relating to.
Then take a chance and try it. Sometimes responding to someone via email or text to test out new ways of responding is helpful because it gives you a minute to think and gather your courage.
See what comes up: do you sweat? get nervous about what the other person will say? Do you worry they won’t be happy with you? Breathe with those worries and remind yourself you are safe. Tiny steps.
If you know that you do this, but you just don’t know how to stop, contact us, we can help!