Being a People Pleaser Isn’t Necessarily a Good Thing
by Nirmala Raniga
Do you go out of your way to please other people so they will like you? Is it difficult for you to say no or express your opinion when it’s different from what others think or want? Do you often try to be a person others want you to be to fit in?
If this is you, you may have what is called a “people-pleasing” pattern. This type of behavior can be a contributing factor for stress, anxiety, depression, and imbalanced relationships. People pleasers may not be consciously aware of their behavior, but there is a part of their psyches that wants to please others in order to avoid reactions that cause them to feel afraid. Such individuals have a problem setting boundaries. They want other people’s approval and, even more importantly, they want to avoid other people’s disapproval. If someone asks a people pleaser for something, for instance, he often has a hard time not giving it, even if it goes against his own needs or wants.
A person with a people pleasing pattern often takes action without considering their own wellbeing, they have difficulty getting what they want out of life and furthermore, they may feel resentful because people seem to always be taking advantage of them. People pleasing can be addictive and often people compromise their values and principles. They become addicted to the need for approval and to feeling good by making others happy as they pay attention to others’ needs instead of their own. If you have found yourself struggling with this, the way to shift this imbalanced behavioral pattern is to stop thinking about what would make others happy and instead focus on your own needs.
This isn’t to say that you should become totally selfish and never offer assistance to others. However, the greatest acts of kindness are those done by choice, not from a place of fear or guilt. If you are doing things for others because you would feel bad if you didn’t, is the action really genuine? Would you want others to help you under those terms? And, if you’re helping others to such an extent that you are neglecting yourself, is that really wise?
It is important to recognize if you are making decisions based solely out of fear of how others will react and learn how to make your own needs both a priority and clearly known in a healthy way. It may prove helpful for you to consider seeing a professional therapist to get you started building a healthy self-esteem and move toward a life where you are not dependent on others for approval or self-worth. Additionally, here are a few tips to help you step out of the pattern of people pleasing:
Learn how to say “no”.
Start small by finding something small to say “no” to, and say it firmly and politely, yet mean it. You’ll be surprised — the world will not collapse around you. People rarely take offense, and those who do aren’t worth pleasing anyway. Learn more about establishing healthy boundaries in relationships in this helpful article.
Ask for what you want.
It is good to remember that no one can read your mind. If you feel you do a lot for others, but they don’t do anything for you, it may be because you are not clearly expressing your needs or desires. You should not assume others would know what you’re feeling or what it is you want. It is also not another person’s responsibility to meet your needs if you have not clearly spoken about what those needs are. Be honest and express what you want, or if there’s a decision being made, openly share your perspective.
Stop basing your self-worth on how much you do for other people.
It’s noble that you want to help others, but helping others should be something you do because you want to, not because you feel you have to. The willingness to help others should come after you know how to help yourself.
Do something for yourself.
Do one positive or creative thing that you want to do, but have not yet acted on because you feel concerned about others’ opinions. Get a massage.Hike with a loved one. Meet a good friend for lunch, or take a vacation. When you do something just for you, you will return to your life refreshed and more in touch with what you need and want. Connecting more deeply with yourself will help you make better, healthier decisions that will benefit you and everyone around you.