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  • Writer's pictureNidhi Trivedi

Are you a chronic people-pleaser?

If you are a people-pleaser, you may be well liked by your family and friends and even more by strangers and acquaintances. People may seek your help more often or even confide in you with their deepest and darkest secrets. People may even reinforce your behavior through frequent compliments and validation on your behaviors. Being a people-pleaser has many social benefits for sure. There is nothing wrong with wanting to please everyone around you, as it does work in the short-term, and you may have figured out a balanced way of making it work.

Everything in excess can become problematic. This article will speak to you if you engage in significant people-pleasing behaviors. With people-pleasing, it could be difficult to see the disadvantages or negative consequences, until it is often too late. By the time you realize that it is a problem, everyone around you might be used to getting their needs met out of you, and you may be surrounded by  people who prefer being pleased as opposed to people who would rather please you.

I can think of three categories:

  1. Sweet talkers and entertainers – People falling in this category may be engage in direct and communicative behaviors that are meant to please other people. These individuals may always have a smile on their face, may have an overtly helping attitude, may offer help even before being asked for it, may give you compliments frequently, may only share the positive aspects about their life, and may appear as though they are always pleasant and happy.

  2. Introverted yet dependable and loyal- People falling in this category may not seem overtly positive, happy, willing to help, and the nicest people in the world, but they probably let other priorities overshadow their own.

  3. Mixed Category- Then we have people who may be overtly people pleasing in some settings and covertly positive in the others, but overall pleasing more people than not.

How do people develop this people-pleasing personality?

  1. Growing up in a high-conflict household – I can define high-conflict as any household where the members of the family were very busy with taking care of their own needs, thereby, either being neglectful, abusive, or neither. Overall, your needs may not have been the focus in your childhood; and you may have gotten used to taking care of your own needs and not bothering anyone else in the process.

  2. Growing up in a conflict-free house – If you have not experienced enough conflicts, it may be possible that you may not have had adequate experiences in communicating your needs or sharing negative emotions with others.

  3. Simple positive reinforcement – May be everything was fine in your childhood and young adulthood, and you learned that people rewarded you through positive reinforcement for engaging in people pleasing behaviors. You may have been only given support, compliments, and encouragement when you engaged in people-pleasing behaviors or only when you shared positive things.

  4. Low self-esteem – There are a billion reasons why people internalize feelings of unworthiness. It could be an event or a series of experiences that imbibe the core belief of “ I am not good enough; therefore, if I do not deserve good things, may be I can work hard to provide that for other people in my life.”

  5. Society rewards people-pleasers – Who does not want to be around people who would constantly please you? People-pleasers easily find people who want their emotions validated, and needs met.

Short-term implications of people-pleasing

  1. Difficulty Saying no

  2. Being passive even when you know you are right

  3. Difficulty with confrontations

  4. Avoiding people and situations that create conflict

  5. Feeling somebody else’s emotions and limited awareness of your own emotions

  6. Apologizing for no reason

Long-term Implications

  1. Burn out

  2. Having a melt down (depressive episode or unmanageable anxiety) at some point in life because there is incongruence between who you are and what you are doing

  3. Isolation in closer relationships

  4. Anger outburst for the first time in your life

  5. Panic attacks

  6. Apologizing for being yourself

  7. Severe depression

  8. Anxiety

How to manage people pleasing behaviors?

It is never too late to start making small yet significant changes in your life. Like everything, small steps are what can be most-effective in the long run.

  1. Schedule self-care time for yourself every week that does not involve any other person. Be assertive about that time and do what you most enjoy doing. If you do not know what that could be, experiment with a few things.

  2. If you are willing, try individual therapy, and make your emotional needs a priority for that one hour every week.

  3. Say no to a distant acquaintance and how that feels. Once you realize that you will not be punished for saying no in one relationship, you might have start experimenting in even closer relationships. You may get some pushback, because this will be new for people in your life as well but give yourself time and patience.

  4. Journal about your emotional needs.

  5. Recognize the people who might be able to take care of your emotional needs. Try to communicate one of those needs in a relationship.

  6. Try not to apologize when you are not sorry. Notice when that happens. Tell yourself I am right, and may be we could agree to disagree but I do not need to apologize for what I am saying.

  7. Try to find more people who can be more attuned to your emotional needs.

  8. Ask yourself on a regular basis – What do I want? What do I like to do? What can I do for myself?

There is nothing wrong with being more of a giver than a taker, but in the process, it is important to also pay adequate respect and attention to your own self in the process.

If you do not love yourself, you will not be able to love anyone else. It is as simple as that.

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