Updated: Oct 3, 2020
People Pleasing is a fairly common behavioural pattern displayed by individuals pertaining to all age groups. It can be defined as an emotional need to please others often at the expense of one's desires.
If you are reading this for any other reason than curiosity there are chances that you are a people pleaser and it is not something to be ashamed about. I have personally struggled with people-pleasing and if I can learn to say no to plans so can you, so just believe in yourself and read further.
Before we move to the techniques you might find useful to break free of your people-pleasing tendencies, let me break down the meaning and signs to you.
Who is a People Pleaser?
A person who is nice and extremely helpful. They have a hard time saying no and are always ready to help anyone and everyone even at the cost of their well being is what is the traditional definition of people pleasures.
Just like everything around us is evolving to fit into the modern world, the tendencies displayed by humans have also evolved. Which simply showcases that there is a large group of people who don't exactly self-sabotage to help people but are still people pleasers.
Let's take my example, I used to display several behavioural attributes similar to the condition while putting my needs first and still the consequences were identical to the people who fit the definition.
As opposed to what people believe, people-pleasing is not only about being liked. Multiple reasons could transform someone into a people pleaser.
1. Past trauma:
Children who were raised by abusive or neglectful parents are more subjected to develop people-pleasing tendencies then the children who were raised in a happy family. As being raised in a hostile environment force them to develop habits that may gratify their abusive parents. Consequently, these habits become a part of the child's personality and he or she grows up to become a people-pleaser.
People-pleasing is the most common coping mechanism used by people with anxiety. Anxiety often results in feelings of inadequacy and being likeable at any cost help them deal with the feeling. What to know if people-pleasing is feeding your anxiety?
3. Repressed emotions:
Masking your real feelings for long can result in distress which can consequently give birth to pleaser. If you have been hiding your motions all your life maybe you should be aware of how it can affect you.
Anyone who has low self-esteem will never consider himself or herself worthy of being liked by anyone but humans, in general, can't stand being liked so they develop habits which involve going out of the way to help others to be liked because according to them their personality isn't enough.
Are you a People Pleaser?
There are some common signs that people-pleasers display if you can resonate with even one of these points listed below, it is most likely that you are a people-pleaser.
They pretend to agree: Agreeing to things that others say even if it is in contradiction of their personal belief as being liked is above all their values and knowledge.
Remember those two side chicks every teenage villain character had?
They feel responsible for the feelings of others: Hatred of others towards them is something they assume is because of their shortcoming even when they are aware that they have done nothing wrong to the person.
They apologise every time: Apologising no matter whose at fault has now become a habit for them.
They can't say no: Even with their plate full, they won't say no to another commitment as they believe that always being there is mandatory the liked.
Have a friend who never says no to a part or a favour?
They can't let someone stay angry at them: If they get yelled at without any fault. they won't rebel but instead try their best to make the person happy.
They act like others around them: When surrounded by people with distinct characteristics they adapt the same because their urge to fit in is more than their will to have their personality.
They need praise to feel good: People's approval means everything to them and without it, they lose the will to perform.
They go to great lengths to avoid conflict: If they are wronged they won't speak up if something annoys them they won't say a thing because all they want is to be at peace with others even at the expense of not being at peace with themselves.
They don't admit when they are hurt: Crush them, break their trust but they won't admit that they are hurt as a whiner isn't likeable.
They are burdened: Constantly carrying the world weight, with so many commitments for a day that a normal person can't even fulfil in a month.
Remember that girl in your class who is always doing her friends assignment and is never appreciated?
On the contrast people-pleasers also display these unusual traits listed below :
Overachievement: Some people pleasers go to great lengths to achieve everything they can on the grounds of which they seek approval and warmth.
Strong need for control: Some have a habit to control their surrounding to compensate for their lost personalities.
Perfectionism: The need for everything to be perfect is a consequence of the urge to be liked.
Does this cause any harm?
I wish I could say no but I am not a people pleaser anymore and the ugly truth is that this tendency can result in a range of harmful effects on your wellbeing. Also, I am pretty sure that if you made it to this section, you are sure that you are a people pleaser henceforth will directly address you.
Neglect Self: Thriving on others approval is all fun and games until it starts affecting not just your mental health but your physical health too. When you are always available for everyone and are constantly burdened you are naturally not going to have time to rest. If you didn't already know, taking rest is as vital for you as eating.
Depression: You spend all your time pleasing others and hoping that they like you, as a result, you are exhausted all the time and also aware that all the attention you are getting is because you are not being your self. Even when surrounded by people you are lonely because nobody knows the real you and what does loneliness cause? Depression. BINGO!
Resentment: You are always there for others even when they don't do the same as unlike you they prioritize their personal need over the needs of others. But you might've expected yourself to be treated like how you treat them always being disappointed which over a long period becomes resentment.
Reduces the ability to have fun: It is not possible to enjoy anything without being yourself as you are constantly in the fear of being judged not being able to do what you want to do. You just pretend to enjoy things that others around you enjoy.
Hamper relationships: A relationship built on lies never thrives and you are out there lying about your entire personality, not saying things that you want to and you expect people to be there for you forever. They will look through your actions and will not appreciate being deceived.
Be taken advantage of: This is quite self-explanatory but if you don't believe me make a list of all the people who only contact you when they require a favour.
How to stop being a people pleaser?
Easier said than done but this is where you will have to start. Begin by finding out what has motivated you to seek others approval, is it something from your past or some underlying issue. It might take you a while to figure out but once you have you can start by dealing with your issues one at a time. If the cause is your parents you can begin by constantly reminding yourself that not everyone demands the same behaviour to appreciate you if it is your anxiety then try anxiety reduction mechanism instead of coping mechanisms. In the case of depression talk to someone, anyone and always remember that you don't have to hide your feelings.
Set a limit of the amount of help you'll offer. Make it a rule that you won't go out if you are tired and don't work for more than a specified duration of the day and if a favour makes you extend your working hours don't do it. If you worry that people will hate you for the same make them aware of your rules as soon as you get to know them, if they like you they will respect your boundaries.
3.Responsibility for their happiness:
Make yourself your priority and any task that is not necessary and doesn't make you happy need not be done under any circumstance.
4. Learning to be assertive:
Nobody can read your mind and if you don't say what you feel out loud nobody can help you. If you are hurt say it, if you want something say it without worrying about the consequence. Don't overthink your words, say what you want to.
Pretending to be someone you are not, exposes you to situations you don't like and doing the opposite will have the opposite effect. If you start doing things you really like then you'll start finding people who already have things in common with you and then the need to please vanishes.
6. Feeling and accepting emotions:
You already know the effects of masking your emotions, so try not to do it once. You'll realise that feelings are not that bad and they don't destroy you but make you even stronger.
7. Find self-worth:
This is the hardest of them all and needs conscious effort regularly. You can refer to this article about self-worth.
8. Detach from opinions:
Remember that the opinions of others are not a reflection of who you are, different people will hold different opinions about you and not will be great. Others opinion of you says more about what they are rather than what you are, so you don't need to bother with them. bother about your own opinions and that's enough.
9. Dealing with trauma:
If what you are is a result of a traumatic experience, you have to deal with your trauma first. You can refer to do this amazing article about the subject.
You don't have to be angry with your parents for making you this way, or at your anxiety or yourself. You can start by forgiving yourself and try to forgive others along the way and eventually it will all get better.
I hope this article helped you. If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to reach out.