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What does it mean to be a people pleaser?
Do you have a hard time saying no to others’ requests for help, and then afterward find yourself frustrated and angry? If so, you may be a “people pleaser.” People who give to others and ignore their own needs frequently end up feeling resentful.
How does this tendency begin? Often, it starts in childhood due to peer pressure and/or a need to be mom or dad’s favorite. Later, this behavior may expand into other relationships, our work life or even into our retirement life.
Why do we do it?
If we have an internal need to prove something to another person, we seek out reasons to please them. Maybe there is an unconscious thought to prove: ‘I am good’ or ‘if I do this, you will have to love me.’ Or, perhaps we have a hidden feeling of guilt: ’I am her daughter, she cared for me when I was young.’
Then there are the situations where a parent is a pleaser to their child. For example, the parent may try to overcompensate for a recent divorce or death of one of the parents.
In most cases, the recipient is usually not aware of the motivation behind the giver’s behavior.
How people pleasing creates resentment.
It’s not unusual to initially feel good when we try to please others. However, if our needs are not met, anger and resentment follow. The cycle repeats, almost like an addiction. It becomes a bad habit. If one carries the feeling of resentment with them from relationship to relationship, they “people please” to justify this resentment.
Sometimes there is a transference of these negative feelings from one person to another. For example, you might project anger toward your father onto a male friend or partner.
What is the role of the recipient of your efforts?
Is the receiver of your efforts to blame? Understand the recipient may have a subconscious emotional need for the time and energy they get from others. It’s cruel to allow the giver to exhaust themselves for an extended period. It’s a psychological game, and for it to end, one of the participants must get off the game board.
How to be there for others without compromising yourself.
Duty sometimes calls and our families and friends do need us, especially as they age. Over the past several months, I’ve spent a lot of time helping others. It seems many of my loved ones needed help during an illness or while recuperating from surgery. I agreed to help all of them all because I understood there was a limit to it. My balancing thought was: I can do this for them, but then I need to spend a weekend alone to recuperate. I did those tasks on my terms without giving up my exercise routine or adjusting my work schedule. It felt very satisfying to help them.
A Thought + A Feeling = A Response
Awareness is key. If your usual response is to people please, you need to transform the feeling or the thought. Setting reasonable limits provides an opportunity to help others without feeling resentment toward the receiver. The assistance of a counselor or coach may be helpful.
Here is an activity I do with my clients called ‘Bucket ‘o Me’ that I recommend they do on a daily basis on their own as well.
Bucket ‘O Me
- Draw a large bucket, and at the top list all of the activities, the people, things and events that bring you joy and positive energy. For example, a hot tub soak, taking a walk, playing in instrument, reading an inspiring book, etc.
- At the bottom (outside the bucket) note the people, things and events that drain you. These are possible cracks in the bucket. For example, hard to manage people/situations, music discord, traffic, news, certain TV programs and not saying No.
- Then, create a habit of evaluating each days’ activities and make adjustments. Practice saying no and noting where you are feeling the drain from the day and give yourself something from step 1.
If you struggle with saying no, you can practice with strangers. For example, at a cafe, don’t accept the burnt toast, or lukewarm coffee. Work up to sending an entire order back if it isn’t what you wanted. Eventually you can try asserting yourself with friends and family. Then the true test…with those most difficult people. It is truly empowering.
Losing the ability to say “no” typically comes from a fear of rejection, though this type of thinking is flawed. That fear was created without the critical thinking process. If you could go back and revisit those older events it could become clear that your fear had nothing to do with your right to express your thoughts, feelings, and fears, but with the emotional maturity of your care takers.
4 principles to avoid people pleasing
- Help yourself first, then help others. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
- When helping someone, state clearly and kindly what you are willing and not willing to do.
- Recognize patterns: become aware of your thoughts and feelings and make adjustments.
- Fill your bucket back up with positive activities that bring you joy after you helped someone.
The bottom line
People Pleasers are often thought of by others as selfless individuals who are considerate and compassionate. In reality, the true motivation behind people pleasing is much deeper than that. People Pleasers are often scared and insecure individuals with an unconscious need to receive love and acceptance. It’s nice to do things for others, certainly, but true kindness needs to be authentic and not given with the expectation of getting something back in return. Authentic people honor their own needs by setting boundaries to avoid becoming angry and resentful when needs are not met.
Do you wonder if you have the tendency to be a People Pleaser? Do you go out of your way to fulfil the needs of other people, but leaving your own behind? Do you consider your own needs and feelings to be irrelevant? Are you preoccupied with what other people think and feel guilty when you say “no”? If you answered yes to these questions, try keeping notes on the way you think and feel when helping a family member or friend. Awareness is essential before you can begin to heal.
Seek the help of a coach or therapist if you have a hard time breaking this habit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Valerie Grimes is a master at helping people overcome their negative belief systems, false opinions, and self-defeating habits that reside in their subconscious mind. Those blocks consistently sabotage people’s relationships, health, and opportunities for success in business and other important realms of their lives.
A 2002 graduate of the Dallas Hypnosis Training Institute, Valerie is certified by the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners, and Founder of The Flow Center for Hypnosis.