Are you a ‘people-pleaser’? I can say from my own experience, being a recovered people-pleaser, it is an emotionally exhausting way to live for both you and those around you.
People-pleasing is a symptom of more deep-seated issues of low-self worth, of wanting to be liked and accepted by those around you. This state of being has often grown from a person being mistreated at some point in their lives, resulting in them feeling eager to please everyone, sometimes at the cost of their own happiness and well-being.
People-pleasing often comes about when a child has grown up in an emotionally unsafe environment, for example around a parent with an abusive personality, or someone that often displayed mood swings. As a child in this situation, your very survival depended on the parent always being OK as it was you that suffered the consequences, so you learn to constantly monitor the parent’s mood and mindset, ‘walk on egg shells’ and do whatever is needed to keep the peace. You then carry this behaviour into adulthood and spend your life putting everyone else’s feelings above your own.
If you identify with the above, here are 7 signs that you may be a people-pleaser:
1. You Carry People’s Feelings
Constantly checking that everyone is OK, or fussing around them too much is a sign of this. It is normal to be mindful of how your behaviour affects others, but feeling that you are responsible for making others feel happy is when it becomes a problem. You are not in charge of other peoples’ emotions, their feelings are their own responsibility, not yours.
2. You Say “Yes” When You Really Mean “No”
Do you over-commit yourself, agreeing to do a million things, then letting everyone down last minute as you tie yourself up in knots, trying to please all the people all the time? This is a recipe for disaster – you will end up overwhelmed, burnt-out and everyone will probably feel annoyed with you, which is the exact opposite to the result you were aiming for. Know your limits, learn to say no without having to apologise when you genuinely don’t want to do something – people will most likely appreciate your honesty.
3. You Apologise All The Time
Feeling the need to say ‘Sorry’ for every little thing, feeling guilty and that you are always to blame is a big symptom of people-pleasing. Realising that you are a person in your own right, you are allowed to have opinions and feelings and don’t need to apologise for being you is the start of recovery.
4. You Need Validation
If validation is your drug of choice, you are definitely in the people-pleasing arena. It’s wonderful when someone compliments you in some way and says kind things about you, but as a people-pleaser, you depend on validation to feel good, your self-worth depends entirely upon praise from others, which is of course an extremely disempowering way to live your life.
5. You Are A Chameleon
As a people-pleaser you will adapt your personality to those around you. Of course we all do this to some extent as a natural part of being human and adapting to our environment, but people-pleasers will take this to the extreme, ignoring their own likes and dislikes, engaging in activities they don’t want to take part in, pretending to like certain things just because those around them do, just to be accepted and fit in.
6. You Internalise Your Feelings
You are unable to admit to others that you feel upset or hurt by them, glossing over situations, pretending to be OK when you’re not, denying your true feelings in order to keep the status quo with those around you.
As a people-pleaser you become very good at smothering how you feel. Switching off emotion is part of your survival and you can often feel guilty for feeling anything that’s not deemed a positive emotion. You can become so good at hiding feelings that even YOU don’t know how you feel any more!
The result of this could mean you being unable to form authentic relationships and could also bring about trust issues. No matter what you say to try and cover up your emotional state, you will in some way project your true feelings and those around you will sense that you are not being honest with them about how you actually feel.
7. You Can’t Bear Anyone Being Angry With You
We all manage to upset others at some point in our lives. Sometimes people take their anger out on us when it is not even our fault. Feeling able to stand up for yourself and your feelings when needed is an important part of self-care, but as a people-pleaser you would rather adjust your values and back down to placate the angry person than voice your true opinion.
How to Stop People-Pleasing
When you have lived this way for a lifetime, it can feel very daunting to suddenly stop, so as with anything new, start with a few small steps over a long period of time. The biggest step of all is realising that you are behaving this way and that it is not serving you and is keeping you locked into a disempowered state.
Here are some steps you can take to get started:
Realise that you are only responsible for your OWN feelings – your wellbeing is no longer dictated by other people’s moods.
You have been living echoes of your past that no longer serve you – you don’t have to be at the mercy of other people’s moods any longer – notice how behaviour like this puts you into emotional bondage. Stop paying so much attention to how others are feeling and focus on your own feelings – how DO you feel? Are there some underlying emotions you need to deal with? You may need to process some deep-seated emotions that have been buried a long time. Be patient with yourself – learn to feel your way through and seek expert help if you find it’s too much to deal with on your own.
People-pleasing behaviours can be irritating to others.
As much as you may think you are being a lovely, kind person exhausting yourself doing all you can to keep those around you happy, be aware that it sometimes has the opposite effect.
Think about it from the other side – how do you feel when someone is bending over backwards for you, agreeing with everything you say, putting themselves last on everything and pretending to like everything you do – doesn’t that feel a bit obsequious and fake? Also, when someone fusses around you doing everything for you, it can feel disempowering, as though they are saying “You’re not capable of doing this for yourself, so I’m going to do it for you”. It can sometimes result in people feeling angry, but not understanding why. This of course, is the total opposite to the result you are wanting which is for people to like you, so really there is no point – you are not actually ingratiating yourself with others, you’re most likely pushing them away and possibly annoying them.
Learn to say “No”.
Start with small things as this could feel quite alien and uncomfortable at first. If someone asks you to do something, mentally ask yourself these questions:
“Do I want to do this?”
if the answer is “No”, then you have your answer. If the answer is “Yes”, move on to the next question.
“Am I currently able to do this?”
Answering this question honestly and realistically will help to stop you from over-committing yourself. If the answer is “Yes”, that’s a double positive which is great, if the answer is “No”, then no matter how much you would like to commit, you currently do not have the resources to be able to do it, so again, you have your answer.
“What are the consequences if I don’t do this?”
Sometimes you may need to consider this. If there are dire consequences to you or those close to you, you may need to change a “No” to a “Yes”, but that is up to you to make a balanced decision based upon what the consequences are.
As you get used to using these questions, you will find it easier to say “No” with a smile on your face and love in your heart as is your right as a human being. Remember you are learning to live authentically, maybe for the first time ever – that is a wonderfully liberating way to live and most people will respect your honesty as they will always know where they stand with you. This will ultimately build a lot of trust in all your relationships.
Developing healthy personal boundaries also helps greatly to prevent people-pleasing, but that is another article which I will write soon!
What is your experience around this subject? Are you a people-pleaser? Have you learned to overcome this destructive behaviour? Leave me a comment below.