My clients often struggle to grasp how their desire to please others at the expense of themselves keeps them stuck. Many of these individuals grew up in families where it was unsafe to share their emotions or opinions. Others received the most love and praise when they were “helping” or “being a good kid”. Regardless of where this behavior originated, it is important to acknowledge the downside of people pleasing. Here are some insights that may inspire you to take steps towards healing and changing your behavior in interpersonal relationships.
It’s not as selfless as you think!
People pleasers often think that their behaviors are selfless, which is not always the case. In exchange for their sacrifice and tireless efforts, people pleasers will often expect others to respond with praise and appreciation. This gets problematic when their self-worth becomes dependent on other’s opinions of them. When their actions are not met with the praise and appreciation they think they deserve, it causes frustration and resentment. This resentment damages relationships and can lead to tension and disconnection over time.
You don’t have control over other people’s emotions
People pleasers often falsely believe that they can control other people’s emotions. It can be uncomfortable for them to sit with the negative emotions of coworkers, friends, or family members. Instead of letting others manage their own chaos, people pleasers will often try to “fix it” or offer unsolicited advice. Furthermore, people pleasers will often take other’s emotions personally, assuming that they are the result of something that they did. Because we can never truly control the behaviors of another person, attempting to can lead to frustration and hopelessness.
Others take advantage of you
In my experience, people pleasers often earn a reputation for themselves in the workplace and in their social circles. When a shift needs to be covered or a friend needs help moving, they are often the first ones called upon because it is hard for them to say “no”. The requestor must look no further, as they already have a guaranteed “yes”. This cycle, often leaves people pleasers feel unconsidered and overburdened because they are taking on more despite their lack of time and energy. However, what is seen as the worse of two evils is the potential of facing a negative reaction or rejection. Taking on tasks beyond their capacity leaves little time for self-care and the opportunity to recharge.
You are giving people the opportunity to love you for who you are
This is perhaps the most upsetting aspect of people pleasing. People pleasers often hide their own emotions, needs, opinions, and preferences to ensure that others are comfortable and to avoid conflict. If this pattern has occurred for long enough, they often become out of touch with their emotions, needs, and preferences altogether. However, by showing up as the person that they think other people want them to be, they are not allowing others the opportunity to truly know and love them. This can limit the depth of relationships, causing them to remain superficial.
About the Author: Michaela Standhart is a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate. She specializes in couples therapy and betrayal trauma. Michaela stays sane while practicing social distancing by reminding herself how happy her dog is.