The Need to Please

Let's Define "People-Pleasing"

People-pleasing is an act whereby the primary focus is to keep others happy. Sherry Pagoto, Ph.D. described People-Pleasers as "one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say 'no.'  You can always count on them for a favor.  In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends. So far this sounds like a good thing. Unfortunately, it can be an extremely unhealthy pattern of behavior." This behavior can become increasingly unhealthy as it opens the door for others to take advantage, while also minimizes their individual needs. The cycle of People-Pleasing may lead to unhealthy relationship patterns, depressed feelings, low self-esteem, and lack of a personal identity. 

Roots of People-Pleasing

Photo found on @pinterest

Photo found on @pinterest

Psychology Today summarized the essence of where people-pleasing behaviors originate from. Dr Seltzer stated, "As children, people-pleasers generally felt loved only when they were conforming to the needs and desires of their parents. Submitting themselves to parental preferences was rewarded; deviating from these preferences--maybe even dictates--was regularly met with some form of displeasure. That is, when such children asserted their will contrary to parental wishes, these parents typically reacted critically and withheld from them caring and support, positive time and attention, recognition, understanding or encouragement. In consequence, such children felt not simply disapproved of, but rejected and abandoned as well." Thus, leading the child to become dependent on their parent's approval and feeling fearful at the chance of their love being withheld or withdrawn. These repeated experiences ignites the development of a personalty pattern where the child begins to learn that putting other's first provides them with a constant reward, external validation from others. Parents can be a primary source of the development of People-Pleasing, but we also must consider the cultural context of the individual's life and how that may contribute to the need to please. For example, some religious beliefs encourage to put others needs first or to act in faith of others. The child also may be influenced by siblings or other family members. Essentially with most personality development, early childhood experiences have a significant impact on how we interact with the world and others as adults. 

Signs of People-Pleasing

1. Agreeing with everyone.

Listening politely to other people’s opinions — even when you disagree — is a good social skill. But pretending to agree just because you want to be liked can cause you to engage in behavior that goes against your values.

2. You feel responsible for how other people feel.

It’s healthy to recognize how your behavior influences others. But thinking you have the power to make someone happy is a problem. It’s up to each individual to be in charge of their own emotions.

3. You apologize often.

Whether you excessively blame yourself, or you fear other people are always blaming you, frequent apologies can be a sign of a bigger problem. You don’t have to be sorry for being you.

4. You can’t say no.

You find yourself in the position where you ALWAYS say yes, even when you recognize it may not be good for you. 

5. You feel uncomfortable if someone is angry at you.

Just because someone is mad doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong. But if you can’t stand the thought of someone being displeased with you, you’ll be more likely to compromise your values.

6. You act like the people around you.

It’s normal for other people to bring out different sides of your personality. But people-pleasers often sabotage their goals. Studies show that people-pleasers engage in self-destructive behavior if they think it will help others feel more comfortable in social situations. For example, people-pleasers eat more when they think it will make other people happy.

7. You need praise to feel good.

While praise and kind words can make anyone feel good, people pleasers depend on validation. If your self-worth rests entirely on what others think about you, you’ll only feel good when others shower you with compliments.

8. You go to great lengths to avoid conflict.

It’s one thing not to want to start conflict. But avoiding conflict at all costs means that you’ll struggle to stand up for the things — and the people — you really believe in.

9. You don’t admit when your feelings are hurt.

You can’t form authentic relationships with people unless you’re willing to speak up sometimes and say that your feelings are hurt. Withholding negative feelings to keep others happy essentially keeps a relationship superficial.

Breaking Free from People-Pleasing

Below are a few ways to break free from the continuous pattern of people-pleasing. As always, please consult with a mental health provide to further explore your individual patterns, along with ways to break the habit of people-pleasing. 

• Acknowledge and become aware of your tendency to suppress your needs. Try to pinpoint how, when, and with what people you give up your personal power in efforts to secure the relationship. Become more aware of when you revert to people-pleasing behaviors, and exactly what your motives are in such instances. 

Photo found on @pinterest

Photo found on @pinterest

• Start reflecting on your own needs. What do you need in life and in relationships? Begin to make those needs more clear by expressing those identified needs to the people around you. 

• Build assertiveness skills. Practicing and becoming assertive can help vocalize your needs to the people who are important to you. Ways to do this include: Make the decision to positively assert yourself, Listen actively, Agree to disagree, Stay calm, Be direct, Practice open and honest communication.

• Beware of your tendency to automatically agree with, or defer to, others. Pause before you respond and think less about what the other person may want from you than on what you want—what in the present situation best suits your needs (or at least doesn't ignore them).

• Start therapy to begin healing any childhood/adolescent wounds, with the intention of building awareness, insight, and understanding about yourself and your patterns. 

So, can you relate?







::: Disclaimer: Please note, the information offered on this website/blog is not, nor is it intended to be, therapy or psychological advice, nor does it constitute a client/therapist relationship. Please consult a mental health provider for individual support regarding your own personal health or well-being or call 1-800-950-NAMI for resources and support. :::

Kelly Vincent