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  • Writer's pictureMya L. Adams M.Ed., LAC

People Pleasing Perils

This edition of Mindful Moments is all about people pleasing! We’ll explore where people pleasing comes from, the price paid for doing it, the variety of forms it takes, and behaviors to practice which challenge those pesky people pleasing urges. Happy Reading!

Justifiable Justifications

At its core, people pleasing often stems from a deep-seated desire for approval and validation. This drive can often be a result of childhood experiences. Growing up and believing one’s worth is dependent upon meeting the expectations and demands of others, particularly authority figures, is a common experience of people pleasers. For others, this pattern may have developed as a survival mechanism in environments where expressing authentic needs or desires was met with rejection or disapproval.

Additionally, societal norms and cultural expectations can reinforce the notion that prioritizing the needs of others over one's own needs is not only virtuous but necessary for maintaining relationships and harmony. This external pressure, coupled with internalized beliefs about self-worth, creates a fertile ground for the development of people-pleasing tendencies.

Prices Paid for People Pleasing

While the desire to please others may initially provide a sense of validation and belonging, the long-term consequences can have a negative impact on mental health. Constantly prioritizing the needs and desires of others can lead to:

o  Loss of Self-Identity: People pleasers often struggle to assert their own preferences, opinions, and boundaries, resulting in a diminished sense of self. Over time, this can erode self-esteem and lead to feelings of confusion and emptiness.

o  Resentment and Burnout: The relentless pursuit of approval and avoidance of conflict can lead to chronic stress, exhaustion, and burnout. Suppressing emotions and neglecting personal needs in favor of others' desires can breed resentment and bitterness, ultimately straining relationships.

o  Inauthentic Relationships: People pleasers may attract individuals who exploit their tendency to prioritize others' needs, leading to imbalanced and unhealthy relationships. Genuine connections become elusive when one's authenticity is sacrificed for external validation.

o  Undermined Decision-Making: Constantly seeking external validation can impair one's ability to make independent decisions. Fear of disapproval or rejection may lead people pleasers to abandon their own judgment and intuition, perpetuating a cycle of dependence on others' opinions.

7 Popular People Pleasing Patterns

1.       The Agreeable Agent: No matter how ridiculous the request, they can't resist saying yes. "You want to practice your tattooing skills on me because you believe you’re bad at it? Of course, I feel great about that!”

2.       The Super-Smooth Suck-Up: They're experts at flattery and buttering up everyone they meet with compliments no matter how insincere or unwarranted. "Your mismatched socks really bring out the color of your eyes!"

3.       The Party Parrot: They mimic a group’s opinions and preferences to fit in, even if it means pretending to love something they secretly loathe. "I absolutely adore polka music! It's so... rhythmic."

4.       The Apologetic Acrobat: They apologize for things they have no control over or aren't even responsible for. "I'm sorry the vending machine is out of your favorite snack. Let me fix that...I’ll run to the store and grab that candy bar for you!”

5.       The Docile Doormat: They're so afraid of anyone else's discomfort that they let others walk all over them. "Feel free to eat my lunch since you forgot yours, it's all part of my service as your co-worker!"

6.       The Glorious Gift-Giver: They shower people with extravagant gifts attempting to buy their affection/approval. "You said you collect comic books. So, I spent hours online searching to find this first edition for you.”

7.       The Superhuman Scheduler: This person fills their calendar to the brim with commitments, trying to please everyone. "I'll pick you up from the airport, bake a cake for the PTA meeting, and return that sweater for my mom, all on my day off, no problem!"

Nurturing No’s Now

Breaking free from the grip of people pleasing requires conscious effort to prioritize self-care and cultivate healthy boundaries. Keep the following practices in mind:

1. Identify Your Limits & Respect Them: Reflect on what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed in different situations. Be purposeful about when you accept increased stress or discomfort...and how much!

2. Communicate Assertively: Clearly express your needs, desires, and limits to others in a respectful manner. Remember, everyone doesn’t have to like what you say, focus on you liking the way you say it.

3. Say No When Needed: Being afraid to decline requests or invitations that go against your values/priorities doesn’t mean you have to accept these invitations.

4. Take Breaks & Prioritize Self-Care: Give your self permission to step away from situations or people that drain your energy. Make time for activities that recharge you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

5. Practice Mindfulness: Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations to better understand your boundaries and needs.

Final Facts

In a culture that often equates self-worth with external validation, embracing authenticity can feel like a rebellious act of self-liberation. Be rebellious! Challenge the social expectations and norms that harm you. You are not obligated to participate in your own unhappiness, but you are responsible for contributing to your happiness.

By recognizing and challenging people-pleasing tendencies, you can reclaim ownership over your life and build relationships grounded in mutual respect and genuine connection. Remember, your worth is not contingent upon pleasing others; true fulfillment comes from honoring your authentic self and prioritizing your own well-being.

Among the list of people you try to make happy - make sure you are one of them!


-Mya L. Adams M.Ed., LAC

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