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Why Do We Become People Pleasers?

Merriam-Webster defines a people pleaser, as “a person who has an emotional need to please others, often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires.”

People-pleasing is a state of mind where individuals convince themselves that pleasing others is much more important than their own happiness.


While this may not sound that bad, ignoring your own needs for others can negatively impact your life - significantly.  Most people-pleasers know how bad it can be, so how did they end up doing it anyway? 

People Pleasing Comes From an Unstable Childhood

The number one reason adults become people pleasers is that their needs weren’t met as a kid. If you are raised in a home without a great parent, you may have begun people-pleasing as a matter of survival.

For example, people-pleasing is typical in an individual raised by a parent with mental illness. A child can’t comprehend conditions like bipolar or depression. 

If the parent regularly took out their emotions on the child, the child became a people pleaser to avoid the parent’s outbursts. This behaviour continues into adulthood.

People Pleasing Comes From Trauma

Not all people-pleasing comes from people who had a rough childhood. Instead, it comes from people who spent a long-time experiencing trauma that they never recognised or learned to overcome.

For example, someone in an abusive relationship might become a people pleaser to avoid their partner’s wrath. Suppose the relationship continues for an extended period, which these relationships frequently do. In that case, people-pleasing becomes a habit that is tough to shake.

This behaviour will often continue, even when the abusive relationship eventually - and thankfully - comes to an end. While sometimes the origins of people-pleasing are dark, that isn’t always the case.

People Pleasing is a Habit

Sometimes people-pleasing is just something you got used to. If you found out early in life that people-pleasing leads to good outcomes (making people happy, words of thanks, etc.), then, of course, you continue the behaviour.

Some people get so used to putting others first that they never learn to put themselves first. It can be hard to break past people-pleasing habits, even when they try.

People-Pleasing Is Easy

 Sometimes people-pleasing is just more straightforward, and it’s easier to give in than stand your ground.  But that is no way to live your life.

Under the self-sacrifice, aphorism, “it is better to give than receive,” is generally reclassified under the old political metaphor and social principles, to “devote our lives to the service of the greater good”.

It could therefore be claimed that societies are now based on the voluntary agreements for mothers and fathers to care for children together, and they are moral but not political by following a “conjugal society”.

According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778),  Swiss philosopher.

“Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.”

- The Social Contract

The Social Contract seeks to address: how we can be free and live together.

Relationship dissent

You and your partner will have a different approach, opinion, or wish at some point in your personal relationship. 

At this point, one of you need to concede, or the better alternative is to compromise. Compromising is an “intermediate state between conflicting choices reached by mutual concession". However, compromising should never sacrifice core values, beliefs or needs. 

Nevertheless, learning to compromise is integral to a successful relationship at home or work and is a part of life, but for the sake of self-preservationbeing walked all over isn’t.

Sometimes compromising can go too far and overspill into you neglecting the essential needs and boundaries you have to maintain the relationship balance and status quo. Just because it’s easier to avoid conflict by agreeing doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

The Importance of Breaking the People-Pleasing Habit

Being kind to others is an integral part of being a human being, unless, of course, that kindness goes too far. When this caring nature turns into people-pleasing, it becomes detrimental to your well-being.

It is crucial to keep in mind that while helping others is a good thing, doing it at a personal cost to you or your family is not. There are several important reasons why breaking the people-pleasing habit can be good for you.

Stress and Anxiety

~ Ann Voskamp ~
  • "Sometimes you are not listening to your body, because you are listening to everybody else’s expectations”

When you are constantly trying to please others, it tends to take a hit on your mental well-being in various ways. At times, you can feel so stressed because either you said yes to something you did not want to do or because you said “no,” maybe for the first time.

Being under constant stress and anxiety is not suitable for your mental or physical health and can lead to more severe side effects. Too much stress can lead to illness and eventual burnout.

Breaking the people-pleasing habit can free you from the anxiety you are under and allow you to focus on your own needs.

Better Life Balance

Typically, if you are a people pleaser, you may have a hard time thinking about anything or anyone except those that need your help. It is in times like these that your life balance begins to falter.

Remember that it is not humanly possible to provide everything for everyone. A people pleaser feels a specific responsibility to do just that while also taking care of themselves.

Whereas, denying our basic needs and healthcare for the comfort and beliefs of others? Breaking this habit can provide you with more balance in your life for the most important things, such as yourself and your family.

Less Self-Neglect

People-pleasing is the subservient tendency to put others foremost and acquiesce to demands to the detriment of oneself. This includes their mental health, and their physical and emotional well-being could suffer.

When you spend all of your time helping others, you typically do not have time for self-care. Keep in mind the words of flight attendants during their preflight speech when they remind you to put on your own oxygen mask before you attempt to help others.

If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be helpful to anyone else. Breaking the habit of pleasing others will allow you the time and energy to focus on your health and well-being.

At the end of the day, it knows that people-pleasing can be an unhealthy habit if you let it go too far. Understanding the importance of breaking that habit is vital to becoming healthier and more productive.

Five Signs You Might Be a People Pleaser

Has someone told you that you are a people pleaser? It might be accurate, but it’s a good idea to get a second opinion if you aren’t convinced. Below are five signs that you might be a people pleaser - consider these to be your “second opinion.”

1. You Can’t Say No

Even though your friend has asked you for a favour for the 100th time or your boss just asked you to stay late again. 

Both of your divorced parents want to see you for the holidays. A people-pleaser says yes to all of these people because they can’t seem to say no to anyone.

Not saying no means you are a people pleaser, especially when you say yes to things you know aren’t going to work out.

2. You Constantly Wonder What Others Think

Are you always worried that your friends might hate you? Or that your significant other doesn't see you in the way you want them to see you? 

These anxious thoughts are a sure sign of people-pleasing behaviour. Thoughts like these cause you to please others before taking care of yourself.

3. You Feel You Never Have Enough Time

Self-care is important, and most people-pleasers find they don't have the time. Mainly because they are too busy saying yes to everyone else, take a look at your schedule.

Do you have time pencilled in just for you? If not, you're probably a people pleaser.

4. You Feel Bad Saying No

Okay, so maybe you can say no, and you have before. However, did you feel bad or guilty when you said it?

When you say no to a request, you aren't obligated to explain the why's or why not. 

You have every right to say no, and you shouldn't feel inferior for doing it. If you do, this is another sign that you are a people-pleaser.

5. You Constantly Apologise

Are you constantly apologising for everything, even stuff that may not be your fault? This isn't healthy and means that you are probably a people-pleaser.

People-pleasers want people to like them no matter what, which can lead to them apologising for things they didn't do, just to make sure they stay in the person's good graces. 

Did you find that three or more of these things described you and how you feel? If so, you are likely a people pleaser.

When you apologise, it makes you feel guilty, even when there's no reason to feel bad. Of course, you don't have to be rude. For example, if someone expresses that something happened to them, you might even apologise and take on the blame.

If you don't want to damage your own health by pleasing others, it's time to accept that you are a people pleaser and begin looking for help to overcome your people-pleasing ways.

What is People Pleasing?

From a very young age, it is ingrained in most people that they should be kind to the point of being considered charming, courteous and respectful to other people. It's an exceptional quality to acquire.

In most cases, this translates to saying kind words and helping people when the need arises. However, this can extend to unhealthy extremes for others when the demand to help comes at the expense of their own needs.

It is important to remember that there is a massive difference between being a kind, caring person and not being a people pleaser. 

The following signs will help you decide which category you fall under:

Acting Differently in Front of Various People

 ~Shahida Arabi~ 

Becoming the Narcissist's  Nightmare

"People pleasing does make it easier to ignore the red flags of an abusive relationship at the very early stages, especially with covert Narcissistic manipulators.

We can also become conditioned to continually "please" if we're used to walking on eggshells around our abuser."

#1st Rated

People who constantly need to please others will often act the way they think a specific person expects. In most cases, this means that they will have behaviours that are apparent to one person or group of people and then change when they are either at home or with someone else.

The Constant Need for Praise

Often, since people-pleasers thrive on the approval of others, they are more likely to ask for the praise they need.

In essence, the person is then reliant on the approval of others to feel worthy. Even the most minor task they perform will want others to hear that they did a good job.

Being the "Yes" Person

People pleasers often have difficulty saying "no" to others, simply because they fear it will be met with disapproval.

You may be finding it hard to say no when someone asks you anything, but learning to do so is an essential life skill.

For the sake of your own mental health, you have to think about yourself first, what you stand for, and what your priorities are.

If they succeed in saying "no," they frequently feel guilty. On the other hand, if they say "yes," they typically feel ashamed that they couldn't stand up for themselves in the first place.

Agreeing Even When You Disagree

Overall, people-pleasing stems from the belief that you should put others before yourself. While this is an honourable trait, you will need to be careful not to go overboard.

A people pleaser will sometimes agree with the person speaking during a conversation, although they may not accept it. Once again, it goes back to the constant need to please others.

You Never Seem to Have Time for Yourself

People pleasers are often so busy helping others that they neglect the important things for themselves. They regularly see that it is more influential to do for others, and that what they need now can wait for another time.

Overall, people-pleasing stems from the belief that you should put others before yourself. While this is an honourable trait, you will need to be careful not to go overboard. When helping others results in your needs not being met, it may be time to take a second look.

3 Things That Happen When You Stop People Pleasing

If you have ever been, or are currently, a people pleaser, then you know how hard it is to break the habit of putting others before yourself all the time. As much stress and anxiety pleasing others will cause you, it can get worse when you choose to stop - at least initially.

This is because of the guilt and shame that come into play when you start saying "no." Deciding to stop people-pleasing is a fundamental step towards your freedom. 

You should know that three important things happen when you stop people-pleasing.

1. Discover Who Your Friends Are

 Unfortunately, there will always be people who only want to hang out with you for what you can do for them. You cannot change these people as much as you wish. When you stop trying to please them and begin saying "no" sometimes, you may find that they suddenly do not have time for you.

2. Make Time For Yourself

 When you stop giving all of your time and attention to everyone else, you tend to have more time for yourself. This means that not only are your needs met, but you may also have time to spend time on things that are significant to you. Keep in mind that you may end up feeling guilty that you have time for yourself, at least in the beginning. Eventually, you will get used to it, though.

3. You Gain Confidence

 The common trait most people-pleasers possess is low self-esteem, which is why you may prioritise the needs of others over yourself. When you stop people-pleasing, you begin to feel more confident in your actions. The more times you say "no," the more sure of yourself you become.

You need to understand that you are not responsible for other people's thoughts or happiness. When you realise all the stress and anxiety you feel because you are constantly doing for others is not worth it, you will indeed be able to move past your people-pleasing behaviour.

At the end of the day, while some outcomes of stopping your people-pleasing habits may be undesirable, keep in mind that eventually, you will feel better. A crucial part of moving out of people-pleasing mode is noticing when and why you do it.

Often it can become an automatic behaviour as if one's purpose is to serve the needs of others, even if it hurts. The unpleasant feelings will pass at some point, leaving you feeling a sense of pride and peace that you may not have otherwise felt.

 This usually occurs when you realise that your needs are just as important as others. 

Finally, consider the following quote from: 

~ Abiola Abrams~ 

People pleasing doesn't allow you to receive

Some affirmations can be helpful reminders in gaining your autonomy.

In a nutshell, the following affirmations are simple statements on things we'd like to:

  1. Believe about ourselves or
  2. Welcome into our life.

Stop With The People Pleasing Affirmations List

  • My needs are as important as anyone else's
  • I need nobody's approval except my own
  • I will achieve my dreams
  • I refuse to apologise for who I am
  • I respect myself
  • My needs are as important as other peoples'
  • My heart is good
  • I will stop trying to please everyone apart from myself
  •  I can achieve whatever I set my mind to
  •  I am strong. I am kind. I am important
  • I forgive myself
  • I do not compare myself to others
  • I welcome failures as learning opportunities
  • I do not judge others, and I do not judge myself.

By repeating them repeatedly to ourselves (or others), the goal is to alter our current pattern of negative thoughts and feelings.

According to Tony Robbins, the secret to success is to combine the affirmation itself with a shift in your state. You, therefore, have to emotionalise.

If you feel what you're saying, you'll be ten times more likely to convince yourself you believe it!

Otherwise, you're just verbalising.

And your brain will beg to differ.

Video: When the Body Says No -- Caring for ourselves while caring for others. Dr. Gabor Maté


On this occasion, I am pleased you had the time to read this article and will start to take action. Stay safe and wishing you good mental and physical health.


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