Maybe you suspect you’re a people pleaser? You find it hard to say no, you rarely put your own needs first, you hate the idea of being disliked or criticised. You’re probably aware that this kind of behaviour often leads to you taking too much on, and being overloaded, but, you might also feel that it’s not so bad, really. After all, pleasing others is a nice thing to do, isn’t it? You have the satisfaction of feeling like a good person. And you may well get quite a lot of thanks and praise, even if some people do seem to take what you do for granted.
Why people pleasing is actually highly destructive.
But, scratch the surface and you’ll find that people pleasing is actually highly destructive to your well-being, your self-esteem, your career, and even your relationships.
At its root people pleasing is about wanting to be liked, loved, needed by others. We all want this, obviously, but for a chronic people pleaser the way to get this is by making themselves indispensable. Perhaps the biggest problem with this is that you will inevitably attract people who can’t wait to take advantage. It’s like they can smell the blood. The bullies and narcissists work by carefully cultivating any self-esteem issues you might have. They get you to give them more and more, while constantly telling you that you’re selfish and don’t do enough, until your head is completely spinning.
Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid getting mixed up with one (or more) of them, constantly denying your own needs is stressful. To make it work, you need to suppress your natural emotions and go around pretending to be a saint. You’re trying to control what everyone else thinks about you, which is, obviously, impossible. Together with the extra workload you’re taking on to help others out, the pressure of constantly wearing a mask is utterly exhausting.
And, of course, when you’re a people pleaser, no-one can really get to know you, which makes it difficult for you to get what you (and everyone else) crave- love. How can someone really love you if they never see the real you?
How to stop people pleasing.
This isn’t about suddenly turning on everyone and telling them to get lost (tempting though that might be at times). You have responsibility for creating this situation, and other people’s expectations of you, and it will probably take time to shift that.
The first step perhaps is to recognise that you, and no-one else, is responsible for your own happiness. People pleasing is often about trying to set up a kind of reciprocal arrangement where you will look after them and they then look after you. The problem is that the kind of people who want you running round after them are not usually the kind who want to give it back. So, take responsibility for meeting your own needs, and let kindness from your partner be a bonus, not a replacement for self care.
Secondly, learn how to ask for what you need or want. People generally aren’t mind-readers, and if you don’t ask, you often won’t get. It can take practice to learn the balance between being aggressive and being too passive, but there is a sweet spot, and you can hit it.
And, finally, remember that self-love (when balanced) is not selfish, and that it is essential if you want to be able to truly love and serve others with an open heart.