We all know a people pleaser.
People pleasers have a hard time saying no, so friends and family turn to them when they need something.
Does this sound like you?
Do you have a hard time saying no?
Are you a people pleaser personality?
Let’s find out what people pleasure syndrome really is.
People pleasers sacrifice their own time, sanity and wellbeing in the interest of others, rarely if ever taking the time to recuperate or care for themselves because they’re always running one errand or another for someone else. They’re utterly selfless, extremely hard-working, and often the one person who takes care of the planning and the obligations no one else wants to take on.
That sounds pretty damn great, doesn’t it?
The issue is that these people pleasers are good people to a fault. They’re miserable. They’re often unhealthy, and follow lifestyle composed of bad, fast-acting habits. They resent their own behavior and the fact that they live the way they do – yet they do absolutely nothing about it. They feel trapped by their personality, trapped by the busy schedules they’ve created, trapped by all the obligations, needs and worries.
Being a people pleaser isn’t an actual mental diagnosis. You can’t go to a psychiatrist and get pills for never saying no. But it is a syndrome, a mental condition that affects quite a lot of people, and carries similar factors.
What is People Pleaser Syndrome?
Like I said, there is no textbook condition or diagnosis for being too nice. But there are a few “symptoms” or trademark descriptors that connotate being a people pleaser (in the negative sense).
The first and most obvious is self-neglect. We’ve already discussed how people pleasers are incredibly nice people. This isn’t a bad thing by any means. But being a people pleaser personality also means you’re very, very bad at pleasing yourself.
Note that you can be a “people pleaser”, and not actually please people/be a pushover. In this case, you’re most likely dedicated only to a specific person or group of people, like your family. I’ve met mothers and fathers and others who have spent every ounce of their sanity working as hard as possible to provide for their loved ones, without taking any time off for themselves. This level of self-less behavior does not actually mean you’re a people pleaser. It doesn’t carry the same connotation of insecurity. But it’s still a problem, for the very same reason I’ll illustrate later.
People pleasers personality typically aren’t just people who want to do everything they can – they can’t say no to other people’s requests, even if it rubs them the wrong way. They can stand up for themselves at times, but those times are rare occasions. For all intents and purposes, people pleasers will do what you ask them to do, almost regardless of how they feel about it.
That’s typical because of a low self-esteem and perceived self-worth. This is the next trademark of a people pleaser syndrome – a very, very low opinion of self. There’s a difference between being critical of certain parts of your behavior, and being of such a low opinion of yourself that no matter what happens, you feel that you deserve what you’ve got and where you are.
Basically, this leads to an issue with complacency where you tend to make excuses for others and explain away your own misfortunes as being “just fine”, or something you can cope with. The issue behind that, of course, is that it fosters a state of constant and chronic stress. You also begin to lose an enthusiasm for everything you do. People pleasers are spread so thin that they cannot muster enough passion for any one task.
A final mark of a people pleaser is childhood behavior. Typically, people pleaser personality either skipped past the rebellious phase or had their rebellious behavior totally and entirely crushed by their parents. They decided at some point in their formative years that the best way to get by, survive and avoid punishment (regardless of whether it was physical or emotional punishment) is simply to abide by the more powerful grownup’s wishes.
That feeling – the feeling of just doing what you’re told because it’s easier – permeates your core and becomes a part of who you are for the future. It goes from just being considerate or kind, to eventually becoming entirely passive, avoiding competition, doing away with all forms of anger, and getting any form of attention. Because of that, people pleasers fear two things more than anything else: disappointment and rejection.
That isn’t to say that all strict parents create people pleasers, or that only rebels end up having a healthy self-esteem. It also doesn’t mean that being kind will automatically develop into being a pushover. It just means these things correlate, specifically with a low self-esteem. You can be kind, but firm, and you can help others and be considerate but maintain a personal boundary and standards of self-love and self-esteem, which you bend for no one.
What causes the development of people-pleasing habits?
People-pleasing behavior can stem from several underlying causes. It often develops as a coping mechanism for certain life experiences. Here are some of the underlying reasons that cause the development of people-pleasing:
People who lack self-esteem seek external validation and need validation of others for themselves. They believe that pleasing others and making them happy improves their self-worth.
Fear of Rejection
People who have the fear of being rejected tend to engage in people-pleasing behaviors. They have a false belief that saying “no” can cause social exclusion.
Trauma or Abuse
Experiencing trauma or abuse in the past can cause individuals to develop people-pleasing behavior. They want to avoid conflict in any situation to avoid being abused and mistreated again.
Some individuals have unrealistic standards for their lives. This includes keeping everyone happy. Any fear or failure to do so will be bad for their reputation. Therefore, they turn to people-pleasing.
People who grow up in a family environment where saying “no” isn’t an option can lead to people pleasing. This becomes a way to maintain harmony and avoid conflict in the family.
Can’t Set Personal Boundaries
People who can’t set personal boundaries feel responsible for the emotional well-being of others. They also find it difficult to put their needs above that of others.
Fear of Criticism
People-pleasers can not take criticism, disapproval, or conflict. They feel that saying “yes” is the only way to prevent criticism.
Certain individuals are more empathetic and sensitive. They overextend themselves for the needs and feelings of others. Empathy is otherwise a positive trait but not when it costs your progress.
Societies tend to condition individuals from a very young age to attend to the needs of others and seek approval. Such conditioning can become chronic in adulthood.
It is important to understand what causes people-pleasing behavior in order to address and change these behaviors. There are several risks that come with the habit of people-pleasing and can cost you your success, progress, and happiness.
Why Being a People Pleaser Isn’t Always Positive?
If you were living in an ancient city, then the primary means of long-distance communication was whatever amounted to the local postage system – often, it involved couriers. Couriers are extremely helpful and necessary for local commerce. They deliver packages, going long treks to ensure important messages are delivered – from simple correspondence to extremely sensitive, coded information.
Imagine you’re the best courier around, delivering nearly everyone’s mail and giving every task your 100 percent. You’re admirable, to say the least – but also self-destructive. Your body can only take so much running and trekking before you start to notice the harsh consequences of your job, and without taking the time for some recuperation, you will destroy yourself.
Once that happens – once the arthritis sets in, once injuries stop healing properly, once you begin to feel your tolerance for heat and cold falter – your abilities as a courier dissolve. You fall into obscurity – the one thing by which you defined yourself and your self-worth have become impossible for you, and you become depressed, lacking any purpose or reason.
People pleasers will spend their time tending to everyone’s needs and deriving a little bit of pride from their behavior – but after a long time, that pride can turn into resentment, and eventually you will find yourself unable to take requests because you’re physically degrading yourself.
It’s not just about physical degradation, however. People pleasers will suffer mentally and emotionally for their behavior. Constant chronic stress isn’t healthy and can lead to a myriad of different mental disorders and actual diagnoses.
It’s essential that you take care of your physical and emotional health. It’s essential that you can put yourself first when it matters. It’s essential that you always make room for your own needs. That doesn’t mean ignoring the needs of others, or taking care of yourself first and everyone else second – it means not neglecting your needs, and understanding your importance and worth. It’s important that you know how – and when – to be angry and defensive, and that you know how to set boundaries and stand up for yourself. Without these essential abilities, you’ll succumb.
Associated Disorders and Consequences of People Pleaser Personality
Being a people pleaser might not be a condition, but it can cause other conditions, or be part of several factors in the development of a mental illness.
The most obvious are depression.
Chronic stress and being faced with the constant overwhelming fear of disappointment means you can easily fall into a depression if you’re physically unable to comply with a request, of if you find yourself being criticized for not doing something right.
Your low self-esteem won’t help in that matter.
Anxiety can also develop, from the apprehension and overall fear of failure, as fear turns into a state of chronic tension.
And, on top of depressive and stressful thoughts, you may risk developing an anger issue as you’re unable to safely or healthily vent your frustrations, and instead, let them boil over entirely unmanaged.
What are the Risks of People-Pleasing Behavior?
People-pleasing is driven by good intentions for others but carries several risks and consequences. Here are some risks associated with such behavior:
People-pleasers tend to spend a significant amount of their emotional energy trying to make people around them happy. This leads to an emotional drain and leaves little scope for self.
Stress and Anxiety
People pleasers are constantly striving to meet the expectations and desires of others around them. This leads to heightened stress and anxiety levels which can cause adverse effects on their mental and physical health.
Lack of Authenticity
People pleasers often suppress their true internal feelings and opinions in order to fulfill what others believe and want to hear. This often costs them any authenticity in their relationships.
Resentment and Anger
People pleasers tend to develop feelings of resentment and anger towards the people they once tried to please. This anger and resentment can stem from a sense of being undervalued.
People-pleasers have the tendency to prioritize the needs of others over their own needs. This leads to long periods of time where their personal needs are unmet causing a sense of unfulfillment and unhappiness.
Such people try to accommodate everybody’s requests and then find it difficult to fulfill them. This eventually leads to no time for themselves.
Negative Impact on Self-Esteem
The need for external validation causes such individuals to feel that their self-worth is reliant on making others happy. This leads to a negative impact on their self-esteem.
People pleasing can cause the development of one-sided relationships where the people pleaser always gives and receives little in return ultimately causing imbalances and dissatisfaction.
Can’t Say “No”
People pleasers often find it difficult to say no even in the most dire situations. This can cause them to be overwhelmed with unwanted tasks.
People pleasers are almost always suffering from stress and emotional strain. This can lead to severe mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and other physical health issues.
A major part of their lives is spent pleasing others. This causes them to fail at pursuing personal goals and aspirations.
Always seeking the approval of others can alter the decision-making abilities of people pleasers. Decisions tend to meet external expectations rather than personal values and desires.
Understanding all of the above risks involved is essential for people who engage in people-pleasing behavior. A clear understanding of these risks can help in creating healthy boundaries, prioritizing self-care, and finding a good balance between helping others and fulfilling one’s personal needs and well-being.
How to Stop Being a People Pleaser
To stop people-pleasing habits can be a challenging journey. But it rewards complete liberation and enables one to lead a life that has healthier self-esteem and relationships. Here are a few steps that one can take and stop being a people pleaser:
People with people-pleasing tendencies need to first acknowledge that they have people pleasing habits. Then, accepting the fact that these habits are adversely affecting their life, self-esteem, and relationships is the first step towards a more balanced life.
Next, it is important to identify the triggers that stimulate the brain and activate people-pleasing behaviors. Identifying these triggers will provide awareness of when and how these triggers result in all-of-a-sudden abnormal behavior. Once aware and understood, these triggers can be responded to differently.
Set Clear Boundaries
It is extremely important to establish and communicate one’s personal boundaries. Clearly defining things will make it easier to understand the person and the things he/she is comfortable or uncomfortable with. It is necessary to be firm but respectful when communicating the boundaries.
The Importance of Saying “No”
It is extremely important to understand the importance of saying “No”. One can begin saying “no” to smaller and insignificant things at first and begin being comfortable with the idea of saying “no”. One can then gradually begin saying “no” to larger demands. The word “No” is a complete sentence in itself. It does not require any further explanation.
Understand the Importance of Self-Care
It is vital to understand the importance of self-care in your life. Begin by allocating time for personal needs and well-being. This will build resilience and decrease the need for external validation.
Understand Personal Values
It is important to clearly understand and act upon one’s personal values. This provides a sense of purpose in life and gives a reflection of one’s true self.
Learn to Assert Personal Thoughts
Assertiveness helps in expressing feelings in a true, direct, and respectful manner. Avoid being aggressive, but remain firm in expressing thoughts and feelings.
Seek Professional Support
A therapist or a trained medical professional can provide guidance, tools, and strategies to overcome the habit of people pleasing. A therapist can help in boosting self-esteem and setting clear boundaries.
It is sometimes okay to displease others and make mistakes. Nobody is perfect in this world and it is important to be true rather than worrying about constant approval.
It is crucial to understand boundaries and limits. This helps in limiting over commitments. Assess availability and energy before overextending and saying “yes” to every request that falls your way.
Understand and Practice Self-Validation
It is important to understand the importance of self-esteem. It eliminates the need for external validation to develop feelings of worthiness.
Live Amongst Supportive People
Focus on building cultivated relationships where individuals respect boundaries and values. Loved ones and supportive friends can help reinforce the efforts to quit people-pleasing.
Analyzing self-talk is necessary to challenge self-critical and self-doubt thoughts. These thoughts must be replaced with self-affirming beliefs.
Celebrate your Achievements
It is essential to acknowledge and celebrate small wins as they are a testament to the journey towards success. Each step in the right direction is a positive accomplishment.
Patience and Persistence Are Key
It is difficult to change such deep habits. It takes both time and effort. It is important to remain patient and continue the journey of being more authentic and assertive.
Remember that breaking free from the people pleasing attitude, is a process. There can be several setbacks but the key is to stay committed and patient.
Remember – the key to get rid of people pleaser personality is to be strict with yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of “just this once,” or “one more time”. Figure out what you need to keep yourself sane, happy and healthy, and pursue it. Build a schedule. Find out what you need to do, what you need to move around. Ask for help from others. Ask for favors. Seek a little in return for all the good you’ve done. And remember to stick to habits that boost your self-esteem.
It’s not going to be an overnight change, and there will be pangs of guilt as you realize you can’t say yes to every chance to help someone because you’ve got to head to the gym, or cook a decent meal, or be in bed in time. Ignore those pangs. Focus on the fact that if you don’t change, you will not only suffer for it, but you’ll be unable to help anyone ever again.