“I want to stop being a people pleaser.”
We hear this often from clients who want to work on changing this pattern, and usually, the issue runs deeper than a desire to make others happy. We’ve found that people-pleasing tends to be a symptom of something much bigger. It’s frequently a way that individuals have learned to cope with low self-esteem: when you don’t believe you’re worthy, you strive hard to earn approval and affection by pleasing everyone around you. When you don’t believe you’re deserving, you put others’ needs above your own. Many individuals grow up in a home with the expectation of putting a parents’ needs first. When you’ve spent your childhood managing your parents’ feelings and going out of your way not to upset them, then you’ve learned from a very early age that pleasing those around you is the only way to gain love, approval, and acceptance.
The following signs are indications that you may have a pattern of people-pleasing:
1) You can’t say no to others. When a friend, family member, or coworker makes a request, asks for a favor, or invites you somewhere, you say yes, even if you want to say no. The thought of saying no fills you with anxiety, and you’d rather say yes than risk angering or disappointing anyone.
2) You don’t speak up when your feelings are hurt. You find it easier to keep quiet, even when your feelings have been hurt, because you’d prefer to avoid conflict or confrontation.
3) You feel responsible for everyone else’s feelings. You believe it’s your responsibility to keep everyone happy, so when they’re not, that becomes your responsibility, too. You frequently apologize, even if you’ve done nothing wrong, because you believe that somehow you’re to blame for everyone else’s negative feelings.
4) You feel guilty about setting boundaries. You worry that setting a boundary (i.e., saying no) might upset the other person, so you say yes whenever you can. When saying yes isn’t a possibility and you’re forced to say no, you experience intense feelings of guilt.
5) You’re a giver. You live to make others happy, and you take pride in your capacity to give endlessly, even though it often comes at the expense of your own needs and emotional wellbeing.
6) You obsess about how others’ perceive you. You find yourself ruminating about what people might think of you, and you tend to imagine the worst. You work tirelessly to ensure that people perceive you as kind, loving, and giving.
7) You overcommit or overextend yourself. Because you struggle to say no and set boundaries, you often overcommit yourself to plans, leaving little to no time for yourself. You overextend yourself in ways that leave you feeling drained and exhausted.
8) You resent people. You feel resentful of those around you who take advantage of your giving nature. You wish they’d recognize their behavior and reciprocate, but you’re not comfortable speaking up for yourself.
Next week, we’ll share some ways to curb your people-pleasing habits. If you’re struggling to change this tendency, reach out for help. At Gold Therapy, we’ll work with you to help you uncover underlying reasons for your people-pleasing habits, and help you to make changes in your relationships that will enable you to feel good about setting boundaries, speaking up for yourself, and being your authentic self.