Being a People-Pleaser: Why It’s Dangerous and How to Stop

Being a People-Pleaser: Why It's Dangerous and How to Stop

“The only thing wrong with trying to please everyone, is that there’s always at least one person who will remain unhappy: You.”- Elizabeth Parker

Laying awake at night, worrying that you’ve disappointed someone. Constantly apologizing, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. Often feeling that others deserve more credit than you. Going out of your way to make sure you never hurt another’s feelings. Not asking for help because you don’t want to be a burden. Needing validation from others that you did something right, or good, or well. Fear that you’ve disappointed someone causes panic. Sound familiar? If you notice any of these themes appearing in your day-to-day experiences, it’s possible you’re a people pleaser.

Now, to be fair, pleasing others isn’t always a bad thing. Human relationships are give and take. Both partners give, and both partners take, and hopefully, at the end of the day, both people feel satisfied that they’ve landed somewhere in the middle. But, if you feel like you’re the one who tends to give and please the most in your relationships, it might be time to take a look at the pattern.

If you suspect, or are already aware, that you have the tendency, or even need, to please others, the first place to start is at the roots. Often, being a pleaser stems from:

  • Lack of self-worth
  • Lack of clearly defined boundaries
  • Wanting to avoid negative feelings (guilt, shame, disappointment, etc.)
  • Wanting to avoid conflict
  • Watching a parent do it
  • Insecurity
  • Fear of not being accepted

Of course, many of these overlap, and sure, many people struggle with them – we’re human, after all. But if you find yourself struggling with these often and consistently, and you avoid the discomfort of it all by striving to make others happy, it can be of great detriment to you, your well-being, and your relationships.

Understanding the negative consequences of a behavioral pattern is the first step in creating change. Sometimes, when we adopt a behavior to avoid unpleasant states, we lose sight of the effects of the behavior itself.

Let’s Take a Look at the 6 Dangers of Being a People Pleaser:

1. It Can Destroy Relationships

Constantly putting others before yourself can lead to resentment towards the people you care about and destruction of relationships.

2. It Leaves Us Vulnerable

When we don’t assert ourselves by making our needs/desires known, we can often be taken advantage of.

3. We Take on Extra Stress

When we say “yes” no matter the cost, this can lead to extra stress that often results in physical illness, exhaustion, increased anxiety, depression and other related challenges.

4. Our Needs Don’t Get Met

When we don’t set boundaries for ourselves, we are inadvertently giving others, and ourselves, permission to ignore our needs.

5. Our Children Learn by Watching Us

If we are parents and also people-pleasing, we teach our children to put others first even when it means to go against their own values and beliefs.

6. We Attract Toxic People

Healthy people are attracted to those who have their own thoughts, interests, goals and opinions. People pleasers often attract individuals who may be dependent, abusive or unhealthy in other ways.

Chances are, if you’re a people pleaser, at least one of these dangers stirred up some feelings. While the feelings can be uncomfortable, it’s important to recognize that the consequences of people-pleasing can break our spirit, weaken our physical self, and set us up for unhealthy interaction with others, none of which are included in the recipe for well-being.

So, what to do now?

Well, the next step would be to take a look at the behavior and determine whether it is serving you. If, for whatever reason, it’s not a behavior you’re ready to change, that is perfectly acceptable. You can always revisit it later if you wish. If, however, you decide you’d like to give change a try, it can be helpful to seek out a relationship coach or therapist who can help you examine the roots of the need to please, change the accompanying internal tapes, and explore new behaviors that will serve you better. No matter what step you decide to take next, aim to please yourself. You are worth it.

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