Realms of Relationships: People Pleasers. Do you know one? Are you one?
People Pleasers are those who live perpetually by appeasing others—despite whether they’re happy doing so. And sadly, for some, the practice often becomes a programmable setting after so much time passes. People pleasing goes beyond the act of being kind, it means one who always puts the wants and needs of someone ahead of their own even when there’s no joy in it.
Let’s clarify. I’m not talking about something we may do with joy in our hearts for a loved one.
I’m referring to those who’ve somehow made themselves feel obligated to the point they’re taken for granted. So where do we draw the line with our urge to please others, to stop it from becoming a damaging regular occurrence to the point we become a doormat? And what is it that makes us so afraid to disappoint to the point we can’t say no? Mostly, these urges to be so accommodating have a lot to do with acceptance issues, low self-esteem, loneliness, and the possibilities are endless, because we worry we’ll be judged or unloved, unliked, ignored—you get the picture.
Let’s stop pretending, where does it get us? It gets us in a place we aren’t happy being, and it’s being inauthentic to ourselves. If we constantly agree to people’s whims and demands, putting others before our own needs, we need to learn how to draw a line for self-preservation.
Why do some of us feel compelled to bite our tongues while trying to avoid saying how we really feel about someone who takes advantage of our good nature? Why do some of us repeatedly get sucked into people’s drama, leaving us with a constant need to appease?
Think about it, if we aren’t comfortable around someone or have to walk on eggshells when in their presence, WHY ARE WE THERE?
How much courage do we need before we’re propelled to remove ourselves from situations that aren’t healthy or enriching, or maybe not even interesting to us? Okay, sure, there are just some things in life we must endure even if we don’t enjoy doing them, like having to go to the dentist or any other matter we must attend to, but that is a different conversation. I’m talking about repeatedly subjecting ourselves to things or people we don’t wish to serve, or going to places we don’t want to be, because it’s not productive for us or the other party when we do things without putting our hearts into them. Feigning interest isn’t fun and will eventually take its toll whether that be in the form of depression, anxiety, unease, boredom, and that’s not even counting our loss of happiness time.
But one thing is certain in life, we have free will. So why do we stay somewhere we’re uncomfortable staying, or go somewhere we don’t want to go, or do things for people who impose on us? We allow ego to take over our heart’s desire.
It’s one thing to feign we’re having fun when we’re not, but going somewhere we don’t want to be just to show good faith, respect, or whatever the endgame may be for going, is essentially accommodating someone else’s needs and inconveniencing ourselves. We need time to take a pause and assess.
There are many forms of people pleasing, from accommodating favors, taking directives, doing someone else’s job for them, doing someone else’s homework out of threat or obligation—to name a few. Even the event of eating can be something people do to please, especially when it entails having company for dinner or having dinner at someone else’s house as a social obligation. . .
Example true story – Eating to please:
In the first 10 years of our marriage, hub and I led a very social life. We hosted many parties. We were ‘the backyard’ other neighbors dropped over to. We had many friends who were ‘our’ friends, and of course there were old friendships we both brought into our marriage.
We held many dinner parties and went to many in return. That’s the key phrase—in return. Most were fun, and some became obligatory. Having two-couple intimate dinner parties with people we may not have typically chosen to be friends with can be sticky. I’ve had the people pleaser syndrome for much of my life, and I’m still working on eliminating it, as it is an ongoing process, but at least I’m aware, and working on it.
Sadly, I used to allow my stubbornness to keep pushing or trying to make things work when I knew better. But after some time, doing what I did and keeping up appearances, after two years of every two or three months of exchanging dinners at our homes with this one couple in reciprocation, was growing stale with me. The conversation was unstimulating (so was the food), and I had nothing in common with that couple, other than the husband was an old friend of my hub’s from a different era in my hub’s life, but they were not necessarily the people I’d have chosen myself for intimate dinner friends. And so I finally told hub it’s a no-can-do anymore.
Why did I endure a dozen dinners before finally saying no more? Did I think the next time would be better? Was it because it was the right thing to do or because I wanted to respect my husband’s friendships? Yes, to all.
Of course, I respect all my husband’s friendships, but guess what? That doesn’t mean I have to like all his friends enough to spend personal hours of my time with them. Yes, it’s nice to appease sometimes, but it shouldn’t become a habit, nor an obligation if it doesn’t fulfill us or pleasure us. A favor once or twice is one thing; but making it a habit is another.
I am finely tuned into my intuition, but I wasn’t always, and I still kick myself when I know, yet doubt myself anyway. I was a pleaser all my life. I always tried to ‘do the right thing’. I did it as a child and I did it way past the time when I knew it was time to stop, it was an ongoing habit. I couldn’t abandon my mother’s requests because she was my mother, I felt indebted. For years I never thought otherwise than it was my duty, those are the cards—and mother I was dealt, so I felt obligated as a daughter to do what was expected of me. That was the phrase I’d drilled into myself as a child unhappy having to do things I didn’t feel I should have had to be doing. Until I couldn’t anymore, many decades later. Eventually our tolerances will wear thin if we are perpetually doing things and going to places we have no enthusiasm for. So, for those (like myself) who sometimes fall into this pit, do a check, and see if you have fallen into this trap.
Checklist to see if you’re a people pleaser:
• You struggle with using the word no
• You find it difficult to speak up for yourself
• You have an ongoing concern with how people will receive you if you reject their demands
• You are too accommodating
• You’ll suffer giving something up in order to make someone else happy
• You have a low self-esteem
• You easily come dependent on other people’s acceptance of you
• You are constantly seeking approval
• You have a dire need for acceptance
• You do things others would expect of you despite not wanting to do them
• You worry that others are always judging you
• You are deeply affected by criticism
• You’re always willing to do a favor for someone, despite the need to accomplish something for yourself in that time
• You are blind to the motives behind others when they are abusing you
Break the Pattern and Recognize the Signs:
If you already have self- esteem issues, you may be one who gets trapped into aiding wrong people because you crave the attention from them. Some pleasers need to boost their self-worth by seeking approval from others. It’s a false sense of feeling when we think people care about us because we’re useful to them. Is this fulfilling? No, this is not a substitute for genuine concern. People pleasers often spend a lot of time worrying about rejection. This makes them feel that by keeping others happy, they’ll be appreciated. Some people thrive on the act of being needed.
For people who have a hard time saying no, beware you aren’t being taken advantage of.
Are you an apologizer and always ready to take the blame to avoid confrontation? Are you quick to agree just to keep the peace?
When is the last time you did something for yourself? If you are spending all your time doing things for others without remembering self- care, you’re a people pleaser. It’s time to make some time for yourselves. When you ignore your own needs because you’re always putting yourself ahead of others, you’ve become a people pleaser.
Beware the predators – The people who take advantage of you. You want to keep people happy, but you must beware of those who seek naïve, weak, underdog, good-natured people who use others for favors. Some victims also get sucked into giving money. Children also know how far they can push their parents with demands. Anyone who demands your services, leaving you feeling like you’re a convenience, they’re potential opportunists who can ensnare us into pleasers.
Your relationships don’t satisfy you – When we are busy being obedient to others and not deriving pleasure from it, that doesn’t make a relationship satisfying. Feeling compelled to please others all the time can become stressful to maintain, thus creating potential health problems too—worry, working longer hours, maybe less sleep to manage getting all obligations done, to name a few.
So why do we continue to people please, sometimes beyond the point we’re even aware what we’re doing? There isn’t one simple answer or reason. Like habits and patterns, this condition can manifest for various reasons: past trauma, habitually pleasing as a method of maintaining an unhealthy relationship, neediness, fear of rejection, self-esteem issues, fear of loneliness, even damage lingering from past events where there were consequences for not fulfilling wishes, can all be triggers.
How to break the cycle
• Be aware of your behavior
• Pay attention to same people demanding of your time for favors
• Don’t over-compensate with kindness. Kindness should come naturally, and leave us with a good feeling we’ve done something good for someone, not with feelings of servitude.
• Favors should be given freely with an open heart from the giver, and not out of obligation
• Start putting yourself first before others
• Set boundaries
• Practice waiting until you’re asked as opposed to always volunteering.
• Seek help in therapy if you feel out of control with your compulsions. Learn how to cope with overwhelming guilty patterns by learning both coping and overcoming strategies
People pleasing is exactly how it sounds—spending our personal time pleasing other people. Like I said earlier, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to help someone out by doing them a favor. And there’s a difference between an unwanted obligation and one of that to a spouse, parent or child, but even when performing family obligations, take precautions to be cognizant of repeat offenders. We need to make time for the things that please ourselves too. When it all becomes too much, we shouldn’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Happiness should begin from within at self first. It’s difficult to reach goals for self if we’re over-extended helping others.
Learn how to say no. Take a stand for something you believe in, like perhaps making personal time for yourself, and don’t always be so accommodating when you’ve already made plans for yourself and someone tries to get you to do something for them again. Each proactive step you learn to take is a step closer to growth to overcome low self- esteem and insecurities, which will strengthen self-confidence.
Below are two videos which go a little deeper into the damages of people pleasing and how stop being a pleaser.
TedX talk, the damages that come from people pleasing. –Salma Hindy, Canadian comedian
How to stop being a people pleaser.
Do you find yourself caught being a people pleaser?
In the next issue of Realms of Relationships, I’ll be talking about – The breaking point, ‘No contact,’ when it’s time to make a break, and the path to getting there.
My thanks to Debby for this fascinating relationship pitfall. I know that she would love your feedback…
Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.
D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.
When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.
Books by D.G. Kaye
One of the recent reviews for Twenty Years After ‘I Do’
D.G. Kaye’s memoir, Twenty Years After I Do, piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve been married for thirty-one years to a man who is not only my loving husband but who is my very best friend. I wanted to read what the author had to say on the subject, and she certainly inserted many pearls of wisdom of which I agreed with. Before I met my husband, I had dated a man twenty years older than me, so reading her perspective on the age difference grabbed my attention, as well. This was the second book that I have read from Debby, so I was already familiar with her beautiful, conversational writing.
Debby offers snippets of insight from her own experiences on how to keep a marriage happy and unbreakable. She adds how humor can lighten any heavy situation and intimately writes of how sex ultimately changes from dating to married life. Most importantly though, she conveys that love has no timeline. Couples should enjoy each moment together and unconditional love will carry them through the difficult times. I was moved by this lovely collection of stories from Debby’s marriage to Gordon, and how she met true love when she least expected. An enjoyable read and one I highly recommend.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – follow Debby: Goodreads
Connect to Debby Gies: Blog: D.G. Kaye Writer – About me: D.G. Kaye – Twitter: @pokercubster – Linkedin: D.G. Kaye – Facebook: D.G. Kaye – Instagram: D.G. Kaye – Pinterest: D.G. Kaye
Thank you for joining us today and Debby would love to hear from you.. thanks Sally.