People-pleasing is associated with a personality trait known as sociotropy, or feeling overly concerned with pleasing others and earning their approval as a way to maintain relationships. It is a natural human instinct to want to please others and to present oneself at one’s best. It is, in fact, a very positive quality to consider others’ feelings and be emotionally intelligent. However, as a people pleaser – a person who wants to please everyone – it becomes difficult when your own feelings and needs fade into the background until they finally disappear completely.
People Pleasing describes a behavioral pattern where those affected feel a subconscious urge to meet the expectations of others, even if they themselves fall by the wayside. The more you lose yourself in adapting to other people, their habits and preferences, the less you are yourself. In their quest to please others, people pleasers fail to exhibit their authentic self. In lonely, quiet moments they ask themselves:
Who am I really?
Which version of myself is the truth?
Or, does this version not exist at all?
Origins of people pleasing
Like almost all learned behavior patterns, people pleasing has its origins in childhood. As a child you have different caregivers, such as your parents or grandparents. If a caregivers lost control at some point in your upbringing, you may have adapted strongly to the emotional world of the caregiver to prevent disappointing them.
Ultimately, you might have suppressed your own emotions and needs for fear of the consequences that might have followed. This condition could have intensified in the course of life through formative encounters. If you found yourself in similar situations, such as strict teachers, confrontational circle of friends or narcissistic superiors, the existing pre-disposition and psychological fabric of the people pleaser may solidify.
Signs of a people-pleaser
People-pleasers tend to be good at tuning in to what others are feeling. They are also generally empathetic, thoughtful, and caring. These positive qualities may also come with a poor self-image, need to take control, or tendency to overachieve.According to Very Well Mind, there are a number of characteristics that people-pleasers tend to share, such as:
- Difficulty saying “no”
- Preoccupation with what other people might think
- Guilt when you do tell people “no”
- Fear that turning people down will make them think you are mean or selfish
- Agree to things you don’t like or do things you don’t want to do
- Struggle with feelings of low-self esteem
- Want people to like you and feel that doing things for them will earn their approval
- Always telling people you’re sorry
- Taking blame even when something isn’t your fault
- Lack of free time because you are always doing things for other people
- Neglect one’s own needs in order to do things for others
- Feign agreement with people even though you feel differently
From other people’s perspective, people planning is probably not a bad personality trait. On the contrary, they describe the affected individual as extremely helpful and as one who pays special attention to the needs of others i.e. a very selfless person. In its own right, selflessness is a noble personality trait because you rise beyond your individual needs to serve others.
For example, you can be a true friend without directly engaging in people pleasing. But, one thing does not rule out the other. You may be loved, valued and rated as uncomplicated by others, but at what price?
Your propensity to agree to everything, even though you neither have the time nor the inclination can lead to a world burdened with obligations. You are constantly driven by fear triggering a confrontation or conflict. You don’t forgive yourself for mistakes and strive for perfection that may go unappreciated.
Over time, you get yourself into a dangerous vortex of fear, inner conflict and dissatisfaction. At some point, you realize that you cannot cannot spend your whole life like this and all the suppressed needs, feelings and fears surface. People pleasing can, therefore, lead to dangerous consequences that are definitely not healthy for the mind and body.
Tips to overcome
To overcome or prevent the emotional burden associated with people pleasing:
Maintain your self-esteem
Try to consciously deal with what are important for you, but which you don’t do for others. You should take the time to reflect on yourself and to accept and pursue your needs. It is best to make a small list that you work through gradually.
No toxic environment!
You should look for an environment that encourages and supports you in developing your own identity and self-image. Avoid egomaniacs and narcissists who additionally emotionally suppress you. These people will continue to make you feel that your feelings are worth less than theirs.
Assume a new perspective
Sometimes it helps when you realize that the people around you are not the ones who oppressed you in childhood. They don’t get aggressive or irascible when you speak up and speak out about your needs. And if you do, you have the opportunity today to stand up for yourself.
Simply saying no is important to break out of emotional dependency. Such statements as:
let me think about it
I’ll get in touch with you later
give you time to carefully think about your options and give you the mental clarity to pursue those objectives that are important to you.
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