Are you a habitual people-pleaser? What exactly is a people-pleaser anyway and what do they do to warrant that label? Simply put, it’s someone who almost always puts the needs of others ahead of their own.
If you are, or even think that you’re a people-pleaser, it means that you generally will do whatever it takes to make other people happy, often at the expense of your own happiness. We should probably clarify that we’re not talking about the run-of-the-mill time-to-time people-pleaser, but are referring to the pathological people-pleaser.
Being a nice, easy-going kind and helpful person is of course a positive, not a negative trait, so someone who tries to keep the peace whenever possible or who doesn’t see the benefit of ruffling feathers, isn’t a compulsive people-pleaser. However, if a person goes so far as to always please others and this pathological need is making them feel emotionally drained and personally unhappy, its a problem.
Signs Someone May Be A people-pleaser
There are tell-tale signs that someone is a habitual people-pleaser and while not the whole list, the following signs are some key indicators of a pathological need to please — for example, a people-pleaser may:
- Stop what they’re doing, no matter what it is, just to “help” another person
- Be the support person for everyone else but themself
- Say yes to everyone and to every request, even when they’re tired or really don’t have the time
- Forgive and comfort others easily and without question, even if they have repeatedly hurt you
- Always try to keep the peace and not advocate for themself or their personal needs
- Apologize even when they’re not at fault, or when it’s not necessary
- Pretend that they’re not upset/put-out, even though they actually are
- Change or hide their true emotions to mirror someone else’s, even if it’s not how they really feel
- Agree with people or immediately concede their point, even if they don’t truly agree with them
- Feel uncomfortable if someone is curt or angry with them, even if that anger is completely unjustified
Some experts believe that obsessive people-pleasing may be associated with a personality trait known as sociotropy, in which a person feels a deep need to please others so they can earn and maintain approval and relationships. Unfortunately, by always pleasing others, the people-pleaser often suffers and experiences stress and anxiety at having to always feel happy, friendly, helpful and accommodating to the needs of other people.
Some ways to help stop being a full-time people-pleaser:
Learn to say no: We have to sometimes put our needs first, so that means we need to have the strength and determination to tell people “no” — no to the party, no to volunteering to bake cupcakes, no to covering for a co-worker. Try saying no in the mirror and find a way that you’re comfortable with, such as: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m really booked right now, so I’ll have to decline….”
Be firm and assertive: We have to understand that as people may be firm with us, we too have every right to be firm…yet polite…with others. Its perfectly okay to stand behind your decision to not volunteer, or to not put yourself out.
Don’t make excuses: This is two-fold. We don’t have to explain ourselves when we decline a request from a “friend” — there is no reason to have to justify why you’ve said no to helping them. Similarly, don’t make excuses for giving in — don’t vacillate and think “well…maybe I should say yes this one last time…”
Don’t feel pressured to give an answer immediately: If someone asks you to do something or is pressuring you to agree with them, its okay to tell them you need time to think about it. We’re being conditioned today to have to give an answer immediately and that’s just not always feasible.
Stick to your values: Its okay to help people, but if something just doesn’t feel right or it goes against your personal core values, who can fault you for declining? Of course, its always good to remain polite and calm, so refusing to do something because of personal values should always be done with tact.
Have time limits in mind: If you really do like to help and do things for other people, which is only natural, have an idea of how long you can commit. If all you can give is an hour, say so up front.
Work on self-esteem: Pathological people pleasing is a negative and as experts say, there is usually a reason people fall into the trap of perpetual “yes” mode. Find ways to build up self-esteem and realize that we all have every right to sometimes put our needs first.
Get professional help: This is always an important consideration and anyone who feels they need a professional to help guide them on this matter, should always seek out a qualified and reputable professional to help.
Being kind, wanting peace and harmony and helping others is perfectly normal and to be frank, the right thing to do. But if we find ourselves trying to please others for the sole reason that we want and need approval and acceptance, its not a good thing. If we try so hard to always say yes and always make others happy, we do so at the expense of our own peace and happiness — and that will always catch up to us. If people won’t accept us for who we are, then do we really want them in our lives anyway? Do good to genuinely help people, not to feel better about ourselves. People-pleasing is a negative habit and trait and is one we should strive to remedy as soon as is possible.