A People Pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.” You can always count on them for a favor. In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends. So far this sounds like a good thing. Unfortunately, it can be an extremely unhealthy pattern of behavior.
Why am I a People Pleaser? Typically, the intense need to please and care for others is deeply rooted in either a fear of rejection and/or fear of failure. Fear of Rejection is the underlying feeling that, “If I don’t do everything I can to make this person happy they might leave or stop caring for me.” Fear of Rejection can come from early relationships in which love was conditional or in which you were rejected/abandoned by an important person in your life (parent left or was emotionally unavailable or inconsistently available).
Fear of Failure is the underlying feeling that “If I make a mistake, I will disappoint people and/or be punished.” Fear of failure can arise from early experiences with severe punishment for even small mistakes. People who had highly critical parents may develop a people-pleasing pattern. Early experiences with harsh criticism or punishment can lead to significant anxiety upon attempting a task. Even though the parent or other important person in your life who doled out the criticism may no longer be in your life, anxiety is an emotion that can live on for a very long time. To deal with that anxiety, we do everything we can to get things right, finish the job, and make sure everybody is happy.
Regardless of the origins, consistently putting others needs above your own can develop into the following 5 pretty bad consequences.
- Neglect self
People Pleasers devote very little time to taking care of their own health. Their efforts towards taking care of others usurps time they need to be active, de-stress, plan healthy meals, etc. As a result they may be more prone to health problems. If you are a People Pleaser your heart is in the right place. Wanting to take care of others is not a bad thing and if more people had a little bit of what you have, the world would be a better place. However, you cannot do this at the expense of yourself. A balance is needed. Consider that taking care of yourself makes you better equipped to take care of others by giving you the energy and vitality to do it even better than you are now. Imagine you are driving a Red Cross truck delivering food and water to hurricane victims. If you are in such a hurry to get to every single victim that you don’t stop once in a while to refuel the truck, eventually you will be stalled on the side of the road helping no one. Think of the time you put into exercise, de-stressing, and eating healthy as your fuel stops.
- Passive aggression and/or resentment
Over time, people pleasers are likely to find themselves silently angry at the people in their lifes. Their desire to be kind will suppress that anger but unexpressed anger often turns into passive aggression. We are being passive aggressive when we make sharp comments, crack sarcastic jokes, or make subtle actions that let a little of our negative feelings seep out (e.g., doing the favor but in a half-assed fashion). Making matters worse, mounting resentment is the biggest destroyer of relationships. Communicating your feelings is the only way to avoid resentment, although it requires taking the risk that the other person might not be happy to hear that you are upset or they may not take responsibility for what has upset you. The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you spoke up for yourself. Speaking up also puts people on notice that they will be informed when they have done something that has upset you. This alone can make people tread more lightly.
- Reduces ability to enjoy other people and activities
People pleasers have so much on their plate, that they are constantly thinking of all the things they need to get done that it takes away from their ability to enjoy the game. But we need to acknowledge that people around us pick up on our lack of enthusiasm. Our level of engagement in an activity or a person is impossible to hide. What message do we send our loved ones by being present but disengaged? Being present but disengaged is not better than being absent. By doing less things for other people and recharging yourself in the interim, you would get more enjoyment from the activities you engage in.
- Stress andDepression
The definition of stress is having more demands than you can handle. People Pleasing can turn into a vicious cycle of chronic stress and unhealthy behaviors. If you have the constant feeling like you are too busy and doing everything for everyone else but yourself, you might be stuck in this cycle. Stress and depression can be medicated but that won’t break the cycle. If pulling out of the cycle seems overwhelming, identify one small place you can start. Identify one responsibility you have taken on that you can cancel to free up some time for yourself. Work from there. Find one person in your life to share your plan with and ask them to help you implement it.
- Be taken advantage of
By always saying yes to requests for favors, people may begin to take advantage of your kindness by asking for more than is reasonable. Even worse, you may become the target of exploitive people because they will quickly see that you can’t say no and take as much as they can from you. Even people who are generally not exploitive may take advantage because they don’t realize that you are overtaxing yourself and have difficulty understanding where your boundaries are because you have set none. Either way, requests from other people will become overwhelming. We teach people how to treat us by the behavior we accept or reject from them. If someone takes advantage of you, it is only their fault once. After that it is your fault for not teaching them different. Teaching different means setting boundaries about what you can and cannot do, and what you will and will not accept. Once you have established this, sticking to it is important. The other challenge is that if everyone is used to you saying yes, they may feel disappointed or angry when you begin to say no. It is extremely important to ignore feelings of guilt. You deserve to take care of yourself, it is nothing to ever feel guilty about. Keep reminding yourself of the Red Cross Truck.
The text is based on an article from Psychology Today