Are you a people pleaser?
Mary says “yes” to everyone.
She is loved and appreciated by her friends and family. After all, she is always willing to do whatever others ask of her. Indeed, Mary is described by everyone as kind and generous---to a fault.
The problem: sometimes Mary doesn’t really want to be so accommodating. She often feels resentful that other people aren’t as helpful as she is. Why won’t others offer to help her? And sometimes she wishes that her friends wouldn’t ask so much of her. Can’t they see that she is overwhelmed? She wonders if they would like her as much if she said no every once in a while.
Mary is a classic “people pleaser.” Sound familiar?
Some adults and children seek the approval of others. They need to be liked and appreciated by almost everyone. They want to “please” other people, and very often put their needs and themselves at the end of the line.
This is an unhealthy business. An adult can develop a chronic state of resentment towards others. Resentment is bad for your health and wellbeing! It is like having water in your gas tank--everything will become rusted and fouled.
How does this develop? Some of this can be learned behavior. Children observe a people pleasing parent and model themselves after that adult. In other situations, children come to feel that the only way they can obtain approval from parents is by pleasing them--getting good grades, always doing the “right” thing, and always being “a good camper." Needless to say, these behaviors do result in gaining approval.
Children, who grow up in dysfunctional families, with an alcoholic parent, can become what psychologists call “parentified.” That is, they start acting like responsible adults by age 8, taking care of their parents and siblings, because no else is functioning as a parent.
The same thing can happen when a parent is ill, or when one parent dies. One of the kids steps up to take care of younger siblings. Somehow in the absence of a parent, a child takes over the job.
People pleasing can also be in response to low self-esteem. A child or adult who doesn’t feel worthwhile adopts this pattern of behavior as a way of avoiding rejection. They feel that they have to live up to the expectations of others in order to be worthwhile. Of course, this often results in many bad choices.
So how does an adult s reverse this tendency? The first step is to become aware of your true feelings. Do you really want to make this offer? Do you really want to help your friend? Identifying your true feelings is the beginning of making decisions and choices based on your real desires. The second step is to notice when you offer to do something that you really don’t want to do. What happened? Were you aware of your feelings or were your on automatic “people pleasing” pilot? Is it possible to change your mind? Awareness of your self is the key to changing this maladaptive pattern of behavior.
Here are some more practical suggestions:
- Remember, you are not in this world to live up to everyone else’s expectations! Wow! Is that really true? Yes it is! You were not born with a sign on your forehead that reads, “I am in this world to live up to your expectations”.
- Thinking about your needs does not mean you are selfish! You should be just as concerned about your needs as you are about everyone else’s—no more and no less. This puts you on the same playing field as others.
- When you say no, don’t expect to hear a brass band play in celebration.When you start to say no to others, you may receive some flak. Some of your friends and family may have become used to you doing their bidding. They may wonder—“What happened to Sally? She used to be so nice!” Remember, you are trying to get out of the “looking for approval everywhere” market.
- Be honest with yourself. Be honest with others. Recognizing your own needs enables you to give of yourself when you want to, not because you feel that you have to.
- Change takes a long time. It took a long time to become a people pleaser. I will take a long time to change this habit. But, you can do it!
Share your experiences!