What’s Wrong with Being a People Pleaser?

What’s Wrong with Being a People Pleaser?

If you’re anything like me, you probably heard and identified deeply with the description of people-pleasers, and maybe those descriptions came with some negative connotations. But your goal is to make people happy, right? You love doing everything in your power to make sure the people around you are in a good mood and can see your value. If that’s all there is to it, what’s wrong with being a people pleaser? The answer is, unfortunately, kind of a lot.

Understanding People Pleasing

At their core, people pleasers aim to make everyone else around them happy, even at their own expense. That means that, yes, you’re always around to offer a helping hand when someone needs it. But it also means, for instance, that you’ll wash the dishes at a friend’s house even if you’re recovering from an injury. Or maybe you’ll agree to walk your mom’s dog every morning even if it means you’ll have to wake up two hours earlier to still make it to work on time. And of course you’ll do that, because you want to make sure your boss knows you’re on time every day, right? 

Does just thinking about all these things make you anxious?

As you reflect on any actions you take to please others, also consider the negative effects those decisions have on you. As you think about that, are you noticing any resistant thoughts? Something like, “Well sure, but I’m happy to do it, so who cares whether I have to change my schedule or go a little slower to make sure I don’t hurt myself?”

Before we go into why that is an illogical way of looking at things, here are some other signs you might be a people pleaser:

  • You struggle to set boundaries
  • You feel selfish when you express your needs
  • You don’t speak up when someone hurts you
  • You have a hard time saying no, even when you want to
  • You fear that you’ll be rejected if you express your desires
  • You avoid doing anything that may result in conflict
  • You feel frustrated that you don’t have time for yourself
  • You often feel like others are taking advantage of you

How Being a People Pleaser Affects Relationships

Ultimately, going out of your way to do nice things for other people at the detriment of your physical or mental well-being isn’t great for you, but that logic might not work for your brain that learned to put others first. Instead, let’s look at how people pleasing behaviors are bad for the people around you.

1. Too much self-sacrifice hurts relationships

You may feel resentment build up slowly over time toward the people you love because you find yourself doing everything for them. Even if you don’t, your friends may offer to help you from time to time and you turn them down. Not letting them reciprocate good deeds or hard work can exacerbate those feelings of resentment, and it also keeps your loved ones from having agency in their relationship with you. 

2. When you suffer, your relationships suffer

Let’s go back to the examples above. You’re recovering from surgery and you offer to take over dishes at your friend’s house after a dinner together. You go slowly and carefully so you don’t hurt yourself, but that doesn’t stop all of the pain. You’re a little sore on the way home. You go to bed extra early since you agreed to walk your mom’s dog. When you wake up, you’re still sore from last night, and now you have a 20-minute walk to look forward to. After work that night, you are completely burnt out and you have to cancel your mom’s dog walks for the rest of the week. This disappoints your mom, and you beat yourself up for not being strong enough to power through everything. Or worse, you realize you don’t cancel and burn yourself out even more.

You cannot go like that forever. At some point, you will exhaust yourself and cancel all of your plans with everyone just so you can recuperate. On the other hand, if you had a better idea of your own needs, energy levels, and abilities, you would be able to do more and please your loved ones just by being present.

3. You miss out on honest, vulnerable relationships

Being a people pleaser means you do everything in your power to avoid upsetting your loved ones. You also avoid having hard conversations. On paper, that might sound like a good thing. But there is power in being honest with someone and admitting your fault or letting them know they hurt you. It’s uncomfortable to talk about these things. But when you come out to the other side of the conversation and you realize that they still value you, you both become closer and more confident within the relationship. 

Without being able to have these conversations, you can’t grow closer to people. You might notice that you feel like all of your relationships are held at arm’s length. If that’s the case, you may not be willing enough to open up with them, or even say “no” to things. 

How to Combat Being a People Pleaser

So we’re now in agreement that being a people pleaser isn’t necessarily a good thing, but how do you stop? It’s easier said than done for sure, but there are some ways you can start:

  • When someone asks you for a favor, tell them you’ll need to make sure you have time to do it. This can be a great way to ease into turning people down. It’s not a “no,” but it gives you the opportunity to pause and decide if you actually have the energy to say “yes”. If it turns out you can’t, a quick text that says, “Hey, I don’t think I’ll have time next week. Sorry!” is totally fine.
  • Come up with alternative solutions. If you can’t bring yourself to say “no,” suggest rescheduling to a week when you will have more time. You can also suggest another person who might be able to take the task on. 
  • If someone hurts you, express it. You don’t have to start telling people right away, but expressing your hurt somehow will help you settle into being allowed to be hurt. Vent to an unrelated friend, journal about it, or write a letter to the person who hurt you. Ultimately, you will have to transition to being honest with people, but this is a good first step toward that.
  • Schedule regular check-ins. Sometimes the pressure of having to speak up or say no can make you clam up. If you and your partner or friend have a specific time to have a conversation about your needs, desires, and expectations, it can take some of the pressure off. Do something fun together afterward to reaffirm the relationship, especially if the conversation was more difficult than expected.
  • Be honest about your tendencies. Let your friends know that you tend to over-exert yourself for the sake of keeping people happy. You might be surprised to find that they will happily decrease their requests and offer to help you out more.

Consider Talking to Someone

Seeing a therapist is a great way to start practicing being more assertive. A therapist is trained to make you feel comfortable being honest and direct with them. You might find that after a few sessions, you’re easily able to tell them if they don’t quite hit the nail on the head, if they say something hurtful by accident, or if you need to cancel. 

If that sounds like something that could help, Modern Era Counseling has therapists with openings as soon as next week. Give us a call or shoot us an email to learn more and schedule your first appointment!

Close Menu