Updated: Feb 16
People-pleasers were once caregiver-pleasers (some of us still are).⠀
Being a people-pleaser is an adaptive behavior. At the core is the attempt to achieve connection and closeness to a caretaker who is not consistently available. This may have looked like a caretaker who was warm and loving and the next moment distant or absent.
In order to maintain the connection, the child does all they can to "earn" love. If the caretaker crossed the line into neglect, abuse, or harsh punishments, pleasing and making sure not to make any waves was an attempt for the child to remain safe. ⠀
As adults, these behaviors continue and on some level, we find safety in pleasing others, not disappointing, seeking validation, and putting everyone's needs before our own. We seek love and connection with the belief that we have to "earn" it just as we did in our childhood.⠀
So, while there's a ton of resources on "How to stop being a people-pleaser" (the tone also sounds shameful and like we're pushovers) there's a huge part that isn't addressed: How these behaviors developed, their purpose, and other ways we can seek love and connection while still being in tune with our needs.⠀
Just like when we remodel a home, we have to take a look at the foundations and the things that are holding it together to figure out the best course of action.⠀
There’s no instant remedy to end people-pleasing. Instead, getting curious and understanding the roots and how it's currently playing out in our day-to-day will help.
When we people-please, we are actually negating a part of ourselves that we deem not enough or unacceptable. So we hide that part and try to overcompensate by filling that void.
Something I always teach my clients is to cultivate a healthy sense of caregiving; towards ourselves.
Healthy caregiving looks like acknowledging that you deserve the kindness and care you give to others.
Here are 3 things to consider which can help you work through your people-pleasing patterns:
1. People-pleasing can be ego-based. It's not inherently wrong, it's just your ego trying to protect you from potential pain like rejection.
For example, when somebody asks for a favor and you feel obligated to say yes even when it's inconvenient for you.
Could it be that you are trying to project an image of being a "nice" or "good" person? We all have an internal moral compass. We don't want the outside world to see us as unkind or bad, because that would somehow make us unlovable.
Discernment is key. Saying "no" doesn't always mean that you are being unkind. Learn to say "no." It's okay.
2. People-pleasing makes you resistant to genuine connections. First, it's hard to tell if they are in your life just for the convenience or benefits. Second, those who truly care about you want to see you.
So, show people that authentic you. The ones who are true to you will naturally stay. And those who are not genuine will fade away.
3. People-pleasing is like drinking a slow poison. When you are constantly saying yes even when you're dying to say no, bitterness starts to build up in your heart. You begin to feel exhausted in your interpersonal relationships and people don't even have the slightest idea. As far as they know, you are being nice and accommodating.
Think about the last two weeks in your life. Have you been unknowingly drinking a slow poison?
I hope these 3 perspectives help you explore and ease into your people-pleasing patterns.
If you are ready to dive deep into these principles, my course "Breaking the Cycle of Self-Betrayal" is officially open for enrollment!
This program is not a place where we beat ourselves up until we are forced to change our old ways. There's no room for shame and guilt. Every step of the journey is going to be healing as we learn to embrace our so-called flaws.
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change." ~~Carl Rogers
So whenever you catch yourself falling into your old patterns of people-pleasing, remind yourself that you accept who you are and that it’s safe to be you.
P.S. This is just one behavioral explanation, there are many ways in which we adapt and attempt to get our needs met by our caregivers. Also, did I mention my new program, Breaking the Cycle of Self-Betrayal, is now open for enrollment?
Check out the curriculum + testimonials + all the details here
We start on March 7th! See you inside!