People Pleasers & Approval Seekers
Are you a people pleaser? Take this quiz and find out!
What is people pleasing?
So you think you're just a really nice person who does things for others and makes them feel happy?
That doesn’t sound all that bad. On the surface, this is what people pleasing looks like. When we scratch beneath the surface, it is actually a much more destructive pattern involving the way we think, feel and behave in our interactions with others.[continued below]
Why do we do it?
We do it for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes we do it to feel a sense of control over our environment.
Other times, we're trying to get love or approval from someone. We often
do it to avoid conflict or uncomfortable feelings. The underlying
belief seems to be that if we just play nice, we can keep ourselves
safe: people will love us, help us, approve of us, be kind to us, be
there for us when we need them; and at the same time, we can feel useful
and see ourselves as "good" people.
Let’s say that someone is people pleasing to avoid conflict.
They might try to anticipate the needs of another before a problem
surfaces. Many times, this person is running around trying to do nice
things, maybe keeping the house spotless, maybe even denying their own
preferences to make a partner or friend happy, e.g. “I don’t care what
we do tonight, whatever you want to do.” Little by little a person can
feel like they are losing themselves. They are so focused on the other
person that they stop hearing what is important or necessary for making
their own lives healthy and enjoyable. They start going through the
motions. This pattern of behavior can leave a person feeling fatigued,
resentful, empty and depressed.
Perhaps a person is people pleasing as a way of maintaining control.
An example of this might be when a person has a significant other that
they would like to keep healthy. The people pleaser might go out of
their way to go shopping and buy specific ingredients and even cook all
of the meals to be nice... and to ensure that their loved one eats
healthily. If the loved one is not ready to abide by this kind of diet,
they might feel irritable or resentful that their meals are all taken
care of for them. They may feel like they are being controlled.
Meanwhile, the people pleaser may believe that they are acting from good
will, and that with all they do for their partner, they should be
Many people pleasers don’t know how to say “no.”
There are many reasons why people pleasers do this. One powerful reason
is that they want to gain or keep approval or love of their friends,
partner, boss, etc. To illustrate this point, imagine that someone has a
great truck with a nice big flat bed. It’s excellent for moving stuff.
People will come to know the owner of this great truck and have a need
for things to be moved. It’s a Sunday afternoon and they might want to
sit back and relax at home with a cool drink and some great show on TV.
Unfortunately, the phone rings and they answer and within a moment find
themselves saying “yes” to a request to help a good friend move out of
their apartment. They’d hate for the person to be upset or displeased
with them. They want to be known as a nice person. Unfortunately, the
inability to say no and protect their own boundaries starts to weigh on
them. They end up feeling used, underappreciated, fatigued, and even
As you can see, people pleasing has some hidden costs,
often leading us to feel insecure, resentful, angry, anxious, depressed
-- and ironically it can also damage the very relationships that we're
working so hard to maintain. But how can this be the case? We falsely
believe that people pleasing is a foolproof equation. Being nice and
helpful equals receiving great treatment from others and happiness for
ourselves. The reality is that people will not always respond in
predictable and reciprocating ways, and one way or another we will find
ourselves disappointed. When our efforts to please don’t produce the
results we were hoping for, we find ourselves feeling many of the
unpleasant feelings we were trying to avoid in the first place. If that
weren’t bad enough, we also can end up blaming ourselves for the poor
treatment that we're receiving. We might think that we simply weren’t
pleasing enough or good enough to get the results we were looking for.
This way of thinking can perpetuate the people pleasing behavior and the
negative feelings and beliefs that go along with it.
good news is that although breaking free of this destructive behavior
takes some work, it is absolutely life-giving to begin to listen to
yourself again. You can learn new ways to think about and empower
yourself and your relationships. You can become stronger, healthier and
more excited about your life. And... the kicker... people will often
respect you for it!
I invite you to get in touch for a free consultation
about overcoming people pleasing. A consultation will
provide an opportunity for us to discuss what you're looking for and how
I can be helpful to you. You'll have a chance to ask me any questions
you might have, and
together we'll decide if we seem like a good fit for us to work
together. If you are interested in coaching for people pleasers, the
consultation will provide a hands-on introduction to coaching
94 King Street, Northampton, MA | 413.695.6818
Jill Rubin, LICSW
Helping you live the life you desire, through relationship coaching, and psychotherapy.
Book a free consultation
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