People Pleasers & Approval Seekers
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.
Are You a People Pleaser?
People Pleasers and Approval Seekers.mp3
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 appreciated more.
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 resentful.
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.
The 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 techniques.
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