It’s true, I would much rather interact with a people pleaser than I would the opposite. If we are honest, most of us prefer engaging with pleasant, friendly people who go the extra mile to accommodate or help you. However, for the people pleaser, it’s not that great being trapped in the Teflon mould that encases them.
Why is it a Teflon case?
People pleasers tend to be impermeable to receiving help or allowing themselves to be cared for. As shiny and lovely as people pleasers look on the outside, there is a shadow side to them.
They only feel loved and appreciated when needed. They may only be attracted to friends and significant others who are needy, unfulfilled and in need of saving. They unconsciously create situations where they will be called upon to rescue, make right or be wanted. Their self-esteem is linked to their dependence on external affirmation. They can feel empty, lonely or isolated when not helping or taking on a helpful role.
None of us are perfect in life.
A fundamental in my approach to therapy is that we need to have compassion and kindness for ourselves in our life journey and discoveries. We need to have that same compassion and empathy for others in their journey. Reading this, you may recognize yourself or someone close to you. Knowing and understanding why, can go a long way to generating that kindness and understanding.
Why do people become people pleasers?
We are human, our innate need is to form a connection. Connection is a primal way of ensuring our safety and well-being. As children, we seek to please our caregivers, our very life depends on them for our love, validation and safety. If these needs aren’t met in our formative years, we carry with us a compulsion to find and form these primal connections. We continue to form these bonds with lovers, colleagues and extended family. Pleasing others, making sure we are needed seems a perfect way to form these type of bonds. To please others can be immensely joyful, warm, wonderful, and fuzzy. Doing it as a compulsion, with an inability to set limits, however. is when it becomes problematic.
What can go wrong for people pleasers?
Because their needs and desires are not being truly met, the people pleaser may suffer from the following :
Unrequited needs and desires
They are always last in the pecking order because they appear not to make demands and they find it difficult to ask for and accept help.
They may internalize their anger, which could result in unexpected and inappropriate outbursts such as road rage.
Passive aggressive behaviour
The constant need to please others means that the people pleaser is often conflict avoidant and fearful of asserting themselves. For example, the people pleaser may unconsciously forget to run an important error for their partner.
A belief that others are responsible for their happiness. This is because they are dependent on others to provide happiness. A people pleaser may look to form relationships outside of marriage as a way of seeking validation.
A lack of personal identity
The lack of personal identity may originate from the people pleaser absorbing the needs or identities of others around them. Typically, they are exceptionally attuned to the behaviour of others. In so doing, the people pleaser does not have a clear identity of their own because s/he is an amalgamation of whomever they are trying to please.
Being a people pleaser can also have a negative effect on creativity. Creativity tends to be stifled when the individual does not have free rein over their identity and imagination.
What can one do to free oneself from excessive people pleasing?
Recognize if you had a difficult or remote relationship with your primary caregivers. You may unconsciously be trying to recreate and make right these formative relationships in an inappropriate way in adulthood.
Start exploring your personal identity outside of others. Focus on hobbies or interests that you, not others, are drawn to. Pursue them for your reward only. You will be surprised at the flow in your creativity!
Become aware of sourcing your happiness from being needed. It can put a great deal of pressure on the people close to you.
If someone offers to help you, accept. It may be difficult at first but bear in mind that they may be wanting to form a healthy bond with you. Accepting help once makes it easier to accept help the next time.
Don’t stop being a lovely human being, as I said at the start of this article, a people pleaser is infinitely more preferable to its opposite. But do put up some boundaries and ensure that you allow your tank to be filled and your needs are met. Allow for reciprocity in your life and leave space for others to give back.