People-pleasing is often seen as a “complementary” or “passive” behaviour. It happens when one is overly ‘easy-going’ and tend to bend way over backwards for others. Most times, they might find themselves not having a stand of their own or might have lost their voice to their own needs over time.
At times, it might be taken as a positive, good-natured character that one is adaptable, sensible or even nice. And being nice is something that most individuals would like to be recognised as. However, it might also indicate deeper issues that might need to be addressed as it tends to be detrimental in the long run, especially in one’s identity self-esteem.
Here are some reasons of people-pleasing behaviours seen in individuals
Early Childhood Experiences or Conditioning
No one is born a pleaser to others – we all come into the world pleasing ourselves first!
People-pleasing behaviour is learned and most likely stemming from childhood conditioning, where individuals learn to prioritize others’ needs over their own from a young age in order to gain approval, validation, or love from authority figures such as parents, teachers, or caregivers. This conditioning can create a pattern of seeking external validation and avoiding conflict or disapproval.
Fear of Rejection or Abandonment
In line with seeking validation and love, the fear of rejection or abandonment can drive people-pleasing behaviour as individuals may feel a strong need to avoid conflict or disagreement to maintain relationships.
As we learn that we might get ‘abandoned’ for having our needs, when we recognise that ‘being too much’ equals to not being liked, we learn to adapt and mould ourselves to what might be acceptable to avoid being rejected. As we grow, we may go to great lengths to please others in order to avoid the possibility of being rejected or abandoned, even at the cost of our own well-being.
People with low esteem may engage in people-pleasing behaviours as a way to boost or complement their sense of self- by seeking validation or approval from others. They may believe that their own needs or desires are not as important as those of others, and therefore prioritize meeting others’ needs. In being nice, they might also link it to feeling loved and accepted.
The signs and effects of people pleasing can be troubling, affecting one’s relationship with self and others in the long run, and these include:
Loss of Authenticity in Self
When we please others, we often sacrifice our own authentic needs, desires, and opinions in order to gain approval from others, masking our needs instead. Over time, this can result in a loss of self-identity and a diminished sense of self-worth, as we constantly adapt our behaviour to meet expectations of others.
Difficulty Establishing Healthy Boundaries
People-pleasers often struggle with setting healthy boundaries as we may have a fear of saying “no” or disappointing others. Feelings of obligation are common, to comply with others’ requests in order to gain approval or avoid conflict. This can result in difficulties in asserting our own needs, leading to a lack of balance in relationships and a potential for being taken advantage of.
Paradoxically, people-pleasing behaviours can put a strain in relationships,, resulting from lack of authenticity, increased resentment, and imbalance in power dynamics. People-pleasers may attract individuals who take advantage of their willingness to please, leading to codependent or unhealthy relationships.
In addition, one often also tend to avoid conflict, not voicing out for fear of disagreements or differing opinions may lead to rejection or disapproval. They may choose to comply with others’ wishes or opinions, even if they disagree, in order to maintain harmony in relationships.
Pleasing others often mean they may over-extend themselves in terms of boundaries, be it in terms of time, energy, or resources, without taking into consideration their own limits. Added to that, one might also be pretty good a reading between lines. Constantly prioritizing others’ needs over our own can lead to emotional exhaustion.
They may struggle with feelings of overwhelm, stress, and burnout as they try to meet the often-unrealistic demands of others, bending way backwards for others – they may end up ignoring their own physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
It is important to be aware of these causes and effects in order to recognize and address people-pleasing behaviours for healthy psychological well-being.
Ways to Not Please Others Anymore
- Practice Self-Awareness
The first step in overcoming people-pleasing behaviour is to cultivate awareness in self. Reflect on behaviours, thoughts, and feelings that are not serving us, to understand why we engage in people-pleasing and how it affects our well-being.
It takes time and a lot of inner work to be self-aware – and it is really important to be kind to ourselves in this process.
- Learn to Say “No”
Practice setting healthy boundaries and saying “no” when appropriate. Prioritize your own needs and learn to decline requests that go against your own values, without feeling guilty or overly concerned about others’ reactions.
It is difficult initially, but it gets better and easier after a few tries – and practice makes progress!
- Develop Assertiveness Skills
Learn assertiveness skills, which involve expressing your needs, opinions, and boundaries in a respectful and confident manner. This can help you communicate effectively and assert your own needs without being overly passive or aggressive.
Speak your mind in spite of the thumping heartbeats. Hold your ground even when your feets feel shaky. Let yourself be seen.
- Validate Your Own Worth
Work on building your self-esteem from within, rather than relying solely on external validation. Recognize that your worth is not solely determined by others’ opinions of you, and learn to validate your own thoughts, feelings, and desires.
- Practice Self-Care
Make you and your self-care a priority in your life. Take care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being by setting aside time for self-care activities, such as exercise, rest, hobbies, and self-reflection. This can help you build self-worth and resilience.
- Seek Support
Consider seeking support from a therapist, coach, or trusted friend or family member who can provide encouragement, guidance, and accountability as you work on overcoming people-pleasing behaviour.
Remember that overcoming people-pleasing behaviour takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress along the way.
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