People – Pleasing
How the need to please others is actually ruining your relationships
As adults, we are often acting out damaging messages we received in childhood without even realizing what is driving our behavior. One of these common behavior patterns is people-pleasing. It might be difficult to spot, because on the surface it looks like being agreeable, helpful, and available. Things we are taught are good, and traits we might use to describe a ‘nice person.’
But look a little deeper, and you might find an unhealthy pattern of ignoring and denying your own feelings and needs out of fear. If you are afraid of how others will perceive you, or afraid of what will happen if you say ‘no’ or disappoint someone, you might do whatever it takes to try to please them. People-pleasing is a way to try to control others and how they see you. This becomes damaging when it prevents you from being authentic and acknowledging your own needs.
From this article in Psychology Today, here are 10 signs of People-Pleasing behavior:
- You pretend to agree with others
- You feel responsible for other people’s feelings
- You apologize often and unnecessarily
- You feel burdened by commitments
- You are unable to say ‘no’
- You feel uncomfortable if someone is upset with you
- You change your behavior to be more aligned with those around you
- You need validation from others
- You avoid conflict at all costs
- You do not admit when you are hurt by someone
Over time, if we repeatedly ignore our own feelings and needs by focusing on what we think other people want from us, we can end up feeling resentful, used, unfulfilled, and emotionally depleted in relationships. People-pleasing involves some level of dishonesty, because we are not being open and authentic about our own needs. We will end up feeling disconnected, and our relationships will remain superficial because we are not connecting in an honest way.
To develop healthier, more authentic connections with others, we must work on becoming more aware of our own needs. This involves slowing down our reactions and acknowledging how we actually feel about things, instead of automatically agreeing. We can then begin to believe our feelings are valid and we are safe in expressing our needs to others, which allows us to hold healthier boundaries and make decisions based on what is best for ourselves.
Because a pattern of behavior like people-pleasing takes time to develop, the process of ‘un-learning’ it takes time as well. This process is often best navigated with the help of a Licensed Mental Health Professional who can provide guidance and support.
Laura Gross, LMSW
Marsh Psychology Group