A people pleaser is someone who goes out of their way to provide satisfaction to others in exchange for feeling accepted, needed, safe and connected.
The attitude of a people pleaser is friendly and helpful, marked by the genuine desire to avoid friction and create harmony. The downside of such caring and amiable behavior is that it often invites others to disrespect the boundaries of the pleasing person, to control and patronize them, and to demand special treatment and obedience from the overly-nice person.
The reason why people pleasing qualifies as a problematic behavior is that it may hurt, restrict and frustrate its practitioner, suffocating their authenticity and preventing personal growth. Of course, being empathetic, being a good listener, and being a helping hand are all qualities that also evoke respect, affection and closeness.
Nevertheless, this article is going to focus on the negative impact of people pleasing on the person doing it – not with the purpose to ridicule it or condemn it, but with the desire to offer some changes in the behavior that would boost self-respect, confidence, and candour.
So, in a nutshell, here are 5 things to do less often in order to learn to be more assertive, authentic and respected – without necessarily appearing an ashole.
1. Don’t say YES if you don’t agree.
It is one thing to connect to people because you happen to share similar ideas and opinions. But when you adjust your own opinion so that it corresponds with that of another person, that is when you are damaging your true self by a lie.
The fear of being disliked for holding uncomfortable opinions is something you can fight with bringing yourself to stand up for your own truth – no matter whether that will result in dislike, exclusion or just lack of connection with the people around you. Remember: great relationships are built on being real, not on being nice.
2. Don’t try to fix others.
Taking responsibility for the bad mood or painful experiences of other people is not only too huge of a burden, but also unconstructive. When someone is grumpy, let them be grumpy. Be polite anyway. Show love and affection if you feel them. Ask questions, it’s fine. Be supportive. But, for the love of God, do not try to pull the other person out of their feeling because it is uncomfortable for you or because you need to be saving someone in order to feel useful in the contact.
Focus on yourself – how you feel that day, how do you feel around that person, what you genuinely want to ask them, etc. It’s good to listen – if you have the space and don’t feel used or overwhelmed. But leave everyone to experience whatever they are experiencing without playing an ambulance for them.
3. Don’t apologize for things you don’t regret.
Saying “I’m sorry” is an act of courage. If you really feel it and understand what your mistake was. You don’t need to be pleasant, helpful, nurturing or careful at all times. No one has to be. It is normal even for the finest human beings to do or say shitty things. The important thing here is to own up to your actions and words not to fake an apologetic attitude in order to appease the other person and shun their anger.
When you have done something you regret, a good point to start fixing it is to feel and express your true feeling about it. No sweetening. No exaggerating your guilt. Just the truth and your desire to grow through your mistake is enough. Don’t overdo the sorry part.
4. Don’t seek praise and approval.
When you are a people pleaser a lot of your energy is invested into finding new creative ways to win affection and approval. This need is born out from the desire to belong and fit in. If this desire is constructive, go along with it. It is good to be liked when you didn’t have to lie about your ideals and opinion, when you didn’t have to give more then you received, when you didn;t have to feel uncomfortable with any sign of displease.
If you need to be like, wanted, desired, approved and appreciated at all costs and with everyone – well, try to honestly find why your own sense of worth is so dependent on that outer validation. And when you find it, respect it. Treasure it as a sacred object because that is, after all, your own story and it belongs to you only. It’s your building material. It is only through accepting the hard truths about yourself that you can actually start growing and learning how to live your life without the need to impress and appease, and rescue anyone else but yourself.
5. Don’t suck it up to others.
People pleasers are really great at reading others and choosing the right words and attitude to cheer them up, praise them, and appease them. Of course, such endearing behavior attracts approval and liking, but is also ascribes superiority to other people. So it is no wonder when they start bossing you around, demanding explanations, holding you responsible and being outright mean to you.
Instead of trying to be unselfish and friendly at all times, try to be authentic. Focus on what you think and feel – which doesn’t need to be censored or trimmed so that it becomes more acceptable. Learn to express your own uncomfortable feelings, like annoyance, disapproval, being bored or being hurt. And remember that if you are straightforward and respectful, you might be surprised at how well people actually take who you really are.