New Insights: Being a People Pleaser

Be honest. Are you a people pleaser?

There’s no reason to be shy in owning up to this practice as you would be one among very many.

And as we all know people pleasers are just the nicest of people. They will go out of their way to help – or meet what they perceive to be the demands or requirements – of others and to say what they think others would like to hear.

Viewed from the perspective of those whom they seek to please, nothing seems like too much trouble for them.

So people pleasers are good for the world and we need more of them, surely?

Actually, ‘No’!

“I can’t tell you the key to success but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
~ Ed Sheeran


It may, on the face of it, seem counterintuitive, but people who spend their energy trying to please others, are in fact contributing negatively to society.

That may seem very harsh, directed as it is at such apparently friendly, caring and self sacrificing people, but hear me out.

Self neglect

At the heart of the problem with people pleasers is self-neglect.

The greatest and most effective contributors to our world are those who know their purpose in life and are fully aligned with it.

These are also the happiest and most fulfilled individuals as they live authentic lives, doing what they love and doing it to the best of their ability. In carrying out the purpose for which they are here, they are guided by their inner beings.

These contributors know full well that to give of their best they must live at their best. Or in other words, they must, first and foremost, take care of their own physical, mental and spiritual health.

You shrink as a person

People pleasers see things differently.

Because they are externally driven, by the apparent needs and wants of others, they tend to ignore their own inner voices or allow those voices to be drowned out by what they see as the needs and expectations of those around them. In other words, others take priority!

When you continually prioritise other people and their needs such that you neglect yourself and your own needs, you shrink as a person. Ongoing self-neglect will eventually manifest in exhaustion, poor health, disillusionment, frustration, resentment … and even anger. All of these diminish your capacity to give back.

As a people pleaser, you may derive some satisfaction from appearing to be a selfless individual. However, as difficult as it may sound, by consistently neglecting your own inner being you steadily erode your capability to make a positive contribution to this world.

In fact, the long-term effects of your self-neglect, may well render you a liability!

The cause of people pleasing

What is it that causes people to take a ‘people pleaser’ approach to life?

For one thing, we are conditioned by society to believe that everything we need in life can be found ‘on the outside’.

As I have written many times before in this Blog, we are taught from an early age to associate success with the degree to which we are able to amass material things, rather than the degree to which we feel genuinely happy.

The expectations of our external world weigh heavily upon us as we assimilate into adult working life. We can easily come to see the pursuit of success as something of a marathon battle to prove our worth in the world.

Unfortunately, there are two generic approaches that people often take in order to survive this perceived ‘battle’: ‘Take no prisoners’ or ‘Be everyone’s friend’.

People pleasers survive by trying to be wanted or needed by those whom they interact with.

They are guided by what they ’should do’ and ‘ought to do’ based on their perceptions of the expectations of others. They become disconnected from their inner beings and will readily ignore or override their intuitive selves to serve what they see as the needs of others.

Fear as a motive

Perhaps rather surprisingly, fear provides another unfortunate reason for the development of a ‘people pleaser’ approach to life.

Experience of rejection, abandonment or constant criticism early in life, or in an important early relationship, can result in one ascribing the resulting negative emotions to the fact that one has disappointed others.

Thus in order to enjoy a relatively stress free life, it becomes essential to ensure that everyone around you is kept happy.

Once again we see that people pleasing is adopted as survival strategy. In truth though, living for others and neglecting your own needs is a slow poison, that will gradually eat away at your very core.

What can be done?

At this point you may be thinking “OK, so what can be done to assist people pleasers?”

The answer lies in helping them to recognise that they are giving their power away by not living authentically.

Life coaching can be incredibly useful in helping people to take back control of their lives by re-thinking and re-structuring their relationships with their outside worlds.

A great question I love to ask people pleasers who want to change, is this:

“Do you want to be liked by others because you are nice to them … or would you rather be respected by others for the unique and authentic contribution you make to the world?”

Put yourself first

You put yourself first when you prioritise acting on your inner voice instead of reacting to all the ‘should dos’ and ‘ought to dos’ of your external world.

Putting yourself first is not selfish. On the contrary, it is a fundamental requirement for being the best person you can be.

And only by being the best you can be will you truly maximise what you give back to the world.

A genuine capacity for kindness to others starts with a genuine capacity to be kind to yourself!

New Insights – bringing Freedom, Confidence and Growth to people from all walks of life!

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