Do you feel happy and gratified by people’s responses to your efforts, or do you feel angry, exhausted, and drained because of the constant pressure to continue this behavior? Do you worry that people will be disappointed in you if you quit this behavior and stop doing for others? Are you afraid that people won’t appreciate you unless you continue pleasing them? Or worse, that they’ll have no use for you if you change your behavior?
Most of us have learned that helping others at certain times is a good thing. Everyone benefits: Someone feels good because of something you did for them, and you feel good because you made them happy.
That’s the way it should work. Of course, there are those you care more about, and most likely, you want to do more for them than for others. That makes perfect sense, since those are the people you feel closest to, and you are more invested in their life and what happens to them than the average person you meet and engage with in the course of daily life.
Sometimes, doing good for others gets out of hand, and you find yourself spending too much time trying to please others. How and why does this happen?.
1. How did becoming a people pleaser happen in the first place?
It likely developed slowly over time; you probably can’t remember when it began. But chances are, pleasing others was a behavior that was rewarded. You probably received attention and praise from others, maybe beginning with your family, when you did something caring and kind for others: What a nice thing. How good of you to do it. What a considerate person you are. Perhaps you were hailed as mature beyond your years for understanding what doing for others really meant. Perhaps you often heard, “Do unto others what you would have others do unto you.”
2. Are you afraid of not living up to other’s expectations?
After years of people pleasing, maybe you believe that people have come to expect it of you—and you’d be right. After years of receiving from you, people may very well expect that you will continue to be available, willing, and able to treat them in the way you always have—a way they believe they deserve. In fact, you may disappoint them if you treat them differently than they’ve become accustomed to. When people are disappointed in you, that may affect your self-esteem.
3. What do you get out of people pleasing that keeps you doing it?
This goes beyond why you became a people pleaser; this has to do with identity. Perhaps you’ve come to like the idea that people think of you in a certain way. People pleasing may be tied to being the “go-to” person, the one people can always rely on. Maybe people see you as the “fixer,” someone who gets the job done and makes the situation right. Maybe people see you as someone who can accomplish big things, “the host/hostess with the most/est,” creating pleasing situations designed to make people feel comfortable and good. Forget about what it takes in time and energy to pull this off.