Being nice and kind is good but being a people pleaser is bad for your mental health. A person who puts everyone else’s happiness above their own usually has poor self-esteem and low confidence. Some may say they do it because it makes them happy to see others happy; this is rarely the case, though, and usually, it is done to hide insecurities and the need for people to like you.
I used to be a people pleaser, and I wouldn’t say boo to a goose for fear of upsetting anyone as I didn’t want people to be angry at me or dislike me. However, in doing this, I ended up in some bad relationships because I could not deal with confrontation, so I became a doormat.
Nowadays, I don’t people please, I take my mental health seriously, and if truth be told, the older I have become, the more self-assured I am in my opinions and abilities.
Signs You Are a People Pleaser
There are quite a few signs that you are a people pleaser, and as I was writing these, I was wincing at how I used to be. You may find yourself doing the same thing, but don’t worry; you can learn to say no and be good to yourself.
- You say yes to things you don’t want to do
- Your self-esteem and confidence is low
- When someone says something, you agree even if you don’t believe it
- You are always apologising even if it wasn’t your fault
- You want everyone to like you; the thought of people disliking you fills you with horror
- If someone is upset, you think somehow or other you caused it, even if you don’t know them
- If someone gets upset with you, your whole being is on edge
- You find it difficult to say no because you don’t want to upset them
- Because you have said yes to so many things, you feel stressed about the workload
- You laugh at unfunny things because others are laughing at it
- You are never quite sure how you feel, as you are a chameleon and adapt quickly to other peoples emotions and mirror them.
- You will even sabotage yourself to fit in with the crowd.
- Your acting skills are excellent as you pretend to be interested in things you find dull.
- You give things away, even secrets, to be liked.
- Praise makes you feel special and boosts your confidence (not unusual in itself, but when combined with other signs, it could point to people-pleasing.)
- You find it difficult to have an opinion on anything until you know what other people think.
- All your spare time is taken up with doing activities for other people.
- You would rather drink rotten eggs than be involved in a conflict.
- If someone hurts your feelings, you won’t tell them in case they get upset.
Did you wince? Not to worry, there are ways to achieve more extraordinary things by being more assertive and taking control of your life.
To get to the bottom of why you people please, you need to understand why you do it and the effects it ultimately has on you, then you can move forward and begin to learn to say no.
The Effects of Being a Pleaser
As I said before, I was a people pleaser, and it put so much strain on me that it led to a breakdown. I was constantly trying to be everything to everyone and not being honest with myself. I would take on extra work because I didn’t want to upset my boss; I took on the majority of responsibilities at home, I said yes to friends to go out; in fact, I had no time to think or relax and eventually, I broke.
The thing is, you end up becoming frustrated and resentful because nobody seems to care about you; all they care about is what you can do for them. However, this is a burden of your own making, it is what people have come to expect, and because you won’t like sharing your feelings, nobody will ever know you don’t like it.
In some cases, you can lose relationships over it as you cannot be a chameleon to everyone; someone will spot what you’re doing and then lose trust in you.
Not only that, some people will take advantage of you, knowing full well you can’t say no. They may ask for money and promise to pay it back, but they don’t, and because you don’t like conflict, you won’t ask for it back.
I also used to lie so that I didn’t hurt peoples feelings and then have to deal with someone else’s emotions. They weren’t bad lies, more half-truths, but it made me unreliable, and those closest to me knew I was doing this, and they still became upset. I would have been better off being honest in the first place.
Why Do You Do It
I know I did it because I feared rejection; this stemmed from my parent’s divorce; admittedly, I only found this out through therapy.
Your reasons could be similar, or they could be based on a past traumatic event, whereby it was safer for you to agree and you have learned this behaviour works to a certain extent.
Or you could have self-esteem issues stemming from childhood where you were not given enough praise or kindness when you did something well, or you were chastised for telling the truth.
If your parents showed love only when you made them happy, then it is safe to assume you would go out of your way to make them happy and thus carried this forward to adulthood.
But there are many underlying reasons; these are just a few of what could be causing your people pleasing.
How to Stop Being a Pleaser
Stop answering immediately; I’ve learned to say to people, “I’ll get back to you on that one.” This gives you breathing space and allows you to weigh up the pros and cons of the request.
You can still be kind, but for the right reasons. Choose to be kind to someone because that is what you want to do, not because you want or need anything from them.
Learn to say no to the small things first, the things people won’t mind being told no to, such as saying no to going out somewhere or no to a WhatsApp group meeting.
Delay, delay, delay, much like the stop answering immediately, pause for a moment and think about it. Conversations have lots of pauses naturally; people won’t be upset if you think about things; if you’re still unsure, get back to them.
Put yourself first; if you are stressed and heading towards burnout, you are no help to yourself or anyone. You need to look after yourself and take time out for some self-care.
Avoid using the word can’t, as people will question why you can’t. Choose the word don’t, such as I don’t want to do that or I don’t want to be involved. If you say you can’t, it opens up a can of worms.
Boundaries need to be sought out and discovered. What is it that you will regret doing? What is it that will make you happy? Find your middle ground so that you have a base to work from.
Instead of offering help before it is needed, wait and see if someone asks for your assistance, they might be perfectly capable of doing it themselves. They will feel a sense of accomplishment by doing it for themselves. This works great with children.
Remove the baggage, get rid of people who are using you because of your people pleasing nature. You don’t need them in your life; they would rather you stay the way you are so that they can get what they want.
Be the person you want to be, not what other people want you to be. This is difficult at first as you might be unsure of who you really are. Grab a journal and write down everything you like and everything that makes you laugh and smile, and work from there.
I used therapy to help me get out of my people pleasing ways; you can too. I recommend [AF] Online Therapy; they use cognitive behavioural therapy, which works by changing your thought patterns and behaviours. You should find progress within a couple of weeks. Their prices start from around £23.00 per week, and they are available worldwide.
I hope you can get past your people pleasing tendencies to improve your overall mental well being. It takes time, and you shouldn’t expect things to change overnight. The main thing you should start with is working out why you do it, as once you know, you can begin to address the behaviour you have learnt.