So many of us are trained to be people pleasers from a very early age.
We have a critical parent we keep trying, but failing to please. We have a naughty sibling who causes so much trouble we decide to be as good as possible. Or maybe we have a parent we admire that sacrifices everything for everyone else and we decide to do the same.
No matter how it started for you (or someone you know), the outcome is generally not good.
We generally feel dissatisfied, taken for granted, upset, resentful and pissed off. Not to mention the health implications that seem to go hand in hand with people pleasing (but that’s for another time).
Here are a few hallmark comments of people pleasers:
“I thought if I did lots of good things for other people, they’d give back”
“I seem to be so busy looking after everyone else, I don’t have time for myself”
“I’m so exhausted. I wish someone would do something for me for a change”
There seems to be a predictable cycle with people pleasing. It goes in a circle (but I can’t figure out how to create that circle so you’ll have to settle for this):
There’s a sense of being responsible -> we go into caretaking mode -> we give so much that we start to feel resentful -> we decide that we really shouldn’t be doing so much and attempt to restore the balance -> we set some boundaries (that other people are usually ok with) but -> we feel tremendous guilt for doing it and then -> have a sense of being responsible for the other’s happiness and -> we go back into caretaking mode.
And around and around it goes. Super counter-productive.
The problem is, the guilt tells us we’re doing something wrong. So even though the steps of redressing the balance and setting boundaries is a good, healthy one, our insides are saying it’s bad to be doing that. It’s breaking the rules of being a nice person. And usually, “people won’t like me anymore”.
If you’re caught in this cycle, the trick is to ask yourself:
“Who’s rules am I breaking by not people pleasing? Do I need to follow these rules?”.
“Do I really need to be doing for others to be liked?”
“Do I know people who don’t people please that are liked by others?”
People pleasing is a tough cycle to break but well worth the effort.