Is people-pleasing holding you back?

Something keeps coming up in my coaching that we need more awareness over. It’s something that is prevalent amongst women and especially mothers. It sounds like a good thing, but it is breeding resentment and anger and it is preventing us from being in full integrity with ourselves. 

People pleasing. Have you heard of it? Do you do it?

People pleasing is doing what someone else wants because you think it will make them feel good and in turn, will make you feel good. This is different from kindness. Kindness is doing something for someone else because that’s the kind of person you want to be. It’s all about the motive— why you are doing what you are doing.

Now. People pleasing seems good. It seems like we all should be a little more selfless and do things for other people. Wouldn’t it make the world a better place? Of course it would. But not by people pleasing. Let me tell you why.

People pleasing is dishonest. It’s you agreeing to do something, explicitly or otherwise, that you don’t really want to do. You SAY you would be happy to make those cupcakes for the school event, but really you don’t want to. You are not really speaking your truth. 

People pleasing tells the world that you are not as valuable as everyone else. You put your own needs/wants lower down on the priority list. This feels terrible because it is a human need to feel like we have value. And guess what— you think it will feel good for the other person, but often it does not. Would you rather someone do something for you willingly or grudgingly? When you are doing something that is not really what you want to do, over time you will get resentful. That is because resentment comes from not taking care of your own needs. And people pleasing puts others’ needs before your own. 

And lastly, people pleasing prevents you from taking responsibility for your own feelings and perpetuates that same thing in others. The only reason you are doing the thing you do for someone else is because you think it will make them happy. Or that not doing it will make them sad or angry. But if their feelings come from their own thoughts, then it isn’t even possible for you to make someone else happy, sad or angry. Sometimes you do the thing and they don’t feel happy— what’s that all about? So in a way people pleasing is gambling your time or effort away. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. And it never makes you feel good, because you are working against yourself.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

So how do you know you are people pleasing and not just being kind? Here are a few symptoms. These don’t necessarily mean you are people pleasing but are good indicators:

-You drag your feet, you act grudgingly.

-You don’t enjoy whatever it is.

-You expect something in return, even if it is not explicitly stated. You keep a count in your mind. 

-You feel resentful. And sometimes angry.

-You dream about ways to stop.

-You “take things out” on the person and you don’t know why.

-When you ask yourself the question, “Why am I doing this?” you answer, “Because it will make them happy.” or “It will make them love me.” These answers sound noble, but if they come at the cost of your own happiness or love, you are just swapping your own feelings for someone else’s. A better answer would be that you want to do something for someone else because that is the kind of person you are. I promise it will feel much better to you if you can make that your truth. 

Once you recognize your people pleasing tendencies, you may want to know how to stop. On the screen it might seem easy, but this is a lot harder to implement in real life. If you are a people pleaser, you likely have been doing this for a long time and it’s a habit. Habits, of course, can be broken, but it takes time and effort:

  1. Before you commit to anything, ask yourself if you have time and desire to do it. If the answer is no for either one, politely decline. 
  2. Recognize that your own needs are just as valid as anyone else’s. 
  3. Ask yourself “Why would I do this?” If you like your reason, then go ahead. If your reason is rooted in fear then politely decline.
  4. Start taking responsibility for your own feelings instead of assigning them to someone or something outside of yourself. Fuel you before you poor yourself into others. I promise your kids, your husband, your friends will all appreciate an honest, loving person than one that is people pleasing.
  5. Decide what you will and won’t do ahead of time based on the kind of person you want to be.

Easy, right? 😉

I hope this helps you decrease the resentment and anger in your life and show up for yourself in a way that feels a lot better. I would love to hear if you tried any of these recommendations and how it went. If you want help dealing with your people pleasing habits, I would love to help you in a free session.