We all do things for others.
We run errands for our parents. We drive our kids around. We bake a cake for a school event. We make a hairdresser appointment for our partner. We take on the lead of a charity project.
And in general there is nothing wrong with it.
Unless these things no longer fall in the category of kindness but become people pleasing.
What’s the difference between kindness and people pleasing?
Well, if someone asks you to bake a cake for a school event and you think ‘sure, that’s fun, and I want to contribute to my kid’s school’ there is nothing wrong with it.
If you however bake the cake because all the other mothers do, you want to be a good person and you do not want them to think you’re a bad mother and school contributor, you are either on the border or slap bang in the middle of people pleasing.
Because you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
If you are in the people pleasing business, please know that it is most likely not something you consciously chose to do.
It is a behavior that is developed over a long time.
- You may have grown up in a family where ‘being a good girl‘ was rewarded (and trust me, that’s like 95 percent of us women).
- Your parents may have been severe or demanding and you were always trying to live up to their expectations. You may not have received the kind of love you needed and were thus always overdoing things in order to prove you were worth their love.
Even if you had the perfect parents, you may still have become a people pleaser.
How do you recognize a people pleaser?
Do you tend to apologize for everything? You may be blaming yourself for situations or fear that other people are blaming you. But unless you are really at fault or did something wrong, excessive apologizing may be a sign of a bigger problem.
Some people have a tendency to take on the worries of the world. As soon as someone tells them about their problems, they take them at heart, worry about them and try to help.
While it is important to know that your behavior can influence others, you must know that you are not responsible for the happiness of other people.
Some of my clients often complain that they have no time for their own project. This usually has two reasons when we dig deeper:
1. they are afraid of their own goals and of not reaching them that they busy themselves with other people’s goals in order to have the excuse of not having time for their own.
2. they spend so much time doing things that they thinks other people expect them to do. Their agenda is full of other people’s stuff. And stuff no one really asked them to do! Which brings me to my next point.
People pleaser have difficulty saying no. So either they end of having to do things they don’t like but feel pressured to do or they end up finding excusing to wiggle their way out at the last minute.
Learning to say no, standing up for your priorities and time, setting boundaries, are important steps to learn in this case.
Emotions and conflict
People pleasers often cannot deal with other people’s strong emotions. If someone gets angry, they take it personally and feel responsible (see point above). They can’t stand the thought that someone is displeased with them.
So they do anything to avoid conflict and to make sure that person’s emotions aren’t exploding without realizing that they are compromising their own values. They often have difficulty speaking up about their own emotions as well. Saying that someone hurt their feelings makes them feel weak and vulnerable.
Some people pleasers fall into what I call ‘group mode’. They tend to agree with the group even if they have another opinion. They are scared to voice their own because of the emotions and conflict it might bring. So they follow the group.
People pleasers need validation. They need other people to praise them for what they did so they can feel good. Of course this usually backfires because feeling good then depends on others and not yourself.
How do I please less?
If you think you may be a people pleaser, it is important to look at the reasons behind it.
Because even if it is a learned behavior, it can only be unlearned if it doesn’t serve a purpose.
Do you people please so people like you?
Do you please others so that they see you as the doer/fixer/multitasking supermom/great thrower of parties/or…[insert suitable word here!]
I am always amazed of how little self care the woman have in their life when I first meet them. They take care of everyone else first and then wonder why they are running on empty. Self-care equals selfish in their mind.
No no no! Self care is the number one priority in everyone’s life. It is not the same as getting a massage (although that can be part of it). Self care is the oxygen you need to function. Whatever that is for you and whatever amount you need. You need to make it a priority.
Priorities and upsetting people
Besides self care above, you need to get other priorities straight as well. By finding out what YOU want, by then setting goals and building up boundaries, by saying no and above all by learning to upset people! 🙂
Yes, you will upset people and you need to learn to deal and live with that. Because the bottom line is that you cannot please everyone. And that in order to be happy you need to make sure you get your fill. Of whatever fills you with joy and delight. So if you like horseback riding, go out and make that a priority. If that upsets your family, what do you need to do to deal with it? Do you need to reschedule things? Do you need to outsource something? Do you need to take a class in assertiveness so you learn how to say no?
Who to please
Choose a select few people that are your pleasing priority. Your partner, your kids, a few friends… Make a list! Focus on those. Not the rest of the world. As soon as you get a request from someone for your time, check if they are on your list. If not, you can still help them out, but only if you have time after your select few and your priorities.
Even if you know all of the above, you are only human. I still get dragged into things I should have said no to. Because I was tired, because my priorities weren’t straight, because…life…
Each situation is a learning opportunity not a failure. Forgive yourself, get a good night’s sleep (self care is ALWAYS the first thing to do first!), get to the drawing room and reset your priorities. Then start over.