Danny is a 24 year old college student who works part-time with his childhood friend. He currently lives with his parents and has recently been thinking about moving out. For this reason, he’s excited about a recent job opportunity that offers better pay and is more aligned with his career of interest. That being said, he is hesitant to accept the offer; his parents have told him many times over the past year to not worry about finances and have stressed that he should stay with them for a few more years. Moreover, he’s worried that if he quits his current job, his childhood friend will not support the decision because they have made a great team together thus far. To make matters worse, he is struggling to meet the deadline of a group assignment for his Sociology class. The week prior, he volunteered to do most of the work because his group members would be too busy studying for the upcoming exams of their “harder” classes. As Danny is contemplating how he should manage his dilemma, he receives a text from his friend asking for a ride to the mall. Although he is well aware that he should be finishing his Sociology assignment, Danny agrees to the request. Over the past month or so, Danny has become depressed and noticeably more exhausted, frustrated, agitated, stressed, and distracted. He has so much on his plate and he doesn’t know what to do…
Accepted and useful. It feels amazing when people think this way about us, especially when it’s those whom we are close too. This a basic human desire, but at what point does it become a detriment to our wellbeing? People-pleasers, whether it’s intentional or not, often set aside their own needs and thoughts in an attempt to satisfy others. There are many possible explanations for this behavior: strict parents, low self-esteem, fear of rejection, difficulty being assertive, the list goes on. Regardless of the reason, this is a reality for many people. Below, I’ve compiled a list of people-pleasing behaviors and their impact and suggestions on how to break free from this lifestyle.
Signs You are a People Pleaser
You find it difficult to say no
People occasionally struggle telling others no, it’s normal. However, it starts becoming a problem when you constantly give in to people’s requests, agree with others, or refrain from speaking out when you have a different opinion. This can be especially harmful and frustrating if you do these things in order to avoid conflict.
You seek the approval and praise of others
It’s comforting and encouraging when we are recognized by others, we are social beings after all. That being said, unhealthy patterns will begin to develop if we actively seek this attention. When being praised becomes a necessity during human interactions, life can become difficult. The endless presence of the fear of rejection is physically and mentally exhausting. Your self-worth and level of happiness will be contingent on your usefulness and ability to stay in the spotlight. You can’t please everyone, and not everyone can be pleased.
You are obligated to help everyone
Selfless, compassionate, caring, supportive, altruistic, reliable. How awesome would it be if these were the first thoughts people had when describing us? People-pleasers make it a priority to help others and alleviate their pain. As a result, they naturally exhibit these characteristics. Unlike most individuals however, they are so driven to be of value that they become overwhelmed and burdened by the wellbeing of others.
You allow people to take advantage of your generosity
This might be due to a combination of the following: you are too busy trying to please others, you are unable to speak up for yourself, and people have certain expectations of you. Regardless of the reason, it can be very troubling for both you and the other party. Being used doesn’t feel very good; it’s stressing, demeaning, and it causes others to be dependent. It can be tough and exhausting being a disregarded doormat that is regularly stepped on and left unattended.
You find it difficult to identify and tend to your own needs
Since you might be investing most of your energy in the welfare of those around you, you neglect your own health. If you are too busy caring for others, how will you manage your own self-care? Better question, have you taken the time to understand what those needs are?
If this list resonates with you, you may have noticed that your desire to engage in activities that there otherwise enjoyable has diminished over time. Perhaps you are overwhelmed and stressed, you are easily agitated and unable to concentrate, you are experiencing depression and burnout, and you don’t know what to do. Maybe your physical health has slowly deteriorated and completing daily tasks has become difficult for you. As I said earlier, although it is absolutely natural to want to be there for others, this yearning can quickly become a destructive force.
How to Change
Great news! You can continue helping others in a way that is much healthier.
Voicing your opinion can be the first step, especially when the outcome will affect you. Speak up!
Try looking at your situation from a different perspective; you can’t please others if you are mentally/physically/spiritually drained, know your limits.
What are your hobbies? Take time throughout the week to incorporate self-care and recharge yourself.
Find someone to talk to (even if it’s done via journaling), don’t keep your thoughts and emotions bottled up inside.
These are just a few suggestions. If you find yourself wanting more or have no one to confide in, please feel free to contact me. I would love to hear your story and help you during your time of need. Know that you do not need to be alone.
By Christian Bonilla, a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist based in Sierra Madre and Burbank