The People Pleasing Habit

Are you a people pleaser? What is people-pleasing? Is it helping others? If it was, wouldn’t that be called people helping not people-pleasing?

To please is to give someone happiness or satisfaction. There is no helping in that definition. To help is to give assistance or support-not to deliver an outcome.

People-pleasing is a focus on others’ expectations and trying to meet those expectations for the specific result of their happiness or satisfaction. It is a focus on the other person’s desires with the hidden payoff that by doing this, they will see us in a positive light.

This is where people-pleasing backfires. If we don’t get the recognition or positive reflection that we are secretly seeking, we feel betrayed and angry. We may not acknowledge this at first, especially if we want to appear “pleasing” but eventually it will become obvious.

People-pleasing is a learned behavior. It is a habit we form as an unhealthy response to the fear of rejection or failure. Think about it. If we are worried that someone will leave us, people-pleasing is a behavior we can use to ensure that they stay. After all, who would leave a person who consistently works at delivering happiness and satisfaction to them?

If we are worried that people will punish us or be disappointed in us if we fail or make a mistake, people-pleasing can ensure that we never get chastised or feel the upsets of others. Again, who would punish or be disappointed in someone who goes out of their way to ensure happiness and satisfaction at every turn?

The people-pleasing habit is a temporary fix to avoid rejection and failure but it is also a very counterproductive one.

Here’s how:

It hinders our health. We pay less attention to our own needs devoting most of our time to what others need.

It creates resentment. We silently wait for a payoff that may never come or that we receive only intermittently.

It blocks enjoyment. We are only partially present for our lives because we are constantly concerned about the happiness of others.

It leads to stress. The constant overwhelm of overpromising our time and ability to meet others’ needs is debilitating.

It leads to our exploitation. When we give others the message with our people-pleasing actions that we can’t say no, even a just person may unwittingly take advantage.

The Berkeley Greater Good Science Center has an excellent article on why it doesn’t pay to be a people pleaser.

Habits are the foundation of our lives. These automatic patterns of behavior shape our experience. If we are not aware of them, they will still run our lives AND leave us clueless as to why we are not living the life we claim we want.

Check your habits. Daily if you can. Make sure they are in service to what you want.

Are you a people pleaser?


5-minute action item – Is there some area of your life in which you have the people-pleasing habit? Not sure? Take a few minutes to think about this. If you are trying to move forward, how might this habit hold you back? Write down what other ways you can handle rejection and failure with a healthier and more productive habit.


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