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Being a People Pleaser

Updated on February 22, 2013

Are You Looking for the Stamp of Approval from Other People?

People pleasers seek their self worth through the approval of other people.
People pleasers seek their self worth through the approval of other people. | Source

People Pleasers

People Pleasers - Are You One of Them?

We all suffer from various levels of self doubt, and other psychological insecurities. People pleasers suffer in greater degrees. When someone is full of self doubt, shame, and guilt, low self esteem, and unworthiness, they will strive to get the love and approval from all those around them. The problem is, that like a black hole, the need can never be filled and they never truly feel good about themselves.

So let’s say you are a people pleaser. The first thing to know, is that you are an okay person. Many people feel the need to please others. Let’s take a look at the way people pleasers feel.

How is your self esteem? When the judgmental views of others, the things people say about you, their opinions and criticisms can deflate your ego, you make yourself vulnerable to seeking the approval of others.

What does your personal story say about your independent nature or dependency on other people? By nature, human beings are social creatures. We want to belong, it is part of our evolutionary makeup. But sometimes through the experiences we have had as young children, there may be a fear of abandonment. This fear can create irrational beliefs that you need to please others so that you will be included in the family or social group.

Please Yourself First

Learn to do things for yourself to gain a true sense of happiness. Respect yourself first and other people will do the same for you.
Learn to do things for yourself to gain a true sense of happiness. Respect yourself first and other people will do the same for you. | Source

What Is Your Story?

How would you rate your level of feeling overly responsible? Some people do not have boundaries about how much they really need to help others. Blaming yourself and trying to “fix” the world is a false belief in your own abilities that can set you up to never saying no and taking on too many things.

How much do you value yourself? Being more concerned about other people, having no personal boundaries about what you will allow another to ask of you, and what you will do for them. If you put your own needs last, or your own needs may not even make your list, and through the sacrifice of yourself, you give to nearly anyone that asks, you probably meet the requirements of a people pleaser.

What do you do about your own feelings? People pleasers often don’t rely on others for help. If you keep your own feelings and needs hidden from others, you are depriving yourself, probably because you focus on others, more than your own desires and wants.

Are you a rescuer? Those who find the need to help others, perhaps out of pity, and easily sacrifice themselves for this sake, do not have personal boundaries and will please others at any cost, even at their own self cost.

People pleasers dance to the tune of others. In a dysfunctional family, there often is a member who feels an entitled to be pleased. They are known as injustice collectors. Injustice collectors are unhappy people. Everything that happens to them, real or imagined they let everyone know and the people pleaser responds by trying to make everything right with them. , People pleasers jump and bow, and bend over backwards to accommodate them. Injustice collectors feel entitled and people pleasers feel everyone else is entitled, making the perfect dynamics for dysfunction in a relationship.

The Need to Please

There is a balance between what we give of ourselves and getting our own needs met.
There is a balance between what we give of ourselves and getting our own needs met. | Source

Why Do People Try So Hard to Please Others?

Interacting with people and being part of a social group involves responding to the needs of others, it is an important part of social functioning. Those who don’t please anyone and only think of themselves are narcissistic, and that is not good either. A people pleaser goes to extremes. They are too invested in the external approval of others that they don’t pay any attention to the needs they have for themselves. They will say yes, even when it interferes with their own desires. People pleasers sabotage themselves. They don’t have an internal gauge that ranks the value of how their actions affect themselves. Validation from others is their driving force.

So why do people feel the need to people please so much?

  • it may feel uncomfortable to say no
  • to gain acceptance and love
  • lack of assertiveness
  • feeling little self worth
  • they let others control them
  • fear of abandonment
  • fear of rejection
  • fear of failure

The roots of people pleasing begin in childhood when children are encouraged to obey their parents, and in return are given conditional love. Unconsciously these children learn that they are only valuable when they comply with the requests of others and give into the demands that people make. It may come from getting conditional love from parents who gave them praise and encouragement when they did what was asked of them. Some children grow up feeling rejected or abandoned by someone important in their lives. When caretakers were emotionally unavailable or inconsistent in their responses towards a child’s needs.

Sometimes growing up in an environment with very critical parents can encourage children to adopt pleasing behavior. Criticism by a parent can create anxiety in the child and last a lifetime, as the anxiety becomes an ingrained part of a person’s personality. As a way to deal with the anxiety, a people pleaser will do everything they can to make things right, to ensure everyone’s happiness, to complete tasks that are asked of them, and do it as perfectly as possible.


People pleasing develops as a survival mechanism. Survival mechanisms develop at a young age, as a strategy to gain the safety, attention, and love we need. In trying to get the affection of our caretakers, we may have felt misunderstood, and disappointed that our needs were not met. We internalize these feelings in our young minds, and come to believe that if only we were better able to please them, then they would love us more, never disappoint us, and we will always win their approval. “Never” and “always” are impossible standards that we set for ourselves.

And so we set ourselves up to believe that we have to do to be noticed. When this is validated by the encouragement of our parents, we feel motivated to do it again to get a positive result. When pleasing others becomes a survival strategy that works and we become conditioned to repeat the behavior.

Awareness is key. If you don’t see what you are doing, you keep recreating the situations. It starts with looking at your own behavior and gaining an understanding about how you are acting out your survival mechanism in each and every interaction you have.

We identify ourselves in a certain way in large part because of the emotional baggage we carry around with us. These unresolved feelings, are wounds we carry with us from childhood.

Often in our early years, there are unmet needs, feelings of abandonment, and neglect, and parents who were not present emotionally. Because we are young and helpless, we are made vulnerable and left with a feeling of need, of not being good enough. In order to compensate, we create the situation for ourselves where we want to be needed by others, where we get someone else’s approval. And for that moment we believe we will feel fulfilled. But this feeling is ephemeral, it is temporary. The next moment we need to do it again, and we foster a state of dependency, and an inner lack of fulfillment.

We don’t really allow ourselves to feel good about ourselves, because at our core we feel undeserving. We fear abandonment and rejection. We can’t run away from our own fears, we can’t make everyone like us, we can’t make everyone happy because of things we do for them.
Beneath this type of irrational thinking is freedom. The freedom to live out the truth of who we really are. The ability to be able to find happiness in the things we want to do. The satisfaction of achieving things for ourselves, because of ourselves.

Within Your Answers, Is Your Future

Those who stay in a continued state of people pleasing are destined to live out their self depriving lives, trying to find love and acceptance that is void of respect and admiration, Healthy relationships are mutually giving relationships.

If you only have that because you are the one giving, take a good hard look at yourself. If you are bound by doing because of your fears of abandonment, ask yourself, how real they are now, compared to your childhood fears.

Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that will happen if these people walk away because you stop doing for them.

Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that will happen if you don’t change anything, and continue to do as you are doing.

Within your answer lies your future. If you keep things status quo, but want to change,counseling will help. You are bigger than your fears. You can learn to stand up for yourself, and find greater happiness than you know now.

If you are content to please people hoping and believing this is the way you will be loved, then know that your self sacrifices will compromise your happiness. We always have choices. No one knows you better than you.

When you have learned how to fill yourself up from within, you will have even more abilities to help others, to make the world a better place and to find greater sense of self satisfaction than you have ever known.


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    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hi Amy, Thank you for sharing so honestly, your experience. I am truly sorry you had to deal with such an unprofessional counselor. Thank goodness you recognized what she was doing to you. I too, have had a bad experience with a counselor. She took the intimate things I told her and used them against me. But there are plenty of good therapists, and I didn't let her stop what I knew was best for me. Our emotions make us more vulnerable, and a counselor can hurt us with their carelessness and misconduct. All you need is one good therapist to make a difference in self awareness, in the ability to grow and leave your past in a safe place within you, and in someone giving you the tools that will help you take on life in a very fulfilling way. I hope you will reconsider and look for a good counselor. From the experiences you have already had, you are better able to spot a good therapist faster. It is an important way to care for yourself. From your writings and the way I have come to know you, you are a wonderful, expressive person who deserves the best you can give yourself. You have so much to offer the world. And even though this counselor tainted your experience, it is worthwhile to find a therapist who is good. If you went to a dentist who didn't do a good job, would you never go to a dentist again? The thought of that one dentist impacting your life so greatly that you would ignore the pain from your teeth seems like an injustice to do to yourself. Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to email me if you need to. All the best. I will be visiting your hubs real soon.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Your article is so completely true, toknowinfo, that I have the feeling you know a people pleaser on a personal basis. I remember being in counseling when I knew that I had to leave my first husband for my own sanity, but needed the validation for the courage to do what I wanted. I remember this female counselor mentioning the "abandonment' that I felt growing up, and I dissolved into a torrent of tears that surprised me more than the counselor. I was already getting stronger when I not only noticed, but was annoyed that the counselor was consistently late for appts, once involved putting on her lipstick at the start of our session after her lunch break while she waved me on to talk, and continually checking her watch. The final straw was the appt I sat for an hour waiting only to have her 'finally' send the receptionist to me in the waiting room to explain that an emergency came up and she had to deal with a family in crisis. I wrote her a letter explaining how, though she was aware of my abandonment issues, she made the choice to abandon me. I concluded my letter to her saying I'd never consult with her again.

      Ultimately, her carelessness damaged my ability to trust another counselor with my 'guts'. I don't wish to spend time and money I no longer have to interview counselors. Yet, I believe there are excellent counselors out there and I could benefit from their guidance with the issues that have left me giving my life away....and resenting it.

      Exceptionally well-written, with a thorough understanding of the whole; from the inception of this problematic, usually long-term belief system, to the options for breaking the relentless, entrapment of the cycle of people pleasers to the goal of developing healthy perceptions, outlook and the ability to have a life of one's own. Bravo, toknowinfo, and thank you.


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