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People pleasing paralysis

Updated on July 21, 2012

When I was growing up, the most popular people were the ones who wore a smile all the time and never said no when someone asked a favor of them. Unfortunately I was not one of those people. I was not popular in high school. I wasn't completely shunned and , yes, I did have friends. But you couldn't really say that I was popular. My sister, on the other hand, was. She was easy going, always upbeat and smiling, and everybody loved her. She was a real people pleaser.

For a long time, I tried to be like my sister. I watched how she interacted with people and would try to emulate her style. But, no matter how hard I tried, it didn't work for me. It came across as phony and I was totally uncomfortable with it. I would end up be angry with myself and with everyone else around me.

Then one day it happened. I decided to be myself. What a relief! Instead of killing myself trying to make everyone else happy, and not succeeding, I now had the time to explore what would make me happy. Sounds a little ego-centered, I know, and I still feel a little guilty saying it. But, honestly, in the long run, it was the best thing I ever did for myself.

Let me explain a little about myself and how, maybe, others around me would find it difficult to get along with me. I wanted to be myself. And, by being myself, I took the risk of confusing others. They didn't understand why I didn't jump on the bandwagon with everyone else. Or why I would want to spend time alone just drawing or reading.....or, for heavens sake, thinking! And why did I like classical music at age 15? And why was I so outspoken. Or so disagreeable? Answer: "I had a mind of my own and I wanted to use it".

Why is it that in our society it is so important to please everyone? Is it the promise that, if you comply, everyone will like you, you will get your way, you'll have a lot of friends? Do you struggle when you say something or write something because you want to say the "right" thing? You don't want to offend anyone, right? Just how honest and open should you be?

Today, people are certainly more willing to be themselves, but there is still a lot of "people pleasing" going on. And this could very well be stunting the growth, personality, and success of the people doing it. Do you habitually give in to other people because you just can't stand the thought of upsetting them? Do you put your needs to one side because you get a buzz from someone else's happiness, only to find that he or she is not a bit grateful?

Or maybe, you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. If so, you just may be a classic "people pleaser," and, in all probability, not getting what you want out of life. Maybe it's time to shift the focus from others to yourself, and stop being a martyr.

The irony of all this is that people pleasers fail because it is impossible to please all the people all the time. People caught in this vicious cycle end up sacrificing their entire personalities to the whims of others. They become hooked on the "high" of being liked and, in turn, become obsessed with finding out just what buttons to press in order to please; and in focusing on this they lose themselves.

They fail to meet their needs because they have ceased to be aware of them. They start to believe that the failure to produce the "high" is due to inefficient people pleasing, and this furthers the cycle. The need to be themselves is totally eclipsed by the need to please. They come to believe that nobody will like them if they stop doing things for other people.

You deserve to take time to yourself, to say NO, and to take care of yourself without feeling guilty. If someone stops liking you because you don’t do what they ask, then you’re being used by them and probably don’t want them as a friend anyway. People will like you for who you are and not simply for what you do.



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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      That is so true - and I gave up trying to be anyone else a long, long time ago....what is the saying I just read recently - 'be yourself, everyone else is taken'....but you are right about one thing. If someone doesn't see the need or have the confidence to do it, they usually go on being as I term them 'fake'. I hate fake as I think it is the least attractive of all personality traits but hey - no one put me in charge. Great hub! Audrey

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      A friend of mine had undergone a great story herself: Her and her husband when first they got married were living in a small one-bedroom apartment and were struggling to keep afloat. The two of them had several "friends" from work and college, whose houses they frequented for parties and the like. As guests, they were criticized and ostracized (in a subtle manner) for their "situation."

      Well, the two of them put their minds together and came up with a great online business idea and it skyrocketed. Soon they found that they didn't need to work for anyone but themselves at the comfort of their home. She would have two kids almost immediately after they bought a huge 5-bedroom house. They each bought a Mercedes with cash and were well-off to put it mildly. When they began hosting parties, none of their previous friends would come by, claiming that they were "busy" and had prior engagements.

      Many people don't want to see you succeed and want to keep you under their thumbs, as malicious as it sounds. It's funny how my friend and husband stayed the same and that the others changed/showed their true colors.

      Thanks for a wonderful hub, alekhouse! Being yourself is such an understatement ;)

      Dohn

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Wow! Thanks for the great comments. I really enjoyed your story. So glad you enjoyed the hub

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Great article, Alekhouse. I know too many people like this. At some point they just fall apart. It's sad to see, especially when they're you're friend. Yeah, I accepted the fact that I just wasn't a "people pleaser" a long time ago. The world is just too big and filled with such variety, I'd imagine one to go crazy, even if you limited it to those around you. I know as a mother I lost myself a bit for a while. I realized it was the same thing as what you're speaking of and I knew that I had to resolve for some balance. Besides which, a mother isn't suppose to please her children all the time, now, is she. And when you lose yourself when you're a mother, how can you show your children what it is to be independent with thoughts of your own? How can you show them that saying no when you feel no is right? You can't very well. Thanks for your the thought provoking words. I haven't thought about this stuff in a long time.

    • alekhouse profile image
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      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Thanks, Frieda, for the intelligent comments. I'm glad, so far, that most people are understanding where I'm coming from. I was afraid maybe I would offend (people pleasing again?), but then again I went ahead and published it didn't I?

    • Dame Scribe profile image

      Dame Scribe 7 years ago from Canada

      I'm not even popular with my kids sometimes,lol. Very true points about not losing our identities. Great article! :)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent article, Alekhouse. It's all about assertion as opposed to aggression and submission. I

      t is very dangerous to "go along to get along" as you will lose your identity and independence by doing so.

      Thanks again

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      It is very hard being yourself because you risk people finding out who you really are. But you are absolutely right, if you can be yourself then you are bound to be happier than if you try and pretend to be something you are not. Took me a very long time to realise that but I did eventually, and I am a much happier person as a result. Pleasing others is good when it is sincere and not at the cost of your own personal feelings and principles.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Thanks for the great hub. I will now go forth and be me. -Unless someone else wants to.

    • profile image

      Am I dead, yet? 7 years ago

      Fantastic hub--true in every aspect. I went through an existential crisis recently and realized that I too, like many others--'evolved' to be 'people pleasing.' Then I realized that it does not benefit me mentally or physically to fall into that specific vulnerability. I enjoyed reading this very much. Gives so much to self reflection!

      Also, congratulations are in order for interview with HubPages!

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @akirchner: Thanks for the comment. You are so right about being yourself....good for you!

    • alekhouse profile image
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      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @Dame Scribe: Great comment. I know what you mean about the kids. They are experts at manipulation and being afaid they wont like you if you stick to your guns can be a killer.

    • alekhouse profile image
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      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @Tonymack: Good comment. I love your remark about being dangerous "to go along to get along." Thanks for the input.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @Brian S Love your comment, Brian. It took me a long time too to decide to be myself. And, yes, you are right about it being good to please others if it's sincere...and appropriate. Thanks.

    • alekhouse profile image
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      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @Micky Dee: Very funny! Yes, do go forth and be you; although I suspect you've already been doing that :=)

    • alekhouse profile image
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      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @Am I Dead Yet?: Glad you enjoyed the hub. it's really amazing many people have struggled with this issue. And thanks for the mention about my interview.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Yes - easier said than done as I think at any age we tend to fall back on old ways IF we don't keep telling ourselves it's okay to be just me! Fake is beautiful but only on fur! Audrey

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @akirchner: I love your comment about fake fur. And, yes, we have to keep reminding ourselves that we matter....what a shame!

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      alekhouse, I've always been who I am, but there's no doubt I;ve paid price after price for it; because when you don't worry about other people's approval, they often don't approve (and let you know - some people more aggressively than others). I does get to be a drag after a while. :)

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      I know what you mean, Lisa. I have had similar experiences. But stick to your guns. Thanks for the comment.

    • Feline Prophet profile image

      Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

      I think I'm sometimes guilty of being a people pleaser largely because I dislike confrontation...but having said that, I have to admit that I can also be maddeningly individualistic and contrary!

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Interesting comment. Thanks.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I made a decision to give up people-pleasing a long time ago, even though I was raised to do just that. Like Feline Prophet, I dislike confrontation (Libra has something do do with this), and I am not only maddeningly individualistic and contrary (thanks, FP, for that awesome self-description), I am also very sarcastic and sometimes even hostile when someone pushes the wrong buttons.

      I admire those who can maintain friendships and other close relationships when they decide to change their people-pleasing ways.

      I wonder, alekhouse, if you have a Hub in the wings about this: Life after deciding not to be people-pleasing.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Re: "Life after deciding not to be people-pleasing." Well, I had't thought about writing a hub on this, but actually I could. My life is great...full, happy, interesting, and creative. And I am definitely not a people pleaser.

      Good comments...thanks

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I think that everybody should just be themselves and accept the fact that people are born or raised differently. And respect begets respect. It is annoying however when an individual fakes being a 'people-person' or pretends to be otherwise. We all see through people somehow.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      You are so right about "seeing through" the act some individuals put on. Thanks for the comments, Cris

    • profile image

      O'Brien 7 years ago

      There is a time and a place for "people pleasing." In the service industry, yes. In your personal life, in moderation.I used to say, "you have to be a friend to have a friend." This past year, I've changed this to "your REAL friends will understand that you sometimes have other priorities." Two great things happened, I started feeling like I had more control of my life, and I found out who my REAL friends were. Quality, not quantity. Thanks for the another great post Alekhouse.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      And thank you for some really good comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I enjoyed your story alekhouse. I was never a people pleaser in high school and dressed the way I liked, and I sure got ridiculed for that. It is funny that as an adult being an individual when it comes to fashion sense is revered, but as a child this can make you a subject to ridicule and scorn. Today when I see a group of younger people similarly dressed I often wonder, do they all want to dress that way, or do they all want to fit in with their friends?

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      I think young people all want to fit in with their friends. But the most courageous and interesting people are true to themselves. Thanks for the comments. SP

    • Erin LeFey profile image

      Erin LeFey 7 years ago from Maryland

      Oh no, if people read your article, what's going to happen to me? I've relied on people pleasers all of my life! Just kidding! Great article - Momma tried to raise me to be one of these, but I was too independent - but I did learn the values of compassion, kindness, love and giving. I just apply them as they are needed and never forget that I'm one of those people that I need to apply them to as well. If I don't take care of me, I can't expect to be on the top of anyone else's list. Its more attractive to be self sufficient - not allowing someone else to grow and take care of themselves is not helping. Wonderful article Alekhouse.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Thanks for the comments, Erin. I definitely agree with what you wrote about: "...compassion, kindness, love and giving".

    • dayzeebee profile image

      dayzeebee 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Excellent hub! I know this topic well and had thought I had gotten over it completely until an incident last year revealed the shocking truth -- the root cause of my people pleasing ways was still in my subconscious mind. I'm glad to report though that I have been working on reprogramming this area through various exercises which include meditating, tapping and creating new stories for vibrational alignment. It's working:)

      Thank you for a beautiful hub. Blessings:)

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Thank you so much for such interesting comments. I'm glad you like the hub and could make a connection.

    • bgamall profile image

      Gary Anderson 7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Well, I think successful musicians and actors have the problem of pleasing everyone. But as the song says, "players only love you when their playing", so I guess that means that even these public figures make time for themselves.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @bgamall: Never heard of that song. But they (i.e. players)are not the only ones who have the problem of pleasing everyone. Thanks for the comments.

    • profile image

      wordscribe41 7 years ago

      Great article, alekhouse. I am SO with you on singing the praises of being yourself. Bad news is I didn't learn this until I was 41... My family doesn't much like it, but frankly I am much happier being my authentic self. Thanks, alekhouse for the great read.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Glad to hear this...about you being your authentic self. You discovered its merits sooner than I did. I was over 50. Thanks for the nice comments.

    • TimeHealsAll profile image

      TimeHealsAll 7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I really found your hub very helpful. I was a classic example of a people pleaser. I have a hub called "People Pleasing-how far will it go". It had me in it's grip. I'm looking forward to reading more of your hubs and am signing on as a fan!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      Yeah I am crippled by it. Now I am laid off and have no people to please.I have trouble asking for any help, because I think they'll all say no, and then no hope.

      Writing is my way of coping. I love it. In here, I don't really know everyone, so, whose to please? I try to write what I think someone might like or need. You have done that here, you wrote something I needed. Thank you.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @Timehealsall: Thanks for the comment. So glad you enjoyed the hub. I'm going to your site to see if I can find the one you wrote on the same topic.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      @Faybe Bay: So sorry about your misfortune. Glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for the comments.

    • profile image

      VivekSri 6 years ago

      great story. good article. I liked this so much. Keep the good work going by posting informative and autobiographical hubs. Thank you.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      What nice comments! Thank you...so glad you enjoyed them. I will definitely keep them coming.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 6 years ago from Minnesota

      This is a great article and you are right that you can't please all people all of the time and that is true even if you are not people pleasing. As I have grown older, I find it much harder to people please because it is sacrificing me and my health. I feel better in the end being who I am even if it means not agreeing with someone. Thx for the informative hub.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Nice comment...thanks. Yeah, I'm with you on this one. The older a person gets, the more they realize that life is too short not to really enjoy it by being yourself.

    • FloBe profile image

      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      People-pleasing was a survival skill I learned early on in life and it has taken many years to learn to live in "my own skin." I needed to be reminded of the things you write about here and stay focused on what is important! Thanks.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Hi FloBe, nice to meet you...so glad you liked the hub.

      I think a lot of people struggle with this...funny, I never did. But then, I didn't have a lot of friends either...I guess that's why.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 6 years ago

      Great hub and good for you for being true to yourself. I wrote a hub awhile ago about the "Importance of Saying No". It is so hard for many people. You are an inspiration, and a good example to many people. Voted up and awesome.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Thanks, toknowinfo, I appreciate the nice comment and support

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To alekhouse: Great hub! This hub is so true. It is better to hated for being yourself than to be liked for being someone else. Furthermore, people respect people when they are themselves. People who are people pleasers are generally not respected in the long run.

    • alekhouse profile image
      Author

      Nancy Hinchliff 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      So true, so true. Glad you liked the hub. Thanks for the comment.

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