There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to make others happy. However, as the adage goes, all things must come in moderation. If most aspects of your life hinge solely on the desire to please other people, you may be a people pleaser. It means that you put the needs of others above your own.
On the surface, wanting to please others doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. In fact, many people mistake it for kindness or selflessness. Unfortunately, people-pleasing can negatively affect your well-being when left unchecked. Since people pleasers often have difficulties addressing their own needs, they’re likely to fall into patterns of destructive behaviour or self-sacrifice.
People-pleasing usually stems from underlying personal issues, such as a lack of self-esteem, a history of maltreatment, a fear of rejection, and perfectionism. While it can be hard to identify people-pleasing behaviours and mindsets, it’s a necessary step to make the conscious decision to stop them and to start valuing your own needs. To help you get started, below are seven signs that indicate an unhealthy desire to please:
You Hold Yourself Accountable for the Emotions of Others
People pleasers tend to overly empathise, holding themselves accountable for the emotions of those around them. They believe that they carry the sole responsibility to make everyone happy.
It is why it’s important to know what it actually means to hold yourself accountable. Accountability is recognising what is and isn’t within your realm of responsibility and taking charge of what you can do. While it’s good to be aware of how your actions affect others, only they can control how they feel at any given moment.
You Agree with Everyone’s Opinions—Even If You Don’t
Knowing how to listen to other perspectives, including those that conflict with yours, is the key to conducting healthy and productive dialogue. However, you may be a people-pleaser if you pretend to agree with every opinion, you hear so people will like you. It can cause you to act in ways that compromise your own personal values.
You Frequently Apologise, Even If You’re Not at Fault
Apologising profusely for something that wasn’t your fault is another sign of people-pleasing behaviour. People pleasers often apologise because they tend to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong or think other people blame them for things they didn’t do.
These mindsets usually stem from problems like anxiety and low self-esteem. For example, if you lack confidence in yourself, you might feel like you can’t do anything right. It manifests as the need to apologise every chance you get, even if there’s nothing to be sorry about.
You Have a Difficult Time Saying “No”
Since people-pleasers want to put the needs of others before their own, they often find it challenging to say “no.” It makes them the perfect target for people who want to shirk their responsibilities. For example, you may become targeted by a co-worker at your job who constantly delegates their tasks to you. By not knowing how to set boundaries and decline requests, you may find yourself in situations that could jeopardise your own happiness and comfort.
People pleasers can be afraid of seeing others display negative emotions like anger because they interpret it as displeasure or dissatisfaction directed toward them. Hence, they dislike conflict and try to avoid it as much as possible.
If you find this to be the ideal way of dealing with interpersonal problems, you may have a people-pleasing mindset. It’s important to note however, that conflict avoidance may worsen tensions as it encourages you to stay on the sidelines rather than suggest solutions to diffuse the situation.
You Don’t Express Your True Feelings
You may be a people pleaser if you can’t express your true feelings, especially when you’re hurt, upset, or angry. People pleasers don’t want others to feel “burdened” by their emotions. Instead, they repress or lie about their feelings to preserve the comfort of those around them. However, this behaviour can prevent you from forming authentic relationships and fostering healthy communication with your loved ones.
Your Self-Worth Depends on External Validation
Everyone needs words of kindness and praise, but people-pleasers depend on these forms of external validation. Since they want to be liked by everyone they meet, they base their entire sense of self-worth on what others say about them. It can be a very unhealthy mindset, especially if you’re already struggling with insecurities or low self-confidence.
People-pleasing behaviours can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. While it’s admirable to value the happiness of others, it should never be at the expense of your own needs. It can be hard to break the people-pleasing habit, but it’s not impossible. By being more aware of the signs of people-pleasing mentioned above, you can learn how to spot and avoid acting this way sooner rather than later.