People-pleasing is a huge problem, I know because I’ve had problems with it myself. Something you might have guessed if you’ve read my article ‘Abuse: Female Perpetrators, Male Victim‘. People-pleasing and abuse often go hand-in-hand, with the former often being the result of the latter.
People-pleasing is a problem I have that was squarely a result of my borderline personality disorder. The years of racism and abuse I suffered as a child caused me to be desperate to find acceptance. However, no matter how you get into the behaviour of people-pleasing, it’ll become a habit, a habit that’ll become a way of life.
The Costs Of Being A People-Pleaser
Being a people-pleaser will always come at a cost. In order to help people identify those costs, so they can see if they’re experiencing these themselves, then I’ve made a list of signs. Hopefully, if you’re a people-pleaser, but aren’t fully aware that you are, then this list will help you come to terms with it so you can then do something about it.
Stress and burnout
Because you rarely prioritize your own self-care, you over-commit to things, commit to stuff you don’t want to do, and do things for others you know will make you feel bad. You will feel stressed out a lot.
People-pleasers will often feel burned out and stressed a lot of the time. Being like this isn’t good for anyone, but it’s especially bad for the people-pleaser. So learn to take care of yourself. For tips on stress management, visit my post ‘17 Ways To Manage Stress‘.
Doing favours for people all the time, especially when you’re agreeing to help when you don’t want to, is going to make you angry. This build-up of anger and resentment isn’t healthy.
Whilst you work on ways to deal with your issues around people-pleasing, you might also want to check out my post about managing anger as part of your self-care.
Because you’re a people-pleaser, you’ll question if your “friends” are really your friends. That’s because you feel people keep taking advantage of you. This will only get worse, and it’ll affect all your relationships eventually.
In short, being a people-pleaser will create trust issues, but it won’t actually stop you from being a people-pleaser, ironically.
Low self-esteem and self-worth
For too many people like me, the behaviour to please others comes from a sense of low self-worth and self-esteem issues. We go out of our way to help others, often at a personal cost to ourselves, all because we crave being accepted, liked, and needed.
Sometimes, people-pleasing is a result of some sort of abuse. They engage in people-pleasing in the hopes they’ll receive better treatment. Unfortunately, this can result in the continuation of abuse as the abusive cycle reinforces the people-pleasing behaviour due to the “honeymoon phase” of the abusive cycle.
Being taken advantage of
The obvious problem with being a people-pleaser is that others will take advantage of you. Not always intentionally, or at last to begin with, but sooner or later they will.
So if your self-worth and self-esteem were already low before, realising this as you bend over backwards to help others will only make these worse. People-pleasing will further ruin your self-worth and self-esteem.
Signs You’re People-Pleasing
I pretty much always knew why I went out of my way to help my friends, even at the cost of myself. I would even put my friends’ needs above my own romantic relationships. That’s because love doesn’t last (especially when it comes to my love life; Love And Borderline Personality Disorder), but friends, friends can be there for life.
Or at least that’s what I used to think. Now I see everyone as an acquaintance, rather than a friend. Thus, in order to help others identify if they have a people-pleasing problem, I thought I’d create the following list of signs.
Pretending to be happy
In order to help get along with everyone we meet, we try to only show positive or neutral emotions, never negative emotions. You can’t be a good people-pleaser if you don’t seem approachable because you always look upset or down. Even when that’s how you really feel on the inside.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll even smile and try to be a part of the joke, even if the joke was made at your expense. When I was suffering racist abuse as a child (Suicidal Child #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek), I would smile and play along like it didn’t bother me, all because I wanted to be accepted.
What you want doesn’t matter
Even if someone asks you what you want, you flip the question back to them instead of you saying what you want. You’ll also avoid offering your own opinions and suggestions as well because what you want and what you have to say don’t matter. Does that sound familiar to you? I know it does to me.
Often, people-pleasers do this in order to avoid a disagreement with the other person(s). But doing this means you’ll rarely ever get what you want, and you’ll only do things other people want.
Going with the flow
Going with the flow is ok, to a certain extent. But again, you’ll end up just doing what everyone else wants. You’ll never do what you want if you never state what you’d like to do.
Furthermore, if you go with the flow so often, you’ll eventually forget what it is you want as an individual.
Using active listening and other positive listening skills is a good way to socialise, especially if you don’t agree with the other person(s) opinions. However, it becomes a problem if you’re also agreeing with these opinions when you actually don’t.
Because people-pleasers want to be liked and to be accepted, they can find themselves pretending to agree with opinions and behaviours we don’t actually believe. This can also get you into a lot of trouble if you’re not careful.
For example, you could find yourself talking behind someone’s back, saying and agreeing to comments you don’t actually believe to be true. This could put your relationship with that person at risk, especially if they find out.
Other people’s feelings are somehow your responsibility
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be aware of how your comments and actions affect other people, but take it to a whole other level by believing that you have to make another person(s) happy. It isn’t your job to make someone else happy, especially at a cost to yourself. Everyone is in charge of their own emotions.
Saying sorry all the time for being you. Do you fear that other people blame you or do you blame yourself, and thus you feel you have to apologise all the time? If so, you could have a people-pleasing problem.
Taking on too much
One of the problems with being a people-pleaser is that you often take on too much, risking burnout. Agreeing to help other people and going to events/activities that other people want you to do. If that sounds familiar, then you may have issues with people-pleasing. Make sure you spend your time, especially your free time, the way you want to. Your self-care is important.
Get out of jail free card
Because you can’t say no, and you always end up saying yes, you often have to make excuses to get out of the things you’ve agreed to. This is your get-out-of-jail-free card. Do you often have to pretend to be unwell or make up some other excuse to get out of what you’ve agreed? If so, then you may have a people-pleasing problem.
Being part of the joke
Like I said earlier, when I was a child (Suicidal Child #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek) I had to pretend I wasn’t hurt by the racist comments said to me, and pretended to be part of the “joke”. We do stuff like this because we don’t value our emotions.
However, if you aren’t able to communicate your real feelings then you’ll have problems establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship. Denying your emotions not only affects your relationship’s healthy status but also takes its toll on you.
Acting the part
We all change the way we behave when we’re around different groups of people. The way we act with our best friends, our coworkers, and our partner’s parents, will be different. However, people-pleasers will go above and beyond to act differently if it’ll make others happier or help them feel a part of the group.
For example, you might drink more when you go out with your friends because that’s what they expect of you, even though you don’t want to drink that excessively. Ring any bells?
People-pleasers will often self-sabotage themselves and their goals. That’s because their needs aren’t seen as important. Have you noticed yourself doing that?
If your self-worth and self-esteem are dependent on praise from other people, then you most likely have a problem with people-pleasing. I know I’ve always had problems with external validation.
You’ll never be truly happy unless internal validation is enough for you.
Getting into a conflict situation isn’t fun, but if you try to do everything you can to avoid such a situation, then you could have a problem with people-pleasing.
Don’t be angry with me
People-pleasers don’t want other people to be angry with them or hold any negative feelings towards them for that matter. The problem is, you can’t control how others feel. Plus you might not have done anything wrong in the first place.
If you can’t handle the thought that someone is angry with you for some reason, then you could have issues with being a people-pleaser.
Fear of rejection
This one’s self-explanatory. If you fear being rejected for being yourself, then you most likely have problems with being a people-pleaser.
Stay tuned for my post next week to get more advice, and tips, on how to overcome people-pleasing.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences with people-pleasing and boundaries in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications of new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
49 thoughts on “The Dangers Of People-Pleasing And Links To Abuse”
Ah, Indian culture that i grew up in, is centred around people pleasing! it is beyond toxic and annoying. Husband still suffers from it because of the family being so into it. But I have changed a lot of this obsessive need in him with constant reason and fight. It is just a very cultural thing in many parts of the world..
I had no idea People-Pleasing was a cultural problem, I just learned something new. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience
This was great information!! I used to people please often and it definitely led to a lack of confidence and poor relationships. So glad I’ve found ways now to set boundaries and not allow people to run over me
Boundaries are certainly important in protecting and respecting ourselves
I think you are absolutely right and bring up amazing points. I always care what people think, even when I say I dont. But there are also a lot of dangers to that
I still worry about what people think of me, even though I’ve made a lot of progress with my People-Pleasing issue, it’s really annoying
Good post and very informative. I agree with you people pleasing is dangerous and not good for us. It ruined self love. That is one important life lesson I learned since the last few years. I cannot please everyone. No matter how good you are, there will always be people who don’t appreciate you. That’s why I stop pleasing people now. I just do what’s good for me. I don’t care if others say I am not a good person. Myself is a priority too.
Indeed, you can’t please everyone, and a lot of people will never appreciate the efforts you put in to help them, and your own needs should always be a priority, as you said
Ah yeah when I was in a bit of a rubbishy place I had a friend who later told me that she was like an alpha wolf and I was a beta and that our friendship worked because I would make all the effort whilst she didn’t make effort. That was that for the friendship I walked away it was weird through as I felt that I’d done some wrong by walking away as the person had been there when I needed someone to be.
That was a surprisingly honest comment by your former ‘friend’, but you shouldn’t feel bad for distancing yourself from someone who’s happy to admit that your friendship was one way
Uh oh. I’m definitely a people pleaser. But I wonder if that has more to do with having BPD or coming from an Italian background? I’m really looking forward to reading your next post on how to overcome people pleasing!
Are Italian people known for being people-pleasers?
From my experience, the women definitely are. Historically, all the women in my family base their whole day around everybody else. Always the last to sit down for a meal, always the first to get up again to get something for someone else, always concerned with everybody else’s happiness before their own. It could just be my family I guess, but I was brought up in a culture of pleasing everyone else was more important than your own happiness.
Would you say that’s more ingrained sexism rather than people-pleasing, given that it’s only the women that do it?
Ah, possibly, yes.
I hope you’re breaking that cycle of ingrained People-Pleasing sexism, because other people’s happiness isn’t something you’re meant to be in charge of
I am trying to, but it’s hard to learn as an adult. That’s why I’m looking forward to your next post for some tips 🙂
Well I hope it doesn’t disappoint
I think we all have a little people pleasing in us. As I’ve grown older I’ve chosen my friends more carefully and that’s helped but it still crops up as an issue for me every now and again. It’s definitely a work in progress for me – knowing my boundaries, when to say no, and when yes really is okay.
I think it’s a work in progress for most people, as most of us have a little people-pleasing in us, although it might be more specific to certain people (like family or our partner), rather than a general way of being
Yep, this is me. I apologize for everything! Seriously, if I hiccup, I apologize. Its like a disease.
Totally still have some issues with people pleasing, especially in more intimate relationships. Thank you for writing this post.
Romantic relationships are probably where were all more likely to become more People-Pleasing, so it’s not just you
One of the last things discussed in therapy was this very topic of people pleasing. I’m learning how to say no. It is extremely hard for me even still. I typically say yes or avoid the person altogether if I suspect they need something that I can’t or don’t want to do.
Saying no is a surprisingly hard skill to learn
Ugh… I needed to read this. I’m a chronic people-pleaser and I’m gotten in so much trouble just because I wanted to be friendly and/or avoid to make people mad. I’ve even gotten scammed because of it.
Thanks for this amazing post! You have great points here 🙂 I’m going to re-read this every once in a while.
Sorry to hear that your People-Pleasing has resulted in you getting scammed, I hope the scammer was caught
I feel like this post was written for me personally, thank you so much for sharing it. I am such a people pleaser, to the detriment of my own well being. I grew up with a volatile parent, so I spend so much energy trying to make everyone else around me happy. It stresses me out!! I love being around people, but it exhausts me. Thank you so much for breaking down what it’s like to me a people pleaser. I am fortunate in the fact that I have a great group of genuine friends who don’t take advantage of me. I’m so grateful for them.
Sorry to hear about having to grow up with a volatile parent, that can’t have been easy. I hope you’re learning to put your needs first, rather than remaining a people-pleaser, you deserve to be happy too
Boundaries are so important, thanks for detailing all this. It’s something i definitely needed a reminder on
Thanks for reading
I learned that sometimes you have to say no to make yourself happy. It took a while tho and it’s so easy to slip back into people pleasing mode.
It certainly is easy to fall back into bad habits, like People-Pleasing
This is such a great post. I used to be a big people pleaser too, and I am trying to work on this. It’s very true that there are many consequences to people pleasing too. It’s definitely not worth it!
Indeed it’s not
I am honest; I have done some people pleasing in my time.
And it does not feel good to smile and lie, even if it does mean people love you. At the end of the day, their love and friendship is as big a falsity as people pleasing.
Indeed it is
I was a people pleaser..After I realised constant draining of my energy, confidence, etc..I left being one..I concentrate more on myself, my happiness. I am more happy now.
Thanks for sharing a wonderful post.
I’m glad to hear you’ve changed from being a people-pleaser to looking after yourself instead. Thanks for reading
Very interesting piece, I look forward to reading more of your stuff.
We have no idea how bad it is until we hit burnout – which is where I ended up. Totally empty with a toddler and nothing left to give. Had no idea what had hit me or how I had ended up there!
So nice to read your perspective on people-pleasing and why it is so bad and yet so hard to handle with kindness.
This is why self-care is so important, because before you even realise it, you’re burnt out, and people can do dangerous things when they’ve completely burnt out
I know I’m a people pleaser and I try to work on this but it’s not that easy. I’m happy that you’ve shared this thorough post with the costs of being a people pleaser, this definitely was another wake up call that I really have to work on this!
xoxo Simone | https://beautymone.com
A lot of people do, myself included
Ignoring self care which is also linked to self sabotage. Wow. Learnt something today.
Always good to learn something new
Really great read! Since getting better at challenging others and not being afraid to push back on a task I’ve reduced my people pleasing.
A key change in my life was having a family, it made me realise with these demands if I tried to accommodate everyone I wouldn’t have time with my kids!
For me it’s become more about taking more of what matters to me, rather than doing things that matter to someone else – for example I was recently invited to cohost a podcast – I have no desire to do this, the old me would have gone with the flow.
In regards to worrying about what others feel – from my experience usually what people feel isn’t as bad as I imagined!
Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I totally agree with your point about the feelings of others, we assume people will have a worse emotional response than they likely will have, due to our minds lying to us