In trying to please all, he had pleased none.
― Aesop, Aesop’s Fables
Do you suffer from burnout or fatigue and know that the primary reason is not due to poor diet, physical ailment or lack of exercise? Do you find that your self-esteem esteem and self-respect tend to dwell in the low grades all the while you struggle to even comprehend what it really means to love yourself? Do you find yourself neurotically obsessed about what others think of you and regularly have the gut feeling that when interacting with people you pretend to be someone you’re not?
If you answered yes to at least two of the above questions, you might be a people pleaser.
People pleasing is not constructive. It is destructive both for you and others. If you are facing a benevolent stranger, they lose because they don’t get to fully share in who you are. If you are interacting with a pathological abuser, you put yourself in harm’s way, despite your good intentions. In all cases, you lose because in the process of pleasing others you abandon yourself.
In an effort to convince you that it is worth your while to stop this behavior as soon as you can, let me give you few more reasons why people pleasing doesn’t serve you.
Destructive Repercussions of People Pleasing
People pleasing makes you stuck in the past. While you are engaging in a conversation or activity, you are not really there. Part of you is, but another part is trying to resolve an old issue, get some validity, some emotional sustenance for something that you’ve been chronically deprived of. It might be love, approval or acknowledgement of your presence.
The wounds tend to be old and go back to events in childhood that instilled the feeling of not being seen. Consequently, a false belief takes root. One that states, for example: others don’t see me because I’m not important. Or I’m not good enough. Or not pretty enough, or what have you.
Holding onto this kind of paradigm while being trained that attention and love comes only when putting others first, creates a toxic cocktail that’s ripe for developing codependency that goes hand in hand with people pleasing behavior.
People pleasing makes you focus on things that you cannot control, such as other people and events, all the while your life is slipping away. This dovetails with being overly concerned about the opinion of others.
Holding the not good enough belief in the subconscious while focusing on the outside will typically end up cementing the belief further because people will not value you if you fail to value yourself. This is how the wound keeps getting reinforced.
Putting other people before you can result from too much conscientiousness and empathy that is out of balance. While both qualities are wonderful and will end up serving you if you direct them inwards, they need to be guarded and protected.
Strong though flexible boundaries with a solid sense of self and an open heart is the ideal combo. A little further down I will share with you how to achieve that balance.
Constant people pleasing will chip away at your sense of self-respect and esteem, turning you into someone who is too preoccupied with the outside and therefore struggles with meeting your goals. This is a recipe for a low self-confidence that only feeds this destructive cycle.
When you get sidetracked by making sure others are happy while neglecting your own needs, wants and dreams, you move away from what’s good for you and lose precious time you can never get back.
And finally, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, people pleasing will turn you into a magnet for abusers, narcissists and other toxic personalities. It is not only what you say that perks up their attention. Narcissists look for people who are resourceful and will not put up a fight. Empaths and codependents fit the bill perfectly because they seek to help people, albeit each for a different reason.
The Empath vs. the Codependent
As an empath, you may feel that it is your mission in life to make the world a better place. And if anyone, it is the empath who actually can do it. Empaths connect with people easily, the connections often yielding a healing result. This is what we live for. We love to reach out, touch people’s hearts and leave them a little better than they were before the encounter.
Codependents tend to be abused empaths who have not learned to protect their gift. Sympathizing with the abuser too much sabotaged their sense of self to the point they have hardly any of it left for themselves. Everything they had was invested in the relationship and eventually got devalued and trampled upon. Now they wander around seeking validation from other people to get at least a little bit of that sustenance back. They do this by pleasing others, because they were taught by abusive people that they will only get love if they continually give of themselves. But abusers such as narcissists are an endless abyss of need. Nothing is ever good enough. So as a codependent, you will be at a risk of getting stuck in a dynamic of always proving your love to the narcissist and them always wanting more.
You see how that perpetuates the target’s wounding? Codependency is very unhealthy but thankfully it can be healed. If you are struggling with it and would like to gain some momentum in your self-healing, you can contact me here for support.
What Happens When You Stop People Pleasing?
Many of us already know that it is bad to people please, but still refuse to work on this crucial step to self-healing. Let me tell you, it is worth investing in! Here are some things you will gain:
- Stronger boundaries
- More energy and even a slimmer figure!
- More robust immunity
- Inner peace because you will be more aligned with your truth
- Reduced anxiety will restore your endocrine balance
- You will have more fulfillment as you make strides forward and get results
- Your confidence, self-esteem will get a boost!
- You will tap into your creative flow with more ease
- You will become more tuned-in and intuitive
- Protected by boundaries, you will have more love to give without experiencing burnout
- You will attract people of higher caliber
- You will recognize and repel toxic people.
Below are 5 ways in which people pleasing erodes your power and what you can do to reverse the trend starting now.
(In my video — linked below — I go deeper into describing how in a recent health retreat I attended in Thailand, I was able to observe a group of people who repeatedly sabotaged themselves by people pleasing and what their behavior looked like from the outside. You are welcome to check it out. For the sake of brevity, here we will go straight into it.)
The lesson begins with a simple ABC to help you remember.
One: AUTHENTICITY. People pleasing undermines your authenticity. Or, if you’ve been working on becoming more authentic, your growth towards authenticity is halted. From that perspective, when you people please you will appear:
· Weak and open to abuse
· An impostor, maybe even forcing an emotion that is contrary to what you are actually feeling
· Like you want people to like you when you don’t truly like yourself, which puts way too much concentrated power in their hands
· You appear distracted and not fully present
· You say yes when you mean to say NO.
Two: BOUNDARIES. People pleasing grinds down boundaries and makes you appear:
- Blurry and undefined
- Vanishing into a crowd, allowing others to take your energy
- Wishy-washy, undecided
- Not selective enough; you accept what comes at you, even when someone treats you poorly
- Like you are worth less than others.
Three: CONFIDENCE. People pleasing causes confidence hangover. Your state suffers greatly, not just during the act, but especially after. By placing too much value on others and not enough on yourself, you reinforce your sense of meekness or unimportance. You give the impression that:
- That you owe the world something, when in fact you don’t
- You doubt yourself — especially when you change your stance or opinion on a topic just so that you satisfy another
- You compare yourself to others, usually taking the lower position
- You are defensive
- You’re always apologizing, even for the things you haven’t done.
People misunderstand confidence. It doesn’t lead to higher self-esteem, deeper self-love and better performance. Rather, confidence is a by-product of self-love and taking action, especially in the areas of nurturing authenticity and working on your boundaries. Think of it as A+B=C.
If you start your day well by honoring yourself, ask for what you need, say no when it resonates, state your preferences in a non-defensive and assertive way, if you listen to your inner compass and fulfill the commitments you make with yourself, you will have higher confidence throughout that day. If you do the opposite, you will feel drained and your sense of self-worth (and energy) will plummet.
A couple more ways in which people pleasing sabotages you:
Four. CONTROL. By externalizing your locus of control, you give away your power. You focus on others and what they need and prefer to see in you all the while ignoring your own needs. If you do that repeatedly, you send a message to the world that others take precedence and you will make very little progress when it comes to your own goals.
Five. ATTRACTION. Instead of attracting people who can become your allies, when you repeatedly people please, you will attract manipulators, users and other toxic people who will want to take advantage of you.
How to Stop People Pleasing Like a Pro
Protect your AUTHENTICITY like your life depends on it, by learning what you like and dislike and honoring that throughout your day, even in the smallest of ways.
State your preferences in a peaceful, assertive manner without the need to defend yourself. Accept that we are all entitled to our own opinion and that includes you!
Stay focused on your vision and purpose by internalizing your locus of CONTROL. Put your attention on the things you can control: yourself, what you think, feel and do. Leave out the rest and it will all fall into place naturally.
Become a creative instead of a consumer.
Don’t sabotage yourself for who you are by learning to embrace your imperfections. (No one is perfect. We are all perfectly imperfect!).
Learn to love your quirkiness! It’s what makes you unique. The narcissist was attracted to you because you are different and special in some way. Unfortunately, instead of cherishing and celebrating those qualities, he or she wanted to possess them. But since they couldn’t, they ended up trying to destroy them. That’s dysfunction for you.
Know where you end and others begin as an expression of self- and other-respect. It’s the foundation for healthy BOUNDARIES that will lead you to a renewed sense of trust and experiencing true intimacy with others.
Practice positive self-talk to champion yourself on. When you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, challenge it and overwrite it with a compassionate thought you’d offer a loved on.
Stand up for your rights and learn to carry yourself with dignity, even if you don’t feel particularly dignified it the moment. It gets better with practice.
Nurture your CONFIDENCE by being proud of who you are in a non-flashy, non-threatening way. It will grow as a result of you being authentic and protecting your true essence with healthy boundaries (not too rigid, not too porous).
Practice being your word and meeting the goals you state for yourself. Start small and build from there. It’s one of the best fertilizers to help you grow your confidence.
Saying no doesn’t mean you don’t care. When someone tries to pull you off course or coerce you to doing something you don’t want to do, smile and say no. It may feel strange at first, but you’ll get a jolt of energy from it, I promise.
Finally, the more you get to know yourself, who you are and what you like the less you’ll be ATTRACTED to narcissists. Your desire for fairytale beginnings will diminish and the fake intensity will put you off instead of luring you in.
As your energy grows and you become more defined and refined, your attractiveness will soar. You will be drawn towards a new quality of people, ideas and places. Also, more resourceful, kind and (com)passionate people will be drawn towards you.
You will become a narcissist repellant. And if you happen to come across an ambitious one who likes challenges, you will quickly see right through their game and have the tools to act accordingly. Such as turn the other way.
With healing comes a deeper sense of wholeness and integration. By knowing yourself and decoding your vulnerabilities, you’ll get to see things from a wider, more holistic context. No longer entranced by the need to please, you will get your focus back and make strides towards a better future for you and for others.
Now, that’s power.
I hope this was helpful to you and look forward to meeting you in the comments. Feel free to share this article with anyone who may benefit.