Updated: Jul 4
People pleasing is a behavior that not only derails productivity, it contributes to chronic stress, depression, and burnout.
If we can better understand what people pleasing really is — what is actually happening beneath the surface when we people please, then we can learn to heal from these tendencies, improve our productivity, and hopefully reduce the likelihood of experiencing depression or burnout.
One thing’s for certain — people pleasing isn’t ill intended.
If you are a people pleaser, likely you are a genuinely kind and giving person.
The thing is, you aren’t consistent with your generosity and kindness.
Your actions discriminate.
You fail to fully embody that Human Giving-ness consistently because you ignore one very important person’s needs.
You forget to lend that generosity and kindness to yourself.
Your outward people pleasing is a sacrificial act, one that is not coming from a place of unconditional love, but rather is born from fear.
And it’s not your fault. You don’t mean to hurt yourself. In fact — avoiding pain is a big part of why you have people pleasing tendencies in the first place!
You are afraid of feeling the uncomfortable feelings that inevitably stir up inside of you when other people express their upset-ness.
Ironically, people pleasing, at its core, is actually all about You.
You desperately need to avoid the discomfort of anger or disappointment.
You do not know how to handle others’ expressed dissatisfaction, and so you will do anything to avoid having to face it.
People pleasing is a learned survival strategy picked up in early childhood that has become part of your subconscious programming. It’s a protection mechanism to meet your deepest needs: to be safe, to be at ease (the absence of uncomfortable feelings), and to belong.
Now before we dive deeper into the root of people pleasing, and how to begin healing from it, let’s get clear on what people pleasing can look like.
How Do You Know If You’re A People Pleaser?
Here are some signs of people pleasing that may be relatable for you:
1. You are deeply uncomfortable when others are upset/angry/unhappy (whether or not their dissatisfaction is directed at you).
You are constantly in the trenches for others in order to avoid the discomfort of their upset-ness.
In an effort to alleviate your discomfort with their negative feelings, you feel responsible to decrease their level of dissatisfaction and so you might react by:
solving the problem(s) for them,
saying yes to requests, even though it’s a sacrifice on your part, or
doing anything that you know will help alleviate their pain.
2. You tend to go along with the crowd while sacrificing alignment. You go along with what people say or do even though you don’t agree or want to.
You don’t want to rock the boat, you don’t want to disappoint, and because you are battling insecurities, you don’t want to be disapproved of.
You believe that you have no choice but to go along with the crowd because the alternative is too risky. If you don’t go along with it, your deepest needs are threatened.
This is where loose or non-existent boundaries are often apparent — and you likely have trouble expressing healthy noes.
3. You feel resentment or despair looking at your calendar. Likely you have a tough time discerning between doing the right thing and people pleasing, so your calendar is full of things that meet others’ needs and is vacant of things that satisfy your own desires and goals.
Your calendar is bulging, and busy is a badge to wear with pride because you have a responsibility to take care of everything and everyone around you. What’s especially frustrating is that it seems impossible to make time for yourself.
The Root Of People Pleasing.
Now if you can relate to any of these signs of people pleasing, then you’re probably interested in learning how to untangle yourself from these tendencies. In order to do that, you need to dig deep into understanding the root cause.
Here it is: We people please out of fear.
Sometimes we people please because we think we have no choice — we have to do the thing, because if we don’t then we’re going to be faced with future feelings that are not enjoyable. And we’re afraid of those feelings, because if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t know how to handle them.
As a people pleaser, you likely have a fear of experiencing uncomfortable feelings, and you’re used to avoiding, suppressing, or numbing, instead of being with things like disappointment or disapproval.
So you have to do things now, in order to avoid discomfort in the future.
And that future discomfort is correlated to the deepest human needs and it is triggered by your limiting core beliefs.
Now these core beliefs can be anything, they are deeply personal and unique to each individual, and they tend to be tied to those needs of safety, ease, and sense of belonging.
Here are some possible core beliefs of people pleasers:
I’m not competent
I am not needed
Only I can do this
My value is based on how much I can do for others
No one understands me
I am not worthy
The First Step To Breaking The People Pleasing Pattern.
If you want to change your people pleasing story, you need to build self awareness around your personal core beliefs.
We personalize experiences to mean things about ourselves. But the truth is — you aren’t a people pleaser — you’ve simply personalized your experiences to believe that is true. You’ve made yourself believe that is who you are.
But it’s not the truth of who you are — it's a protective layer of personalization built from fear and triggered by your unique core beliefs.
And, those core beliefs aren’t true either.
So I invite you to reflect on what your personal core beliefs are. What stories have you made up about yourself, as a form of protection to meet the needs of safety, ease, and belonging?
Get clear on those core beliefs so that you can begin the work of releasing them.
The Second Step To Breaking The People Pleasing Pattern.
Remember, that people pleasing is a solution to a problem: and that problem is the fear of discomfort.
Which is where the second step comes in:
Being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
If you have not yet embodied the skill of being able to sit with uncomfortable feelings, then you will continue to people please.
I have a sticky note on my wall that is one of the first things I see every morning and it says “Spirituality is being good at feeling.”
In order to stop being a people pleaser, it’s necessary to become more resilient, more tolerant of the wide spectrum of uncomfortable feelings.
You’ve gotta’ get good at feeling in order to break the people pleasing pattern. After unraveling yourself from those false core beliefs, you then need to build the capacity to be present with feelings like stress, disapproval, rejection, disappointment, and sadness. It can help to start with journal reflections.
Take some time this week to reflect on these journal prompts:
What are you most afraid of feeling?
If you weren’t afraid of feeling that way, what might change?
Imagine the future version of you has healed this fear. What do they do differently? How does the future You behave compared to who you have been up until now?
The Future Non-People-Pleasing You.
Once you are able to shed those limiting beliefs and expand your capacity for uncomfortable feelings, you will begin to notice yourself making consciously aligned and authentic choices.
Remember that people pleasing is not about anyone else: it comes from your personalization of your unique limiting beliefs, and the fear of feeling uncomfortable feelings.
As you shed the people pleasing tendencies, you will no longer sacrifice your values, your desires, your well being, or your productivity.
You’ll feel at peace, and even energized looking at your calendar because it reflects You.
You’ll no longer rely on external validation.
You’ll no longer take fear based action, saving others, or fixing things in an effort to meet your needs of safety, ease, and belonging.
And, you’ll know the deepest truth — that you are not responsible for anyone’s happiness but your own.
Happiness comes from within, and solving other people’s problems denies their sovereignty to create their own experience.
So give and be kind — but from a place of pure unconditional love, not from a place of fear.
For support out of people pleasing I invite you to book a free discovery call with me.
Limited 1-on-1 private coaching opportunities available.