People Pleasing: What is it and How can we stop?

Woman giving gift to impress someone

Have you ever heard the term “People Pleaser”? It’s not just about being accommodating and nice to others. While it can be seen as a positive trait, there are significant negative consequences, especially as it relates to our mental health. When individuals consistently prioritize the needs and desires of others over their own, they may experience anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. They may also equate their self-worth with how happy other people are with them. This can be especially true if the individual feels like they are never able to meet the expectations of others, or if their own needs and desires are consistently ignored. People pleasing can also lead to a lack of boundaries, as individuals may have difficulty saying “no” to requests or setting limits on their time and energy. This can result in feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and resentful.

Furthermore, people pleasing can become a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult emotions such as fear of rejection or disapproval. This can lead to a cycle of seeking validation and approval from others in order to feel good about oneself, which can be harmful to mental health in the long run.

Statistically, this behaviour is far more prominent in women than men. According to Psychology Today, 54% of women are suffering greater adverse effects on both mental and physical health from people-pleasing behaviours, compared to 40 percent of men.

People pleasing does stem from our childhood interactions, where someone doesn’t give themselves permission to put themselves first. Generally speaking, these behaviours are more prevalent in families that have porous boundaries and a high level of enmeshment. (In other words, families who are all up in each other’s business). These lack of boundaries follow us in to relationships and the workplace.

To avoid falling in to these behaviours, it’s important to work on assertiveness skills, practice self-care, developing healthy boundaries and not attaching our self-worth to only one part of our life.

When we give our time and energy to multiple areas of our lives, we tend not to hyper focus on and perfect one specific area. For example, people who are deemed “workaholics” are more likely to engage in this behaviour and put a lot of weight on their titles, and stature in an organization.