The Problem With People Pleasing

By Kris Reece, Counselor, Coach, Speaker

The Problem with People Pleasing

Are you the one who is always such a great team player–your church knows it can call on in a time of need? Or you frequently come to your children’s rescue? Or everyone in your workplace knows you to be a cooperative, giving person? You may be a people pleaser.

People-pleasing is like perfectionism—praised in our society, but not a good thing. Let’s remove the mask of people pleasing and look under the surface at what truly exists.

Many people pleasers appear to be very kind and gentle people who just want to do good for others. But what typically exists below the surface is a great need for recognition and a fear of rejection. They often say yes when they would prefer to say no and then get angry for having said yes. They say yes because they want to be recognized for being so giving. But that recognition is rarely enough, so they quietly build up anger and resentment. These emotions fester for quite some time until….BOOM! Those around them don’t know what hit them.

People pleasers fear rejection in a major way, and so they prioritize taking care of others’ needs. Although it may sound nice to be in relationship with someone who dotes on you, it can add a tremendous amount of stress.

That initial rush of feeling taken care of quickly wears off, because many people pleasers do not have a strong identity—they exist to respond to others’ needs. It is hard to be in a mature relationship with someone who doesn’t express their own needs. To make matters worse, people-pleasers are EXTREMELY sensitive—if you try to rush them in making a decision or push them to express themselves, they build up a resentment that they express as hurt. So what do you do?

If you are in a relationship with a people pleaser here are some tips that can help you both:

  • Tell them every day in words and actions that they are loved, needed and appreciated.
  • Help them make decisions, take on responsibilities and share responsibility for the decisions they do make.
  • Never force a people pleaser to be the heavy in any situation.
  • Encourage their input.
  • Prompt them to be more assertive in sharing the things that make them angry.
  • Accept their dependency without dominating them.

If you are a people pleaser, there are a few things you can do to help yourself:

  • Remember, people cannot read your mind; you must communicate your feelings and preferences.
  • Learn to initiate contact with people. The more acceptance you receive the less you will fear rejection.
  • Recognize that you don’t do well when forced to take on too much responsibility. You do well in supportive roles, not leadership roles.
  • Find employment where you can undertake tasks while working with people.
  • Lessen your anxiety by spending time with God and receiving His love; this will reduce the amount of pressure you put on others for love and attention.
  • Recognize that your desire to help others comes from a selfish desire to fill your own needs.

God never calls anyone to be a slave to someone else’s preferences, desires or actions. You were wonderfully made by your Creator to be your own person. Honor that uniqueness and watch how you flourish.

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