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Are You A People Pleaser?

Who is the person you've had to please in order to feel lovable?

Who criticised you and told you that who you are is not OK?

Who modelled passive behaviour and told you that this is how you 'should' be (or you assumed it)?

Who rejected or abandoned you?

Whose thoughts do you have? Are they yours or are you repeating the messages of somebody else such as a parent / caregiver?

Who is the voice of your inner critic?

Who is the drunk, the rageaholic or the 'threatener' from your past?

Who withdrew when you didn't do exactly what was wanted or expected?

Who acted like their feelings, opinions, needs, expectations and wants, were more important than everyone else's?

Who is telling you that you 'must' do ________?

Other people are in charge of you and your life - who are they? Or who are they similar to?

This class provides you with some insight into people-pleasing and the reason why it's relevant to you, is because when your self-esteem is compromised, it is important for you to evaluate which beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that you have, which are basically those of a People Pleaser.

People-pleasing is when you suppress and deprioritise your feelings, opinions, needs, expectations and wants, so that you can enhance and prioritise the needs, expectations, wants, feelings, and opinions of others. When you people-please, you are excessively concerned with satisfying and appealing to others and derive your worth and identity from being and doing what you think will give others a feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment.

It's my job to make people happy.

By pleasing people, I feel needed. I need to feel needed in order to feel worthy, valid, and happy.

I must put everyone else first.

I must put ___________ first.

My feelings and needs don't count.

I experience reward when I please and am punished for being assertive.

I am a woman so I must __________.

Women / men must __________.

I'm of _____________ ethnic background / religion so I must / should be and do _________.

When I please I am approved of.

I'm not OK and lovable if I'm not pleasing people.

I made a mistake so my parents / partner / friends / coworkers don't love/like me anymore.

If a person I like or love doesn't share my values or outlook then it means that mine is wrong.

Use this module and the rest of this course, to home in on any beliefs that you hold that are effectively about serving others and suppressing yourself. These beliefs disempower you and set you up for a fall.

What you may not realise, is that you engage in this pleasing behaviour and thinking because you expect, whether it's consciously or not, that you will be rewarded with the likes of love, affection, validation, approval and basically the recognition of the very needs, expectations, wants, feelings, and opinions that you yourself don't recognise or represent. There's also an underlying but nonetheless quite dominant expectation that you will, as a result of all of your pleasing, be immune or certainly have minimised, the possibility of what you perceive to be negative outcomes - criticism, conflict, rejection, and disappointment.

why am i so unhappy?

You expect that by pleasing others that you will in turn feel pleased and that they will do things that give you feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment. Instead you feel anything but happy. You have fleeting periods of happiness but then you have to get back on the pleasing hamster wheel because of course, there's the worry that if you relax and assume that what you've been doing is enough, that they will find fault with you. It's exhausting. This is the conundrum of people-pleasing: How and why do I feel so unhappy when all I do is try to please others? Why doesn't all of this pleasing feel good?

approve of me, love me, like me, validate me

  • You want to be accepted.
  • You want to be liked.
  • You want to be appreciated.
  • You want to be validated and valid.
  • You want to be loved.
  • You want to be approved of.

You wonder why you don't feel any of these things. You often feel taken advantage of or abused and yet you can't seem to stop, not least because you've spent so much of your life being devoted to pleasing others and trying to control the uncontrollable, that you have no clue who you are and how to meet your own needs, expectations, and wants, or how to express your feelings and opinions. You don't know who you are, what you feel, or what you need, want, and expect, although I'd lay bets that you have some very strong ideas on how you can please others. If I ask you how you can make you happy, you might just come up blank or tell me something that's related to an external party having to be or do something first.

It becomes really frustrating because it feels as if you're trying hard to be and do what others want and to make them happy and yet nothing ever seems to be enough, and you can end up making a direct correlation with your worth and assuming that what you are doing would be enough and you wouldn't be experiencing the likes of conflict, criticism, disappointment and rejection, if it wasn't for the fact that you are not enough in the first place.

People-pleasing is a form of passive behaviour and communication that has elements of passive aggression.

Assertiveness is about representing your needs, expectations, wants, feelings and opinions with respect.

Passive aggression involves covert and obstructive behaviour that's basically about saying one thing and doing another. It masks feelings of anger, frustration and resentment.

Aggression, which is often what passive people mistake for assertiveness, is when getting needs, expectations, wants, feelings, and opinions represented by force. It's also about hostile communication and behaviour and often when you suppress who you are, you reach a melting point and explode. You then feel bad and think that being 'assertive' is wrong and go back to passive pleasing behaviour.

People-pleasing makes you excessively reliant on external esteem. We all need a little of this but without healthy levels of self-esteem, which runs counter to heavy investment in people-pleasing, we become dependent on others. As a general mode of being, people-pleasing can cause you to be codependent with the world at large or at the very least with people who you've appointed as being authorities due to them activating the pleaser within you.

As a people-pleaser, you have emotional reasons to fear disapproval that are unrelated to real concerns or what is actually taking place around you.

These emotional reasons drive your habits of thinking and behaviour. Your feelings and thoughts are treated as facts (not every thought or feeling is a fact), so your fears of disapproval due to not pleasing people mean that you inadvertently exaggerate the perceived threats and then have disproportionate responses to situations and feelings. In turn, you default to your pleasing behaviour to protect yourself from pain. You repeating the pattern of thinking and behaviour is relating to old pain not the current situation so it disempowers you. It's all a false economy that actually exposes you to further pain and stunts growth and eventually you become resentful, frustrated, and regretful that your perspective and habits haven't grown over time.

If you have a habit of being excessively concerned with pleasing others to the detriment of your sense of self, this is a habit that you've learned over time, likely stemming from childhood. You have learned to associate the approval and pleasure of others with your own happiness. You were either trained to be compliant or you assumed that you had to be compliant.

When we're children, we see ourselves as being at the centre of things and assume that the behaviour of others relates to something that we've done. We don't like feeling bad and can come to believe that we are loved less when we're not pleasing or that the behaviour of adults or others around us is specifically provoked by us not being pleasing enough. As we grow older, we hopefully come to realise that this is not the case and learn to separate our identity out, but often we continue with habits of thinking and behaviour that we've adopted in order to cope with our childhood environment and taxing situations. If we do this, we get to adulthood and continue this habit that basically assumes that 'everyone' is like the people who we've adopted these habits for. By defaulting to this automated pleasing behaviour, we don't get to increase our self-awareness and self-knowledge by figuring out our own values and boundaries. We also end up confirming our beliefs that this is the way that the world works and round and round we go with the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Everybody has a pleaser part of them, just like we have other aspects of ourselves including an inner child and inner critic. There's a you for every age, year, month, week, hour, and minute of your life and when you are a people pleaser, you're on autopilot and allowing an aspect of you that you're not entirely conscious of, to run your life for you.

You automatically comply with default responses in pleaser activating situations and conditions. It's very possible that you are assertive in certain types of situations or around certain people. Part of your work is understanding where you're passive but also surprising you with the more assertive aspects of you that you may not be aware of but that you can build upon.

You want to be and are a good person but you are excessively concerned with the perception others have of you which is trying to control the uncontrollable. It also means that you end up engaging in contrived and performance-like behaviour due to wearing this pleasing mask that suppresses who you truly are in an effort to try to fit in around and please whoever you're engaging with. You try so hard to please and focus so much on worrying about whether you're pleasing a person and trying to figure out their preferences so that you can be even more pleasing, that you end up being anything but you.

It's not that pleasing others is 'bad' - it is nice to do things for others including helping and giving. It's important to empathise and consider the rights and feelings of others. It's important that you don't use your time here on earth to ruthlessly get your needs, expectations, and wants met by force (aggression). The fact of the matter is, most people do stuff to give those they care about feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment.

It's not so much about what you do but why you do it.

It's not so much about what you do - although it's important to identify toxic and unproductive thinking and behaviour - it's about why you do it because if you wouldn't engage in your pleasing behaviour if you didn't think that it was going to influence the person to reward you in some way or to suppress an aspect of their character or their own agenda so that you can avoid discomfort, then yeah, you shouldn't be doing it. If you engage in pleasing others to gain approval, validation, love, attention etc, then what you need to be learning to do is to work on the insecurities and thinking and behaviour that drive you so that you can gain your own approval, validation, love and attention. Ironically, the more we people-please is the less we like and approve of ourselves. If anything, people-pleasing can bring about intolerable levels of blame, shame, and obsessing.

It's important to recognise that people-pleasing causes you to lose influence over your own life because you're too busy trying to influence others.

Relationship wise, you'll tend to end up with controlling people or certainly those who are more assertive or at the very least more passive aggressive about getting what they want, need, expect etc, due to you wanting to be directed. Partners and even friends and family 'know best' and even when you know that they don't, your fear of conflict and 'negative consequences' means that you try your best to share their feelings and position... even though you don't. If you end up with somebody who tends to do things on their terms and directs you, they'll like you partly due to you allowing them to be in charge and also because your pleasing is flattering, even if they make a point of not letting this be known so that they can keep you jumping through hoops, after all, they wouldn't want you to get too comfortable. Of course problems will arise if you suppressing your true self was a temporary measure - it's a bit like one of those low introductory offers you get with credit cards. They end up making a lot of the decisions and you'll end up resorting to being passive aggressive. You won't speak your mind for fear of confrontation.

In a wider sense, you assume experts such as society, religious leaders, parents or just people who you admire for certain qualities and characteristics, are 'experts'. You'll try to conform so that you can go on autopilot and be spared from big decisions or from having to think too deeply on something. Then you feel unhappy.

People-pleasers often forget that we can sit in a room with 30 people and be given the same values, objectives, goals etc and it will be carried out in thirty different ways. Trying to please experts gives you a feeling of being taken care of and when certain people question the authority of your authority or they act differently to you, it makes you feel very uncomfortable. Often you're riding with the belief that everybody must like him/her [the authority] or what you value and you become riddled with self-doubt which in turn can send you into pleasing overdrive.

People-pleasers lack autonomy because so much of their identity and perception of their choices and rights is very much tied to the perceptions of others and trying to please. You can't govern yourself and be independent while being so caught up in others. You can't determine your own path. You're actually encroaching on your own rights to enhance and over-inflate the rights of others. You're devoted to making others happy and relinquishing control of your own happiness, even though those same people will be getting on with the business of living and operating off their own thoughts, feelings, motivations, beliefs and habits to create their own lives whether they're happy or not.

You cannot have personal security when you keep abandoning you in the pursuit of pleasing others, especially if you abandon you to try to extract approval and love from the least likely sources.

You'll try to mirror and blend in by trying to think, feel, and act as they do, even if it's not your true position, which in turn makes you over-empathetic. If you've ever found yourself near glorifying and idealising a person, this is why. You think it's pleasing.

People-pleasing greatly compromises your perception of you. Your focus on pleasing means that your behaviour is affected, your autonomy such as having boundaries, saying no, having standards and limits is compromised, your perception of your choices means that you have decision-making issues, you end up giving power to people who have no business being anointed authorities and end up being in a child role, you're not as accountable and responsible for you because you're too busy trying to please others, and you're governed by fear and uncertainty.

An aggressive person assumes more control than they have and acts this way - they're very effective on passive people. Passive people assume less control than they actually have and act this way. Remember that feelings and thoughts aren't facts - just because you feel as if you can't be or do something or feel that things are a certain way, it doesn't make this a fact.

People-pleasers live life as if it's imposed upon them and mistake autonomy for being selfish. You have an underlying belief that it's bad to consider one's own feelings, desires, opinions, conditions, characteristics, values etc above or in line with those of others, when actually, the healthiest thing you can do is to be you and to stop demoting you in life.

reclaim you - turn your attentions to being you and learning how to make you happy

It's impossible to be entirely free of external influences and even the shady manipulations of others, but it is very possible to represent - to speak for yourself, to be responsible for you and your happiness, to have independence, and to live your life with your values, needs, expectations, wants, feelings and opinions. You can live your life authentically and happily. You're not aiming to be assertive 100% of the time but if you increase your assertiveness and reduce your people-pleasing, not only will your life be dramatically transformed, but you can learn and adapt from the times when you're not as assertive as you would like.


Food for thought

Consider the questions at the start of this class and make a note of your answers - this is giving you some initial awareness about why you think, feel, and do what you do, which you will be exploring in various classes and exercises.

What does pleasing and being pleased, look like to you?

What do people do to and for you that pleases you?

What do you find displeasing in others?

Challenge any beliefs that you've identified in this class - these beliefs are directly contributing to your current levels of self-esteem.

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