Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.Jim Carrey
Help! How do I stop this lifelong pattern of putting everyone’s feelings and needs before my own? It feels like it’s killing me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Yet, I don’t know how to stop. Is it even possible? Is it just too selfish to even consider it? I’m exhausted. Depressed. Anxious. Downright disgusted. I am consistently praised by those I love and society for being so selfless and caring. Yet, I am stressed out and sometimes I feel like I’m dying inside. I feel like I’m drowning. If this sounds like you, then you may be a people pleaser.
What is a People Pleaser?
A person who is a people pleaser is someone who feels that they must please others, or put others before themselves regardless of the emotional or physical price. Often this pattern comes from a place of feeling that if we don’t do this then someone will be angry, disappointed, or may reject or abandon us. The thought of this may feel unbearable, so the pattern of people pleasing continues.
Is This What Life is All About?
Some of us are in denial about being a people pleaser. Explaining to ourselves that, “I’m just a caring, compassionate human being and I really like it. I love doing things for the people that I love and it doesn’t really matter how it affects me. I’m good with it.”
For others of us we do not feel that we have been people pleasing for so long that it’s just hopeless to even imagine changing it. We’ve always been the one to say yes despite the exhaustion of overcommitting ourselves. “Is this what I am destined to do forever? Please others and not myself?”
The Effects of The Need to Please
It is simply exhausting to be a people pleaser and always trying to figure out what the other person wants and needs. Especially when each person in our life wants and needs something different. Therefore, people pleasing depletes our energy—physically, emotionally and spiritually. We may neglect ourselves and our own needs and we might often become resentful. Yet we still don’t stop. Often this is where a psychotherapist can help us explore and work through these patterns.
How Did This Pattern Start?
For many of us, our people pleasing behavior was born and nurtured during our childhood. This behavior may have been a result of being raised in an alcoholic, or otherwise dysfunctional, family. Or becoming a people pleaser may have been because of being a middle child who may have felt invisible. Doing things for others may have been one of the only ways of receiving positive attention. We were the straight A student, or the child who always asked mom or dad “Can I help you?” thus, the son or daughter everyone wanted. Then the positive attention may have been reinforced by our parents, siblings, extended family and teachers.
For more tips on identifying and altering people pleasing patterns, please click on the link below for my complete article.
My wish for you is that you can take the time today to make yourself a priority and do something that brings you happiness and joy.
-Kathleen Dwyer-Blair, LCSW, BCD
Director Nassau Guidance and Counseling