The Problem with Being a People Pleaser
ARCHIVE - DECEMBER 2016
ONE of the biggest stresses around Christmas is heading to parties or functions you just don’t want to go to.
Here are some recent conversations I’ve had with friends: “I HAVE to go to drinks tonight, because Claudia is going to be there and has been on me for weeks to catch up” and “I better go and show my face, wouldn’t want to put anyone’s nose out of joint”.
It’s risky business at this time of year to overcommit, but time and time again I have witnessed people suffer from “people please syndrome” and it ain’t good for us.
The fear of disappointing people is something I witness a lot of my loved ones do and before you rule out being one — read further. Because friends, I didn’t think I was a people-pleaser either. Until I was.
I always thought that people-pleasers were quiet, impressionable, even insecure. But it turns out that being confident and having options doesn’t cancel out the need to please!
According to Psychologist Susan Newman women are often the main perpetrators (this seems obvious).
“Women have been raised to be care givers and nurturers, which is why the problem is more prevalent for us than men,” Dr Newman writes in The Book of No. “We want to please because we think it will make us better people. For some women this becomes a habit, or even an addiction.”
First tick. I fall into that category. Not the addiction part but certainly the woman part.
In addition to having a vagina, for as long as I can remember, I have always had a thought process that considers, thinks and obsesses over what other people’s reactions are to things that I do.
Trying to find a way to fulfil other’s expectations of you can be really stressful and in my case causes me anxiety.
Life coach Amelia Harvey says childhood can play an important part in the evolution of the people pleaser as well.
“People pleasing often starts in childhood because we’re given positive reinforcement when we help or give to other people. What’s key is that, alongside this, there needs to be positive reinforcement and support for children to be uniquely themselves and to learn to recognise and communicate their needs,” she said.
I could relate to this also. Recently when unpacking a few boxes in my house (how embarrassing — I relocated in January!) I was reading my primary school graduation book where my Aunt wrote a sweet note that reads — “Stacey is a compassionate child. Caring and giving. She likes to please people as much as possible, sometimes even to her own expense”.
Second BIG tick.
The third tick is the hangover I have from Christmas drinks that I had no interest in going to last night. Whoops.
So it appears you can be confident, opinionated and outspoken but still have the capacity to want to please errrybody.
And what’s wrong with that, you ask? On the surface, wanting to please people is an admirable and pleasant trait — one that makes you popular and respected. But in exchange for this you lose touch with what your needs are and risk becoming resentful and stressed. Ironically, losing the short lived respect you gained from those you were trying to please.
I asked life coach Amelia Harvey how can we improve in this department. Here are her top tips for people-pleasers:
1. Let your intuition guide you: If you’re first reaction is no, say no. If it’s yes, jump in!
2. Make time for you: Block out times that are for you to fill yourself back up by doing what you love. If you’re looking after yourself, you’re able to be much more generous with your time and energy anyway.
3. Make your boundaries about you: If you don’t have the energy to show up for someone, don’t blame them for asking too much of you. Gently let them know that you’re currently spread a bit thin and ask to see them another time when you can be 100 per cent present with them.
Take this as your official “say no” card and good luck!