6 Tell-Tale Signs That You’re a People-Pleaser

And how to stop being one — for good

Image licensed from Canva

We all know that one friend — or maybe we are that one friend — who is the nicest and most helpful of all the people. They are always there for you, they care, they listen, they nod and smile — no matter how hard it must be for them to provide constant support. They work extremely hard, they get things done and they are always the first to lend a hand — sometimes even without asking. They will be the ones reaching out to you when you need them, they will never forget about your birthday and they are the ones who are deeply moved by your success and empathise with you through your darkest times.

So far, it seems you have landed the perfect friend. A reliable, trustworthy, caring person with a heart the size of Texas. What’s wrong with that?

To be honest, everything.

The problem with people-pleasing is that if you look at them only superficially, they are really great people and in most cases, their friends and colleagues will benefit from their amazing behaviour. But for them, being a people-pleaser is a curse. It’s a maladaptive coping mechanism, rooted in the intense need to please others to avoid rejection and failure and to ensure the maintenance of their self.

People-pleasing usually stems from the fear of being rejected by others. As if they were saying that “unless I do everything to make others happy, they will stop caring about me and will leave me”. It can be a result of an early dysfunctional, unsafe relationship pattern — where love towards them was tied to conditions. During childhood, an unavailable parent, inconsistently available emotional feedback, punishment for mistakes or lack of praise for accomplishment can all snowball into adult insecurities.

Because people-pleasing looks like having a great attitude towards others, it’s hard to admit that there is something wrong with it. But if you are a people-pleaser, you have to realize that depleting yourself to fulfil others’ needs is not sustainable.

The first step to stop people-pleasing is to realize that you have the tendency to put others first — to your own expense.

Here are the six signs that can help you recognise the people-pleaser in you.

You Always Say Yes — But Never to Yourself

We all have the same 24 hours a day. It’s what we do with them makes us different. How many times do you agree to do something without really wanting it? People-pleasers have trouble saying no to others. Yes is always the answer — regardless of the sacrifice you need to make it happen. If you find yourself saying yes to everything you are asked to do, if you cancel your own plans to comply with someone else’s wish, if you take on more work just to help out someone else with theirs, chances are that you are a people-pleaser.

There is no problem with being there for others unless it is taking the toll on your life. Saying yes to everyone means that you have no energy left to say yes to your own needs, therefore they will always come last in line.

By allowing everyone and anyone rules your days without your needs being met, you neglect the only person who is truly worthy of your attention: yourself.

Start saying no to others. Start with little things. Make others wait instead of arriving half an hour earlier. Say no to social obligations that make you feel uncomfortable. Learn how to say no to your kids always wanting your time. Trust me, you are doing others a favour too, they can and they will survive without you, and it’s high time that both you and they realized it.

You Are Always Available — But You Glorify Others’ Unavailability

From always saying yes there comes an inevitable consequence: you are always ready and available. Availability is a tricky thing. It’s not only not valued, but it is usually taken for granted without gratitude.

Are you the person who always replies to text messages immediately? The one who volunteers to stay longer at work to help out someone else? The one who drops everything when a friend wants to cry on your shoulder? Do you ever get appreciated for it? No, I didn’t think so. When you are always there, people stop noticing your presence. It becomes natural and underappreciated quite quickly.

On the other hand, you as a people-pleaser glorify others’ unavailability. You think that they must be very busy and therefore very important if they are constantly unavailable. You assign them a bigger importance and it makes you over-grateful for any attention they give you.

Oh, your friend replied to your text message within a day? Wow, let’s celebrate, shall we? It takes 5 seconds to answer a message — for anyone. If they didn’t reply, you don’t need to make excuses for them and make up stories about their busyness. Stop admiring them for neglecting you and start valuing yourself and your time more.

You Always Give Everyone a Second Chance — Yet You Don’t Deserve Your Own Forgiveness

You are a really gentle and kind person who believes in second chances. You forgive everyone and you are willing to let go any wrongdoing of others. This — in and of itself — is not a bad thing. Knowing when to forgive and how to let go is a great gift.

But you forgive everyone and you give a second chance to anyone — without questioning their motives. If someone hurts you, ignores you, neglects you, you don’t need to hold grudges against them, but you need to show enough respect towards yourself not to become a pushover.

The problem with second chances is that they are usually not second but tenth chances already when it comes to you. You have an affinity to give too many second chances to others, even if there is no indication of a change of behaviour from their side.

On the other hand, you beat yourself up badly for upsetting or disappointing someone, as if you weren’t allowed to make mistakes or do something for yourself once in a lifetime.

If anyone deserves a second chance, it’s you, so be kind enough and give yourself the necessary break and let others sort out their crap before you allow them to make a mess of your life.

You Think You Need to Earn to Be Loved — Yet You Advocate Acceptance for Everyone Else

You are the one who is always championing for others to be accepted, regardless of what they do, how much they contribute or how much they deserve it. Yet when it comes to judging yourself, you think that your mere existence is not good enough to be loved.

You always feel that you need to do something, something better, kinder, more — or you will lose others in the process.

You say that everyone deserves to be loved and appreciated but the rule doesn’t apply to you. Deep down, you don’t think you are worthy of somebody’s appreciation, only if you are going out on a limb for them. You believe that you are not enough, not funny enough, not interesting enough, not loveable enough. So you have to do. Doing favours for others is the only way to make them accept you.

You need to become your own best friend. Listen to yourself, notice how you are supporting others when you tell them they are worthy and loved. When you tell them that they are enough and they don’t need to struggle for attention. Take your own advice.

You Always Apologise For Being You — Then You Complain About No One Accepting You

People-pleasers say sorry more than anyone else in the world. You could say that the ability to apologise is a great gift, but as with everything, it has to be done in moderation. If you are a people-pleaser, you apologise for everything. You apologise for being late even if you are on time but the others arrived before you. You apologise for a mistake someone else made. You apologise for making a strong point and you discredit yourself when you are praised. You apologise for needing time for yourself, for asking for feedback, and you apologise for apologising.

None of it needs an apology, and no matter how much you want to appear compliant and kind, all you do with the apologies is planting a seed of doubt in others. You delivered great work and now you apologise for it, is there a problem with it that you are not telling? You know who you want to be, yet the moment someone sees you, you retract and hide your self behind an apology.

Saying sorry is needless when you don’t have anything to be ashamed of. People won’t like you more because you apologize for being you. You need to stop saying sorry, especially when it is but a way to preempt a possible rejection.

You Crave Honest And Deep Connections — Yet You Refuse to Admit When Your Feelings Are Hurt

If you are a people-pleaser, the only thing you really want is to be accepted and appreciated for who you are, unconditionally, without having to fight for it. You want to provide for everyone what you need, honesty, genuine care, an effort to connect.

But while you are at it, you fail to expose yourself to others in total. You always show that you are fine, that you are strong, that you can take everything. You shrug off others’ concerns for you, even though the only thing that you’d really want is someone to care about you as deeply as you care about them.

You fail to show disagreement, you never express when you are hurt or disappointed — for you fear that any negative sign from you will scare people away and they will leave.

You want people who care about you, not an audience who only sees you smiling. You need to learn to accept that showing vulnerability, fear, anger are signs of being human, nothing less nothing more.

Learn to accept your own feelings and admit when you are hurt, scared or disappointed. The people who will care about you won’t need a person with a fake-smile, they need you with all your issues and human problems. Allow yourself and them to see the real you — this is the best way out there to sift through fake friends anyway.

So how to stop being a people-pleaser?

  • Start saying no to others and yes to yourself.
  • Stop being available all the time. Be picky about who you spend time with and do it on your terms.
  • Stop giving infinite second chances.
  • Make sure you believe your own worth before assigning too much worth to others.
  • Never apologise for being you.
  • Accept that you’re human and you are allowed to feel negative emotions.

Writer. Dreamer. Hopeless romantic. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

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