Question : When I look back at my entire life, I know that I have always been very kind and generous. I have never hurt anybody. And if I knew that someone is upset because of me, I would not be able to sleep for days (until I do something to set it right). I have recently been told that I am a People-Pleaser! I do not know what that means. Am I a People-Pleaser? Is it wrong to please people? Is it wrong to be nice to people?
Answer : ‘People-pleasers’ are perhaps growing in number in our society today. Some people-pleasers are aware of their tendency to put other’s ahead of themselves; some are not aware of this.
People-Pleasing is a personality trait and it is quite different from being kind, generous, accommodating and sensitive. In fact, it is often cited as a form of sacrificing of the self in order to be accepted by the other in some way. Being ‘nice’ is not a bad thing as such, but the question becomes, “At what cost are you being nice?”
Well, here’s some common traits of a People-Pleaser. Check with yourself where you stand on the spectrum.
1. Others’ happiness is always a priority. You would sabotage your own joys and happiness for the sake of others. You would bend backwards to make sure the other person is happy and comfortable.
2. You love the satisfaction and joy that others feels receiving your help, you love “being there” for others, but you frequently feel drained by it. Sometimes you even wonder if you really want to “be there” for others.
3. You often might feel that there is nobody who is there for you, like you are there for others. And you wonder why. And sometimes you even get frustrated that nobody really cares for you like you care for others.
4. You are the go-to person for anyone in need. And while that might be a great feeling – to be so like-able and so trusted that you are often left with way too much on your plate. And your day comprises mostly of doing things for others. This often leaves you feeling very stressed.
5. You are the sort of person who would downplay yourself, not show up in your full potential and sometimes even put yourself down in order to make the other person feel great. Of course the other person would feel great. Of course you would be the cause for the other to feel great. But deep inside you are a little hurt that you are now a little ‘lesser’ than before.
6. People often seem to take advantage of you. You feel exploited or used (abused). But you often find yourself arguing with your own self and justifying the other person’s behaviour/need.
7. People all around will invariably recognise you as a very patient, loving and caring person. But somehow the patience, love and care is hard to express with your own family. All that you have ‘borne’ in order to be there for others, is often vented out on the people you care for the most.
8. You might often find yourself thinking a million times before you can say “NO” to anyone in any context. It is almost a compulsive urge to say “Yes” for anything that is asked off you.
9. You would find it very hard to express your honest opinion about a situation or person. Your greatest fear is often about hurting somebody inadvertently OR of being judged for your opinion. In either case, being authentic to your feelings is always a challenge.
10. Rejection is an issue. You would almost resist making the other feel rejected in any way. As a result, you might tend to get apologetic or feel very guilty if you were to reject the other in any way. Likewise, you would detest being rejected yourself. You would do everything possible to ensure that you never have to face rejection from anyone. Rejection is your personal nightmare!
These are some of the traits of a ‘People-Pleaser’.
Well, it is not a mistake to be a People-Pleaser. Moreover, we all have tendencies and traces of being a People-Pleaser to some extent. If you are in an extreme with this behavioural pattern, then being aware of yourself might be the first step to helping yourself.
If you have worked with yourself through this pattern, do share with me how you have tackled some of your challenges.
When you say “yes” to others, make sure you aren’t saying “no” to yourself.
NOTE : The questions and answers in this series are compilations of discussions during therapeutic sessions with my clients. These are not generic pieces of advice. I am deeply aware that these answers can seem way too simplistic for people actually going through similar situations. Please comment or connect with me if you find yourself grappling with something I have expressed.