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People-Pleasing: What It Is and How to Navigate It

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What Is People-Pleasing Behavior?

People-pleasing is very common. This usually means putting another person’s needs before your own and frequently results in doing things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy to make someone else happy or comfortable instead.

A common example of people-pleasing behavior is saying “yes” to others without consideration of your own time and energy. People-pleasing may consist of doing many things that sacrifice your own needs, energy, and time at the expense of what others around you need. Keep in mind that family dynamics aren’t the only realm where these behaviors can manifest, they can also appear in school, work, or in any type of interpersonal relationship. Sometimes, they result in anger and other interpersonal pattern that make relationships difficult.

There are many reasons people engage in people-pleasing behavior.

Some of these behaviors may be learned patterns from childhood, perceived as necessary at one time to navigate and survive a specific family dynamic. Other people may have learned it from a relationship, work situation, or a friendship in which they received a lot of positive feedback for being people-pleasing. Regardless of the source, this type of behavior can be rewarding, but also very draining.

People-pleasing can seem harmless. One may feel that you they are just trying to make people around them happy. However, over time it can take a toll on their sense of self and identity.  Working to find a balance between being how you want to be interpersonally while also preserving yourself is key.

How Can I Learn to Manage My People-Pleasing Tendencies?

Understand Where It Comes From

It’s good to do some self-reflection if you are curious as to why you engage in people-pleasing behavior. Investigate why you engage in this behavior and where it is problematic in your life. What are those feelings that come up when you feel yourself putting your own needs last or when other people take a lot of your time and energy? Figuring out why and where the difficulties are with people-pleasing can help you target where to start making changes.

You Are Responsible for Your Emotions

A lot of times, individuals who people-please tend to take a lot of responsibility for others’ emotions. They make assumptions about others’ feelings and they take it upon themselves to fix or solve the other person’s problems. This may work for a while, but it takes a lot of energy to do this for others and it doesn’t allow the other person to take responsibility for their own emotions. Boundaries, in a relationship, can help the other person by allowing them to process their own emotional struggles in order to help themselves through difficult situations in life.

Set Boundaries

This is one of the hardest parts of learning how to prioritize your own needs and not always sacrifice for others. Learning to say “no” to things can be very challenging and bring up a lot of shame and guilt for people. Occasional self check-ins can help maintain a healthy emotional mindset, which is necessary when you make your needs a priority by setting appropriate limits for your relationships. You can start by simply asking yourself if you have the time, energy, or desire to complete the request that is being asked of you.  Ask yourself “What is my intention?  Am I sacrificing solely to make another person happy?”  If so, remember that your capacity to help/please others depends on your own health and well-being.

Remember: what you want matters too!

Choose you!

You are the most important person in your life. Your body, your mind, and your heart are essential to your existence. If you don’t care for yourself, then no one else can do enough to make you feel fulfilled. You need to be okay and feeling good to give the love and kindness you may want to give to others. Checking in with yourself, assessing your needs, and prioritizing your wellbeing are essential to living a fulfilling life.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” – Brene Brown


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