Are you a people pleaser? Find out why it’s ruining your life
Are you a people pleaser? Find out if you’re trapped in a cycle of pleasing others, and why it may be ruining your life!
One of the biggest barriers that hold so many of us back (especially women) is people pleasing. In the first of a three part series for us, Katie Phillips from Daring & Mighty reveals three ways people pleasing could be ruining your life.
Are you a people pleaser?
Before we explore ways that people pleasing may be making you unhappy, we first need to ascertain whether you are indeed a people pleaser. And to find out, we need you to answer five questions:
- Is the compulsion to rescue everyone, fix everything and be perfect all the time making you feel crazy?
- Do you only feel at ease when everyone around you is happy and approving of you, no matter the cost to your own wellbeing?
- Are you scared to death of rejection and critisism and find yourself working overtime (usually for unsatisfactory pay) for the tiniest scrap of approval?
- Do you often find yourself being the martyr in a relationship and does that leave you feeling really alone in the world?
- Does everyone else’s happiness, success and fulfilment come before your own?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you are trapped in people pleasing hell!
Did you know you were a people pleaser?
People pleasing isn’t a topic we talk about often, and it may not have occurred to you that you were stuck in the rut of putting others’ needs and happiness ahead of your own.
But here’s the thing, most women I talk to experience people pleasing to some degree, and I bet that if you were drawn to this article, it’s possible that you are feeling rather exhausted by the extent to which your own people pleasing behaviours are playing out in your life.
Did you take the quiz above? If you said yes to even one of those questions, then I bet you feel exhausted!
I bet you feel incredibly lost and wondering who on earth you are! And it’s no surprise because the truth is, you have put your heart and soul into everyone else for so long that you’ve probably lost any sense of identity. I totally hear you and I have been that woman!
What exactly IS people pleasing?
The psychotherapeutic name for people pleasing is co-dependency. There are many varying degrees of this trait with many different characteristics but the main underlying theme is the need for approval and identity from others.
A co-dependent essentially has a very weak sense of self – largely because you have been conditioned to focus on the needs of others. That lack of sense of self leaves you literally wondering who you are.
Most women I speak to say they don’t know themselves. To someone that isn’t co-dependent, that sounds preposterous. I’ve often had people challenge my line of work and say, “What do you mean they don’t know who they are are? How can you not know who you are?!”.
When I was co-dependent my healing was ignited by a desire to know myself. Self-knowing didn’t come naturally to me and I had to work at it. Learning to create a relationship with myself that had me love myself and create a life that felt authentic, fulfilled and on-purpose was a game changer – and I know I am not alone with the desire to do just that!
You says ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’
Co-dependents take on the role of Helper, Fixer, Placator and Healer. You say yes when you mean no because your happiness and general feelings of safety and security in the world comes from being around people who you decree as being okay.
If they are not okay, you feel dreadful so you help, fix and placate to make them feel better which in turn has you feel better. If you can’t help or fix them you feel responsible, guilty and imperfect. You try harder and harder to be more helpful, more perfect, more intuitive to their needs and more thoughtful.
Even if that works and you feel better about yourself because they seem okay, you are left exhausted with no sense of self because you have worked SO hard focusing on them.
And, now you feel angry because the weight of the world is on your shoulders – only you are doing the helping and fixing. They do nothing and you are cross because you are alone with the responsibility and shattered by the burden. You have become an angry martyr!
The cycle continues
And, the cycle continues because the more you are almost pathologically driven to fix, help and placate the more you enable that person’s addiction or poor mental health or emotional pain or under-achievement.
The more you people please, the more they rely on you and the less able they are to help themselves.
It is a truly vicious cycle and it takes place in intimate relationships, friendships, within both family and professional dynamics. Literally every single relationship in your life can be affected and ironically, at the end of the day, literally no-one is getting helped, fixed or healed.
In fact, the more you try to help the people you love most, the more they are probably treading on egg-shells around you because you have become a martyr that they don’t want to mess with!
Your eagerness to please can be exhausting
Your eagerness to please can be exhausting for others and can push them away because they sense their responsibility for your happiness. When you are not living your own life and are obsessed with theirs, that pressure is exhausting.
It may be hard for you to believe but when you learn to focus on you and start to live your own life, you can release the people you love most to create a life that they love too.
When you enable yourself, you enable others. But for a people pleaser, this is really hard to comprehend because self-love and putting yourself first seems so egotistical and selfish and the guilt associated with that self-judgement is unbearable.
What does co-dependency look like?
As I said, co-dependency has many different characteristics but I will highlight the biggies that the women I work with tend to struggle with most. And which, by the way, I used to struggle with too.
Co-dependency looks like :
- The need to be perfect.
- Feeling guilty whenever you try to do something for yourself.
- Feeling angry much of the time because you are quite frankly a bit of a martyr.
- Constant self-doubt with a very loud inner critic.
- Low self-belief.
- Feeling damaged and not good enough.
- Worrying what others think and trying to keep everyone happy which has you feeling crazy a lot of the time.
- Keeping up appearances and smiling even when you feel dreadful on the inside because god-forbid anyone notices you aren’t perfect and on form all of the time.
- You probably end up in relationships that are full of drama and you probably end up with people that you think need ‘fixing’ in some way – you may even have a tendency to be in intimate relationships with someone that suffers an addiction of some description.
- Feeling lonely even when you are in a relationship because you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
- Not being paid your worth because you don’t value yourself or your skills.
- Playing small in life because you don’t trust your ability or have confidence in yourself.
- Feeling unfulfilled but you probably don’t even know what would fulfil you because you don’t know who you are.
- Feeling like you don’t have a purpose (mainly because your focus is never on you and always on others), so fulfillment feels out of reach. In fact, as long as you are helping everyone around you to feel happy and fulfilled, then that is enough for you. Except that it isn’t because you are exhausted, angry and fed up!
People pleasing is keeping you trapped
People pleasing is keeping you trapped and:
- Emotionally miserable and exhausted by the crazy making in your head.
- Feeling unloved and unfulfilled in relationship.
- Broke or not earning your worth because you do not value yourself.
The truth is, people pleasing behaviour is really just a bad habit that can be cured – I did it and you can too!
At the root is a desire for approval, love and acceptance. That’s totally natural. Humans need love and connection to survive. So your people pleasing behaviours are really just a coping mechanism to get you what you need.
There are healthier ways that will allow you to let go of the guilt, upset, drama and crazy making that comes from being stuck in this soul sucking behavioural habit.
Katie Phillips is the founder of Daring & Mighty, an organisation committed to sharing the importance of having a healthy, loving and conscious relationship with yourself.