Counselling in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
What is People-Pleasing?
People-Pleasing usually goes beyond simple kindness. It involves 'editing words and behaviours for the sake of another person's feelings or reactions'. Myers says “the urge to please others can be damaging to ourselves and, potentially, to our relationships when we allow other's wants to have more importance than our own needs”.
In my work I often relate the need to people-please with my client having low self esteem, self worth and self confidence. As a result of this, some draw positive affirmations from the approval of others a lot of the time. You might also spend time worrying about rejection or have a strong desire to be needed as then you are more likely to receive affection from others. You may worry that saying 'NO' or turning down a request for help will make others feel you don't care about them. Some people may abuse your agreeing to everything, thus ignoring your boundaries as they know you'll do what they want anyway.
Are you always ready to say 'SORRY' when something goes wrong? People-Pleasers take the blame even if what has happened is nothing to do with you. Agreeability is an easy way of getting approval but constantly ignoring your own needs makes it harder to acknowledge them. In time you become unsure of what you do want and unable to voice the feelings you are aware of. You tend to like giving in order to be liked and Myers explains that “making sacrifices might feed your sense of self, but it can also lead to a sense of martyrdom”.
Look at how you spend your free time and try and pinpoint when you last did something for yourself!!
So typically People-Pleasers are:
- Afraid of being rejected or abandoned.
- Preoccupied with what others think and feel.
- Fearful of saying no, setting limits or seeming 'mean'.
- Hungry for the approval of others.
- Stuck in relationships where they give more than they get.
- Overworked because of an overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility.
- Neglectful of their own needs.
- Exhausted, overbooked and burned out trying to take care of others.
Why do people become People-Pleasers?
There are many reasons why but it often starts out as being 'parent pleasers'. A lack of parental attunement or parents who mislabel or misinterpret the child's signals and feelings or where parents are not emotionally available or where parents are emotionally overwhelmed so the child takes on a care-giving role. However, these same parents can be warm and loving but blow hot and cold which is very confusing.
The child over time realises that their parents are unreliable and has to support them emotionally, tracking their moods, checking in, making them proud and stifling their own needs. So there starts the use of the child's people-pleasing skills. This takes root with parental emotional inconsistency so the child does all they can to earn their parent's love, may become high achieving and a perfectionist and then carries this set of standards into their adult relationships. Here they constantly seek to please others and make them happy so they can be happy, too.
How Counselling Can Help
We start off exploring childhood experiences and then begin to make sense of where the instinct to people-please began. Before you offer help, consider your intentions and how it will make you feel. You need to take care or yourselves to help others so practice self care and self compassion and remember that it's healthy to put your own needs first.
Myers says, “It's OK to be a giving, caring person but it's also important, however, to honour and tend to our own needs”.
The next time someone asks for help think about:
- How you feel - do you want to do it or are you dreading it?
- Whether you have time to see to your own needs first - you have limited time or have a necessary chore?
- How helping will make you feel - happy or resentful?
We can work on building your self esteem, self compassion and self confidence and look at setting boundaries. I can help you to make a First Aid Kit - this will include all your coping mechanisms and strategies that you can use in the future to reduce your need to people-please. I may use CBT to challenge your Negative Automatic Thoughts and reframe and find Alternative Balanced Thoughts.
We can, together, change this behaviour pattern so that you can say 'NO' without feeling guilty, get your own needs met and you don't have to agree when you really don't agree. This pattern of people-pleasing will have become a powerful inner script so it's not a quick fix but you can change the narrative and re-write your future using an exercise called the Miracle Question and The Crystal Ball. These are a good starting point to effect change and thus create a different future.