What Is People Pleasing?
People pleasing is helping others. It is contributing to the lives of others in a meaningful way. It is making yourself available to those in need. Sharing time with the people you love and care about helps them, and it helps you. It is being supportive. It is devoting attention to those in your life you respect. People pleasing enriches the lives of others because you have a special gift to offer.
The Benefits of People Pleasing
It’s easy to use people pleasing tactics when you want to keep peace in the home or the workplace. But “keeping the peace” usually means there is an impatient bully involved with expectations and demands. This can be your boss or a client, or even a coworker. Often, this bully makes unrealistic requests or they complain about all sorts of silly things. And it’s easier to avoid the hassle of sticking up for yourself and just solve their problems so you don’t have to deal with their bad behavior. When you’re a peacemaker, you make peace.
Everyone is Happy
For a minute, everyone is happy when people pleasing occurs. You get the joy of helping others, and for a second they might appreciate it. Your brain is hard-wired to receive a bump of Dopamine when you help others. It’s a feel-good moment where for a second you win. Yay.
When you impact the lives of those around you in a positive and helpful way it validates your purpose for being alive. Unconsciously your brain says “Yes, I matter. I made a difference.”
Well, that sounds pretty good, let’s all be people pleasers, shall we?
Not so fast. The benefits of people pleasing are only effective when you know what you’re doing. When you don’t know what you’re doing – you end up doing the right things for the wrong reasons. And the results won’t live up to your expectations.
The Dark Side of People Pleasing
People pleasing is like eating a big bowl of ice cream without a strategy. It tastes really good for 13 seconds and then your taste buds are numb and you can’t taste it anymore. Then you’re just eating empty calories. But because ice cream is a comfort food, you keep eating it in hopes of repeating that initial “Yum” thrill. But instead the joy of the taste is fleeting and the remaining sensation is just cold.
The sweetness is gone and all you end up with are fat thighs. The rippling side effects include disappointment in yourself for caving into your cravings. You regret your dietary choices and second guess your ability to make good decisions. Then you decide to do something about your weight and you go on a diet. The diet is a punishment because you don’t get to eat the things you love. Not to mention it costs money for the diet potions and pills. You can avoid all this if you just stop eating the ice cream after 4 bites. (That is your ice cream eating strategy. Enjoy it long enough to get the Dopamine bump, then stop.)
NOTE: The occasional treat of ice cream won’t make you fat. It’s the repeated error in judgment that causes the weight gain.
People pleasing is like eating the ice cream. At first, it feels good, then it’s numbing, and then there’s regret. The same rules apply.
Why People Pleasing Allows Others to Take Advantage Of You
People pleasing is putting other people’s needs before your own. We call it the Mom Syndrome. Mom’s are guilty of this because they love their families and do whatever it takes to provide the best for them. Even when it means sacrificing her own health, sleep, patience, etc. But who loves mom enough to take care of her? The dark side of people pleasing is that Mom (it can be Dad’s too), don’t count their own needs as important enough to include them in the daily routine.
REALITY CHECK: Nobody is going to take care of you – except you.
The Serious Risks of People Pleasing
Unrealistic Expectations Backfire
Your good intentions backfire when those you are helping EXPECT your help. This can be handouts, listening, emotional support, money, fill in the blank. Without offering anything in return. In return, they could offer compensation, bartering, appreciation, participation etc. But they don’t. They just expect a handout and give nothing in return. So you give – and get nothing. Your goodness backfires on you.
Feelings of Inadequacy
When you can’t say no to unrealistic expectations and demands from other people you feel bad. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or crush their expectations so you say yes when you want to say no. And if you find yourself in a situation where you have nothing left to give, you feel inadequate. This is a risk of people pleasing.
You feel lousy when somebody dumps a guilt trip on you. You have good intentions, and you would help them if you could. But sometimes you just can’t because you don’t have the time, the money or the sanity. And the guilt trip they send you on is emotional abuse. They know they can manipulate you into feeling bad if they can’t manipulate you into giving them what they want. This is a control freak move.
Emotional manipulation usually happens where there is something involved you fear losing. It could be your job, your relationship, your family, your home, your kids etc. This can include verbal threats, guilt trips, and even covert contracts. Emotional manipulation keeps you in a state of giving through your personal insecurity.
This is not so much about others enabling you. It’s more about you enabling them to treat you badly. We train others how to treat us. And we do that through people pleasing.
If you’re a people pleaser – don’t beat yourself up. I’m going to show you how to recognize the signs and then disable the triggers.
How To Recognize Someone Taking Advantage Of You
You Feel Overworked
Being overworked is subjective. So you have to be fair with this one. But stand back and look at the big picture. Do you have enough time, supplies and resources to do your job? In house cleaning, this comes from clients expecting you to clean far more than is possible in the time allotted.
Or your employer expects you to squeeze in more houses in a day than is physically possible.
Feeling overworked is a stepping stone to burnout. So pay particular attention to this.
You Feel Under Appreciated
Under appreciation comes in all forms and from all directions. In house cleaning, it comes from your boss, your clients, and your coworkers. There is an expectation that you will do a spectacular job every time you go clean a house. And when you do, nobody seems to notice.
Then you go home, and with the little energy, you have left. And your family expects you to care for all their physical, emotional and financial needs. And when you do, big whoop. Nobody notices. And that sucks because this feeling also leads to burnout.
You Feel Angry or Resentful
This comes from clients leaving you to do lists or suggesting ways for you to do your job. They don’t seem to understand that you are a professional and know what you are doing. The resentment comes from you breaking your back doing an awesome job with no extra thanks, tips or acknowledgment.
It can also come from your boss or team lead only focusing on what you still need to do – rather than what you’ve done. While the resentment is real – you can manage the way you internalize it.
You Feel Obligation
The obligation is real. If you have children under the age of 18, you have legal obligations to provide and take care of them. You get to have children in exchange for taking care of them.
When you have a client who pays for your cleaning service, you have a financial obligation to show up on time and do the job they are paying you to do.
Obligation usually comes in the form of legal expectations. You get something in exchange for something you give.
Where you get taken advantage of is where what you receive and what you give are an uneven match. You’re giving more than you receive. And that builds resentments.
What Happens To Your Body When You Let Others Take Advantage of You
You Eat The Wrong Things
Comfort Foods are common among people pleasers. The Standard American Diet (SAD) consists of sugar, salt, and fats. And they magically all taste delicious. When you are consumed with taking care of everyone else, it is easy to just eat whatever you can find. And often that is what is easy and quick – such as drive-thrus and fast food. There is also a psychological satisfaction that comes from rewarding yourself with food when no one else is rewarding you.
Your Sleep Suffers
When you eat crap food, you sleep like crap. And you wake up tossing and turning. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will be irritable and agitated. As a house cleaner, the success of your job depends on your productivity. If you don’t get enough sleep – you won’t be productive during the day on the job. And if you are not productive – you will feel anxious.
You Feel Anxious
You’re not eating and sleeping properly. You’re irritable and agitated. And your boss and customers don’t appreciate you. You’re getting the guilt trips from your boss, and your clients. It’s stressing you out, and so you go into people pleasing overdrive to compensate for the frustration you feel. You work longer hours, and that’s time away from your family – and you’re afraid if you don’t spend the extra time you’ll lose your clients or even worse, your job or your company.
You Get Tired, Sick, and Depressed
The extra work coupled with the worry, bad eating and lack of sleep send you into a depressive spiral. You’ve convinced yourself that nothing is good enough – not even for you. You might take medication and if you don’t, you’ll feel like you need it. Weird aches and pains will show up in your neck, your back, shoulders, hips, knees, and head.
You Lose/Gain Weight
You will gain or lose weight (depending on your body type) and to reverse the process will seem impossible. It won’t be impossible, it will just seem that way – because as a people pleaser you will put everyone else’s needs above your own.
What Happens to Your Energy When You Let Others Take Advantage of You
- You Lose Job Enthusiasm
- You Hate Your Job
How To Break The Pattern Of People Pleasing
If you’re at the end of your rope, and you’ve depleted your resources and energy it’s time to make new choices about your health.
The first thing we have to address is that you are worthy of self-care. Your needs do matter. In fact, your needs matter more than anyone else’s in your life. Here’s why: a lot of people are counting on you. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. If you’re unhealthy and falling apart – you won’t be at your best to help others.
So with the most altruistic intentions, we’re going to take care of you first.
When somebody makes unrealistic demands of you – be slow to respond.
Don’t make any big decisions when you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. None of them are likely to be wise. Sometimes just by stalling, the impatient person who needs free favors from you will get frustrated and go elsewhere.
Consider the Source
Is this an obligation? Is this person paying you to provide a service? Do you have a legal obligation to help this person? If not, ask yourself why you are going out of your way? What’s in it for you?
What Is The Worst Case Scenario?
What happens if you choose not to step up to the plate this time? Often you’ll find that when you say no to a request – the person will just go somewhere else and find someone who will cater to their whims. Often they won’t think twice about it. It’s not a big deal to them – it’s just a big deal to you.
Just Say No
No is the most powerful word in your new arsenal. Practice in front of the mirror. Big smile on your face.
“Ah gee, I’d love to help you out, but I’m unable to this time. Thanks for thinking of me.” There is an immense personal power that comes from using the simple word no. Instead of your default being “yes”. Turn your default answer to no. If you decide later you made a mistake, you can always change your answer back to a yes. But you’ll find once you say no, a huge burden is lifted – and the person in need will go elsewhere for help.
Don’t Explain / Don’t Make Excuses
You don’t owe anybody an explanation. If the request isn’t a financial or legal obligation, you don’t have to give reasons why you are choosing to say no. If you do give excuses, you open yourself up to discussion, debate and guilt trips. The people you’ve enabled to abuse you through your people pleasing know your hot buttons. And they know how to push them and when. If you don’t explain and you don’t give excuses, you end their ammunition.
Most people pleasers will go to the end of the earth for their friends, but they won’t stand up for themselves. If this is you – imagine you are in court. Let’s suppose you are the attorney and you are representing your new client which is YOU. You have to fight for your new clients best interests. You can’t let others take advantage of your client. This means you have to think of yourself in 3rd person. In my case, I would be representing Angela Brown in 3rd person as my new client. I would have to turn down activities and guilt trips that weren’t in the best interest of Angela. I may not go to such great lengths for me – but since I’m a people pleaser, I would do it for my client Angela. Angela is top dog now. See how that works? You now represent YOU.
Keep A Confidence File
In an article Stop being a people pleaser Therese Borchard recommends we keep a self-esteem file. Print out atta boy’s from clients. Keep notes your boss and co-workers post to your social media channels. Print recommendations or referrals from sites like Nextdoor. Keep emails of clients praising you. Julie, a house cleaner in our network, takes photos of herself holding tip money she’s received from clients.
When you have a bad day and you don’t feel appreciated – go through your confidence file. Remind yourself what a difference you are making in the lives of others.
It is rare that people will toot your horn when you need to hear it the most. But you can have a private ceremony recognizing you. This will pull you out of feelings of frustration and overwhelm.
Change Your Self-Talk
While cleaning houses all day there is a tendency to talk to yourself. This is an excellent time to reprogram the tape you play back all day in your head. “I’m making healthy choices for (plug in your name because you represent you now.) “I’d love to help out, but I’m unable to this time. Thanks for thinking of me.” As soon as I finish taking care of (plug in your name), I’ll help you next.” You’ll soon start to realize that you are a person with needs just like everybody else.
How to Set Boundaries
Suppose you need to go to the store at 10:00 pm “Ah shucks, they’re closed until 8:00 am” How does that make you feel? Yes, it’s inconvenient – but those are the store hours. Okay, so you’ll have to wait until morning. It’s really no big deal. And it’s not the end of the world.
When you set boundaries, and people know what the boundaries are – it’s like setting your own store hours.
It’s easy in our heads to blow things up way bigger than they are. “People will hate me if I don’t do this.” And we assume the inconvenience we will put on them if we don’t cater to their whims.
The truth it, it’s like the store being closed. People get over it. Your personal boundaries are no big deal. And all the reason why you should have them. When you don’t have boundaries – it makes everybody crazy. Nobody knows what the rules are.
What is Important To You? And What Does That Mean?
Make a list of all the things that are important to you and what that means. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it in 3rd person – for your imaginary client.
For example: (In this example I am Angela, but treating Angela as if she were my client. As a people pleaser, I do things for my clients I won’t do for myself.)
My client Angela cleans houses all day every day. It is important that she get a good night sleep. That means she needs to be in bed no later than 10:00 pm. (What is important to me? Sleep. What does that mean? My new bedtime is 10:00 pm)
My client Angela cleans houses all day. It is important that she has enough energy to be productive. That means I must send her to work every day with three 16oz. fruit, protein and spinach smoothies.
My client Angela manages a team of 30 house cleaners and all their clients. It is important for her to be level headed and on her A game. That means she needs to work out at the gym for an hour each morning.
Once you are clear about what is important, and what that means to you – it’s easier to create a program that involves taking better care of yourself.
Remove the Emotional Attachment From Labels
Love and hate are labels. People will love you and they will hate you. Big whoop. If you get emotionally attached to the outcome of approval or disapproval it will wreck your life.
Think of it like reading the labels on a can. You’re in the grocery store and there are shelves of cans. Each can or jar has a label. All the labels tell us is what is in the can. Beans, corn, tomato paste. Whatever. Yep.
When people pay you a compliment it is so easy to blow that up into self-importance. Because you so want to believe it’s true. Don’t. It’s just a label on a can. It doesn’t mean anything other than what’s in the can.
When people get upset and are being all dramatic, don’t internalize it. Don’t repeat what they said word for word, over and over in your head. You’ve done that right? You analyze your answer to their anger. Or you wish you had said something different or more profound. Because you don’t want to believe their anger towards you is true.
Guess what? You’re making yourself crazy.
Without Labels We Don’t Know Who We’re Dealing With
It’s just a label on a can. It’s like somebody standing in the isle at the grocery store pointing to the lima beans saying “give this one extra importance because I said so.”
And you’re like “Nah, that ‘s not what I’m fixing for dinner tonight.” And you move on. And you might walk away going “Wow, that guy really likes lima beans. Huh!” And you don’t think any more of it. It’s the same with emotion-packed labels. Don’t give them any more importance than you have to. They are just pieces of information.
Even if the label is coming from someone you respect such as your boss, your mother-in-law, or your best friend.
The labels are only clues. They tell us who we are dealing with – and then we can make a decision or move on.
Look For Clues
It’s hard to recognize labels when you don’t know what you’re looking for. Listen to phraseology with guilt trips built in. These are things like
“We’re so blessed to have you, no one else works as hard as you do.”
“I wish I knew how to clean like that.”
“I wish I had those organization skills.”
“We couldn’t do it without you.”
“I don’t have a financial bone in my body – but you’re so great with numbers, I’m sure you can figure out a way to stretch my payment terms. ”
Limit Your Accessibility To Needy People
Remember you have a choice. You can say no to constant requests for lazy handouts. Or donations of your time and energy. Find other activities that are important to you. Remove yourself from situations where others can take advantage of you.
We used to get together with relatives on Sunday evenings. There was a big guilt trip surrounding the theory that Sunday was a family day and we should be together. The relationships with most of these relatives are toxic at best. I dreaded Sunday evenings. On Tuesday of every week, I got sick. Stress and sickness followed me through the rest of the week until I got through Sunday evening. I worried about all the free drama, emotional manipulation, and chaos I would go through. I hated the relatives and the way they made me feel. The Sunday socials with them wrecked my entire week. Every week.
On the road to health and happiness – I took up acting. This meant that Sunday evenings now included an acting class I would attend instead of the unwelcome time with the relatives. Hooray! Like magic, my physical health, emotional health and mental health all improved.
Your Relatives Are NOT Your Family
Our society has us believe that because you are related to someone they are your family. And because you are related, you owe them something special. That is a socio type. And if you are emotionally connected to society’s expectations – you will go mad.
Your relatives can be your family but just being related doesn’t make them so.
There are four types of people:
These are spouses, cousins, siblings, parents, children, grandparents, in-laws (mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister or brother in law), nieces, nephews, step parents, step children, half sisters, half brothers, live in partners of your kids or parents, adoptive parents, adoptive kids, foster parents, foster brothers and sisters etc. You are related to these people either by blood or lifestyle. Holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals and graduations will bring you together with these people. And there is traditionally some obligation to them. This could be graduation cards, holiday cards, baby shower gifts etc.
You do not, however, owe these people free babysitting, yard work, or free house cleaning. Unless you live under their roof, or they are paying your expenses – you can say no.
Strangers are people you know but not well enough to go out to lunch with them. These can be grocery store clerks, neighbors, school children’s parents, school bus driver, postman, doctors, dentists, cleaning clients, etc. These people are a part of your everyday life and they revolve in your world. Easy come easy go. The relationship with strangers is usually pleasant and fleeting.
We are not talking about the thousands of people who claim to be your friends on Facebook. Friends are people you feel a connection to. You care about these people. These friends are people you WANT to help. You step out on a limb for your friends and take risks you wouldn’t take with strangers. Like maybe lending them money, or giving them a ride when their car breaks down. You confide in your friends and between you, there is mutual respect.
“A family is a handpicked group of relatives, strangers, and friends.” – Angela Brown Oberer
Did you ever meet a perfect stranger that you instantly felt connected to? And you knew you would be fast friends? That’s family. Do you have a relative that you would take a bullet for? That’s family. Are there friends in your life that take priority over everything else? When they come around, you drop what you’re doing because they truly inspire and uplift you? That’s family.
Most people confuse relatives with family – and they have all these weird emotions attached to the perceived obligations that come with family.
You get to choose your family. So choose people who accept you as you are. Choose people who love and adore you, who appreciate and empower you. Choose two-way relationships that thrive on positivity.
People Pleasing Is So Yesterday’s News
If you’ve been a people pleaser in the past – don’t beat yourself up. You probably recognize that those are old behaviors that no longer work for you. It’s like waking up one day to find the most comfortable shoes in your closet are worn out. They have holes in them. The treads are worn off and the support is shot. As much as you love these shoes – they need to be replaced.
Replacing them doesn’t negate the fact that they were good shoes and brought you to this moment in time. But they are old and don’t work anymore.
Same goes with beliefs of people pleasing. They are old beliefs and old behaviors and need to be replaced.
As soon as you do, you’ll find a new kick in your step and support in places you never expected.