Updated: Feb 15
Adapted from the School of Life
Being someone who is compliant and pleases others, sounds like a good idea at the surface. However, 'people pleasing' is a pattern of behavior which imbues the person with problems; not only for the people pleaser, but also for those whom they try to please.
The people pleaser is someone who at times, feels they have no other option but to mold themselves in order to fit the expectations of others. But this can often happen simultaneously with significant reservations and resentments.
Putting it bluntly, someone who people pleases is a liar. Having this said, they are not liars for personal gain or advantage, but because they are terrified of disappointing others.
So why do we people please? In other words, why do we go to such lengths to lie to others, even when we are sure they will likely be okay with a different opinion? It is very likely, that this person learned from a young age, that if they did not mold to the expectations of others, chaos would ensue. Maybe, as a child, they had a parent who would become extremely upset if they gave their honest opinion about the food they ate; because that might start an argument between the parents.
Sometimes we lied, not out of fear, but out love. We lied to keep a depressive parent in a good mood; and to avoid adding further burden on what appears to be an already difficult situation.
In any case, the child develops a relational image of "the other," and learns to lie, in order to not upset the people who take care of them. This relational image of "the other" then remains with the child into adulthood, where they continue this pattern and belief that other people cannot handle discomfort, rejection, etc.
Wherever the origin of your pattern of people pleasing came from, here are three things to consider:
1) Remind yourself, that your friends whom you want to please, are almost certainly different than the person whom your anxiety evolved from. That in fact, most people are able to cope with disagreement and contradiction without throwing away their relationships (especially, when done so with tact and politeness).
2) We need to understand the negative consequences of this kind of lying. Even though we may have genuinely good intentions, we may be hurting those around us even more (especially if they learn that you've not been truthful with them). Among other things, it communicates that you do not trust them; and that you believe they cannot cope with someone saying "no."
3) Finally, we need to know that we can acquire the confidence needed to be tactful about the difficult messages that we have to share with others. That, in fact, we can be 'pleasant' without being 'people pleasers.' Furthermore, by going to therapy, we can process the origins of this anxiety in order to update our relational images of "the other."
Does therapy sound like something you could benefit from? Do you see this type of people pleasing in yourself? I'd like to invite you to book a free consultation with me to find out if we might be a good fit together.
Do you have any feedback/questions on this article? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to continue learning with you :)