The “Craziness” of People Pleasing and How Did We Get Here?

What is this phenomenon called “I need to make everyone in the world like me or people pleasing?” This is a tough concept because in one way people pleasers are nice to be around. If we look deeper we have to ask at what cost? People pleasing can affect both men and women. The history of women, however, is to be compliant and accommodating. Women have been taught, “Don’t rock the boat, and just agree.” In certain areas of the world this way of being is still the norm for women. If you are looking for marital partnership in a society that allows true partnership you must discard your people pleasing hat. If you want to have an authentic healthy life you must discard your people pleasing hat. If you want to live without resentment throw away that PP hat! Do you want dignity at your job? The list goes on and on! Begin to ask yourself questions such as what do I believe, what are my assessments/opinions, what are my emotions etc.?

There are several problems with this way of living. If you look at this way of relating closely, the individual and all of his/her uniqueness disappear. At no point does the People Pleaser ask himself what are my thoughts-emotions-opinions in this situation. The People Pleaser is focused on what he perceives others want to hear in order to be liked. Think about that idea seriously! You need to read someone else’s mind and then say something that you think will make him think you are better than you think you are with your honesty. This way of relating requires a lot of work. It also requires you to think poorly of yourself as you are, think others will not like you as you are: think others are better than you are; think you need to be other than who you are so others will like you. Do you notice the cost to you? There has to be anxiety around mind reading all these different people. How about the anxiety around saying things that may be inaccurate to how you really feel. What about the anxiety of people finding out how you really feel. How about the anxiety of “what did I say to this person?”

For me the greatest tragedy is YOU, first of all DO NOT have an honest relationship with yourself and no one has an authentic relationship with you. So heads up loneliness now has a place to move in. Confusion is alive and well because who are you really. And oh yes, depression come on in and join the party.

Is this really how you want to live?? There is a huge cost to your soul: no dignity, no honesty, no opinions and thoughts of your own, and no you, are just some of the costs. (I personally believe eating disorders as well may live in this environment of not speaking your truth.)

How does this happen? How do some people grow up believing they are not allowed to speak their truth? Some discourses I see contributing to people pleasing are:

A. Alcoholic parent (particularly a raging parent).

B. Macho discourse (women don’t have a voice).

C. Women are second class citizens (only men get educated and have real value in this house).

D. Divorce (children scrambling not to be abandon again so they say what they think they need to please both parents).

E. Angry critical parent (nothing is ever good enough).

F. Chronically ill and or depressed parent (what can I do to make things better here).

G. Workaholic parent (how can I get some attention here).

H. Sexually, Emotionally, and/or Physically Abusive Household (how can I stay safe here).

These discourses are a few examples where a child’s environment is not nurturing and secure. When we have an environment, which is not secure and safe for a child, the child has to find an adaptive behavior. People pleasing is definitely a viable option for an adaptive behavior.

When you are stuck in the people pleasing discourse you don’t have the opportunity to develop your warrior muscle. The warrior muscle involves first knowing when someone has offended you and then knowing what to do about being offended. There are many people in the world who will take advantage of you if you do not have a bit of warrior in you. If you find yourself continually picking “bad boys” or “psycho chicks” or “takers” ask yourself why is it all right to be treated so poorly? Reevaluate your situation. Life is too precious to continue living without dignity.

My assessment is the greater the people pleasing the greater the judgments. If you do not have the courage to speak your truth, you fuel your judgmental side. You will find that your private conversations do not match your public conversations.

This phenomenon creates huge havoc in the world today. Many people think they are liberated and out in the world operating successfully in marriages, business relationships, and friendships and they are still trapped in the discourse of people pleasing and resentment. There is such a disconnect between two people who are trying to have a relationship, any relationship, when one is always mind reading and saying only what is his perception of what the other person wants to hear. The private conversations the people pleaser has in the shower alone do not match the conversations he is having out in the world. The problem: one day the people pleaser takes action on the private conversations and everyone is stunned.

© 2019 Dr. Anne Brown; Psychotherapist, Speaker, and Author of Backbone Power The Science of Saying No. Permission needed for any form of reproduction.

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Psychotherapist, Speaker, Coach, and Author of “Backbone Power The Science of Saying No”