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People Pleasing: the Hidden Dangers


One common behavioral pattern I have seen over and over again in my office is people talking about how they are unable to say no to people in their lives, whether volunteering for events, baking cupcakes for school or spending hours helping others people with their projects.  Other common reason people say yes is because they feel guilty about setting a boundary, believe that it is the only way people will love and accept them, or fear hurting or disappointing others.

Its easy to blur the lines between being generous and kind and being a people pleaser.  In theory, being generous and kind to others is very nice, but not when it means abandoning one’s own needs. Being overly concerned with what other people think, basing decisions on getting approval and putting others needs as a priority might makes someone seem easygoing and agreeable. But what happens is that the authentic self gets overridden for fear of being rejected or criticized.  This leads people to believe the easy-going agreeable attitude is authentic, but underneath the ‘yes” is the people pleasers inner voice saying “why did I agree to this, I have my own things to do”

Short term most things are okay, but long term it has a negative impact on wellbeing and self worth. Leading to resentment and emotional exhaustion to name a few.  It often takes some hard lessons to see that these people pleasing habits are not only hurting themselves but others as well.

So, what can you do….?

Standing up for yourself and setting healthy boundaries about what you will and will not do can be very difficult.  Especially when everyone is used to you saying yes, be prepared for others to be disappointed or angry when you begin to say no. Remember that we teach others how to treat us so taking care of yourself is part of that.  Give yourself permission to say no, and when you do, accept that you are doing it because you want to have an honest and healthy relationship.  This is not a perfect process and is not something anyone can learn overnight. Learning any skill, the more we practice the easier it will become. It can be hard, but it is also what creates the most connected and loving relationships.