Sometimes we define our self-worth on whether we are liked by those around us, this is because you may have an extreme need to be liked and need that ‘fitting in’ feeling – also called a ‘need to please’.
If you are a people pleaser, you might find yourself concentrating on what other people think, putting their needs before your own. You are often seen as kind, helpful or selfless, but people pleasing isn’t as simple as wanting to please someone, it starts from somewhere within. Low self-esteem, guilt or even image consciousness can all be contributing factors, which can ultimately have a negative impact on our happiness and even on our mental health.
The Spectrum of People Pleasing
At the top of the Spectrum is Passive – with a high ‘need to please’:
- Putting others’ feelings before your own.
- Getting pushed around and taken advantage of.
- Feeling the need to apologise, even when you don’t need to.
- Feeling guilt for others’ feelings.
- Saying YES, even when you want to say no.
The middle of the spectrum is Assertive:
- Communicate directly and honestly, with others’ feelings in mind.
- Listen to others respectfully and confidently.
- Solve problems and compromise.
- Have confidence in yourself.
At the end of the spectrum is Aggressive with a low ‘need to please’:
- A disregard for other people’s feelings.
- The use of emotional blackmail.
- Shouting and/or intimidation.
- Persistence without compromise.
Where does it come from?
Fear of being alone – As humans, we have a natural instinct to be a part of a group (regardless of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert). If you have experienced rejection or you’ve felt you didn’t fit in some way because of who you are, this can subconsciously impact you and magnify through adulthood.
Early childhood – Maybe you’re from a big family, or you’ve experienced childhood trauma. This may have resulted in a struggle or a fight for affection from parents or care-givers, which could contribute to us growing up needing to please people, so they appreciate us or we simply just get noticed.
Family – Maybe you’re from a family background of people who help others, for example Carers, nurses, teachers or police officers. These are all people who prioritise others before themselves. Also, surrounding jobs such as these, which we would usually call a vocation, there is often unsociable shift work and, as hard as you try to be present, this has a big impact on children because they notice you’re not there, so when you are there they work hard for your attention.
When does it become a problem?
Touching back on mental health, we need to be true to ourselves because if you’re not, it could potentially jeopardise your integrity, meaning you are not considering your own feelings, wants, and needs, making you feel frustrated or unhappy.
Another problem can be that, because people pleasing can be misconstrued, (as we mentioned in the first section), people can often think that your thoughts and opinions are in fact the same as theirs, and in turn can seem less appreciative of you.
Also, following on from this is the eventual likelihood that people will notice you’re not being authentic and you tend to just say ‘yes’ or agree, which a lot of the time we think is what people want to hear, but this leaves us open to being taken advantage of and again, not appreciated.
‘I cannot give you the formula for success, but i can give you the formula for failure – which is: Try to please everybody.’HERBERT BAYNARD SWOPE
For coaches and clients, people pleasing is an easy trap to fall into, your natural instinct is to help, that is after all why you became a coach right? But how far do you go with it before losing a sense of purpose?
You can’t mould yourself into what your client needs, and the same for a client/coach relationship. Each individual has to be authentic and trusting.
So maybe you’re more passive or maybe you’re more aggressive and neither are necessarily good or bad because you can’t change who you are, but a coaches purpose is to help you change your approach, to step back and see things from the outside. To help you be more assertive on your terms, proactively, and teaching you to hold yourself accountable if you’re slipping back into habits that are holding you back.
Here’s some links to a couple of recommended reads!