Stop People Pleasing: The Disease to Please

Pleasing others sure has it’s benefits. People think well and highly of us, we get to do good for others and feel good about ourselves, and it leaves the world in a generally better place. Right? Not so fast.

Helping and giving to others certainly is honorable and selfless, and others certainly do like us much more. But, for those that fall victim to people pleasing behavior, effects can be just as harmful as they are pleasing.

For those who fall victim to the “disease” of people pleasing, saying “no” to others is like the kiss of death. For guys, just like women, being driven by the need to please other people, or the fear that they will fail to do so, keeps people in this cycle of pushing aside their emotions and needs and giving their power over to other people.

Dealing with Guilt

For people pleasers, guilt is a familiar emotion. A lot of times, we feel guilty because there’s a part of our brains that feels we need to, should or have to do for other people or give to people in certain ways. competing with that experience is that voice inside of ourselves that knows what we really want for our own selves, that may be different from pleasing others.

When those voices stay in conflict, life becomes really challenging. We stop listening to ourselves, and push that second voice away, leaving the people pleasing voice to act and behave in the world (and if you’re wondering, no, you’re not schizophrenic).

I believe guilt is the byproduct of these two voices clashing. Guilt is highly associated with anger, and when we feel guilty about something, there’s probably a “should” or “have to” associated with it. What we really want is to not indulge in the pleasing behavior, except were not listening to ourselves, and feeling guilty as a result. people pleasers off and just carry around the guilt, without really attending to what it is that they truly want for themselves.

Fear of rejection

A lot of times, people pleasers are deeply afraid and insecure of others rejecting them. It’s the fear, or better yet the avoidance of fear, that promotes the people pleasing behavior. for some people pleasers, being afraid of being rejected by others in their lives is tantamount to death, and would do anything to avoid putting themselves in a situation where they felt rejected.

The people pleasing behavior arises as a way to manage the fear and help you keep it in check, ensuring that the pleaser doesn’t set himself or herself up for a situation in which he is rejected. work on the fear, and you start to chip away at the people pleasing behavior. Most often, our fear of rejection comes from early childhood experiences, when we felt rejected, or were actually rejected, by a parent or a parent figure.

We develop the people pleasing behavior as a way to deal with that original rejection, and grow up into adults that perpetuate people pleasing with those in our lives. The best ways to deal with people pleasing behavior are to get to the root of the issues, which are often fear-based, and start to work on those.

Journaling, talking with close friends or family, or seeking out counseling to work on those issues are all effective. challenging and training yourself to learn to say “no” is difficult, but it’s essential to breaking the habit of people pleasing.

Additionally, learning what the differences are between “should” and “want to” Is equally important to busting up this cycle. identifying what you really want, aside from what others want from you or what you think others want from you, is also really crucial to ending the people pleasing behavior.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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