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You may have a friend who pushes aside his needs to accommodate the needs of everyone else. The people-pleaser needs to please others for reasons that may include fear of rejection, insecurities, the need to be well-liked. If he stops pleasing others, he thinks everyone will abandon him; he will be uncared for and unloved. Or he may fear failure; if he stops pleasing others, he will disappoint them, which he thinks will lead to punishment or negative consequences.

The tendency to please is related to Dependent Personality Disorder. While the people-pleaser may not need others to do things for them, they do have a need for others, regardless. The pleasing personality is also related to the Masochistic Personality type, which also corresponds with Dependent Personality.

The Traits of a People Pleaser
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You may recognize the characteristics of an overly giving person. They come across as obsequious and too eager to lend a hand. They do so because they need you to need them.

The people-pleaser may have traits that include:

  • Low self-worth
  • Accommodates everyone else’s needs
  • Undermines her own needs
  • Goes with the flow that’s dictated by others
  • Is too agreeable, in general
  • Does not assert themselves
  • Rarely says no
  • Feels valuable when complying with others
  • Values praise from others
  • Says sorry, when no apology is required
  • Takes the blame, when not at fault
  • Makes excuses for the faults of others
  • Has little self-awareness
What is at the root of people-pleasing?

This person fears rejection or failure, which may be rooted in early relationships. Perhaps, a people-pleaser had a parent whose love was conditional. This child may have had to earn her parent’s love and affection, or her parent was unavailable emotionally, or the parent’s availability was inconsistent.

Do people-pleasers look for approval and validation from others?

Seeking approval and validation from others is a hallmark trait of a people-pleaser. This person wants assurance that he matters to the people around him. He doesn’t look for validation from within, he seeks it everywhere else. He wants to be recognized and accepted by everyone. For the most part, if he feels well-liked, he can relax and like himself as well.

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How Others See Pleasers
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People who are genuinely big-hearted with their time and efforts have a healthy self-regard, they know what they value as well as what gives them meaning. A people-pleaser, however, does not have high self-regard. They need to tend to the needs of others, thinking this will fulfill their own emotional needs. In addition, they spend time worrying about what others think about them; they are not pleasing others out of love or benevolence, they are doing so out of fear.

Are women more likely to be people-pleasers?

More women than men do fall in this category. Women are largely humanity’s caretakers, and they are taught to be more passive, less aggressive; plus, a people-pleasing woman will not likely be labeled high maintenance or “difficult.” She would rather bend over backward than appear fussy.

Does the people-pleaser frustrate others?

Yes. The person who does everything for everyone takes away the personal agency of others; most of us want to do what is needed for ourselves. And what partner or close loved one wouldn’t get annoyed when their people-pleaser unfailingly helps others beyond what is considered normal? His spouse is so busy helping everyone, she is not taking care of herself—not eating a balanced diet, not staying physically active, not sleeping enough.

How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser
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Many people-pleasers are unaware of what they are doing; often, they don’t even know what they want or what their own needs entail. That is why it’s difficult for them to put themselves first. This stems from their self-worth being tied to what they do for others. In fact, doing things for others makes pleasers feel important. They need adulation and praise.

Would self-compassion help the people-pleaser?

If you are a people-pleaser, you will need to get to know yourself. Knowing who you are and what you value will open the door to a better understanding of your beliefs, emotions, and needs. This will also help you value yourself with a dose of healthy self-compassion.

How do I learn to set boundaries?

Everyone should learn the value of boundaries. Knowing when to say no and when to say yes is not hard. You will know if the needs and requests of certain others are within the confines of what is reasonable. And you will learn that you are not responsible for their feelings and reactions. People in your life will soon understand where your limits lie.

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