When People Pleasing Isn’t Pleasant

by | Jul 27, 2019

When the flight attendant tells you to put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others, you know why. You’ve got to take care of yourself or you’ll be no good to anyone else. But People Pleasers seldom put themselves first. They subjugate their own needs in an effort to do someone else’s bidding, often to their own detriment.

Women are often identified as People Pleasers since they have a long history of dependency on men and had to find ways to please men in order to get what they wanted, whether it was a bigger diamond or relief from abuse. But both genders suffer from the need to please others for a variety of reasons. A friend whose mother died when she was young was used to pleasing others in an effort to ensure they wouldn’t abandon her. Another friend grew up with a narcissist father whose approval she could never get, no matter how hard she tried to please him. Dysfunctional family situations are breeding grounds for People Pleasers, no matter what gender.

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False Rewards

People Pleasers have found a way to be rewarded because everyone likes them. Who wouldn’t? In an office setting, they’re the ones who take on extra tasks, stay late, and work longer hours without extra pay. In a friendship, they’re the ones who wait a half hour at a restaurant and don’t complain when a friend finally shows up. People Pleasers can be manipulated to take all sorts of emotional and verbal abuse. And they think the people they please like them for it. But do they?

Maybe, but it’s likely to be a superficial “like” or not even that when it’s a narcissist they’re pleasing. Meanwhile, even People Pleasers can wait only so long at a restaurant for only so many times before they begin to feel resentment and anger. Often, depression and loneliness plague People Pleasers because the “friends” they have are not really friends, but instead, they’re using them. And since People Pleasers subjugate themselves to others, they often lack their own identity, a lack that can lead to emotional breakdowns.

Making a Change

It’s hard for People Pleasers to break the pattern because, on the surface, pleasing people is working for them. Along with feeling liked, People Pleasers feel like they are doing good things for other people, and what could be wrong with that? They pride themselves on being more accommodating than others, and fitting in anywhere. In fact, they’re kind of proud that they do more than their share. And they’re proud of the fact that they have fewer needs than others who are more high maintenance than they are.

So with all that going for them, why change? Well, as we saw, anger, resentment, depression and emotional problems can result eventually. People Pleasers typically have little self-esteem—it’s what they do for others that gives them value, not who they are in and of themselves. So they don’t have healthy relationships and often allow themselves to be used.

The good news is that when People Pleasers discover they deserve more out of the relationships in their lives, they can learn to think of themselves, and put on their own oxygen masks before they help others.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact



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