Are you a people-pleaser?
It’s OK, you can tell me. I’m only asking because I know I have this tendency myself.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting everyone to be happy, right?
Of course not.
Well, except if, by trying to make everyone else happy, you end up doing some damage to yourself in the process.
People-pleasing can spring from true care and compassion for others. But in practical terms, it more regularly comes from somewhat selfish motives.
Many people who don’t feel great about themselves will turn outside for the validation they can’t get internally. In order to feel validated, they try to get attention and praise from others by doing them favors and subjugating their own feelings and desires to put those of others first.
However, it rarely turns out this way.
In fact, people with low self-worth often engage in these eight people-pleasing behaviors, and most can actually be quite damaging to themselves.
1) Saying yes to everything
One of the clearest signs of a people-pleaser is that they say yes to just about everything that comes their way.
These are the typical “yes-men” that many people like to surround themselves with so that their ideas and suggestions are constantly reinforced.
While this kind of behavior can make people seem agreeable, friendly, and group-oriented, we rarely see what this does to the person saying all those yesses.
If you agree to everything, you’re certainly not being true to yourself. There’s no way you can always think that what other people say is right, and no way you can always share their opinions.
So when you chronically say yes or agree, you’re rejecting your own ideas and pushing your true self down into the background.
The other issue is that you end up just playing the part of a hanger-on.
You get used by the people who like you being around and agreeing with them. They end up seeing you as a tool for their own self-expression while your own is stifled.
So how is this behavior going to ever make you feel better about yourself?
2) Avoiding conflicts
Of course, if you say yes to everything, you’re never going to disagree or argue with anyone else.
But of course, you’ll want to.
People-pleasers are renowned for avoiding conflict because they’d rather not express themselves than have to go toe-to-toe with someone else and cause friction.
They always want things to run smoothly and would much rather sacrifice their own feelings if that means increased social cohesion.
Isn’t that nice?
Well, yes, it is nice for everyone except the people-pleaser themself.
What this means for them is that they don’t value their own opinions and feelings enough to stand up for them or push them into the spotlight.
And every time they choose to avoid a conflict rather than stand up for something they feel strongly about, they reinforce this feeling of low self-worth.
Some people never apologize.
They’re seen as crass, arrogant, selfish, and lacking in introspection.
I mean, there’s no way anyone can be right and do the right thing all the time, is there?
So what about people who are so quick to apologize that it seems they do it all the time?
They can be seen as overly timid and meek. People tend to look at chronic apologizers as weak and even pathetic.
A balanced person is supposed to be able to reflect on their own actions and take responsibility for the things they do wrong, like making mistakes or hurting others. This is when you should apologize, right?
But if you go around apologizing for things that aren’t your fault or even have nothing to do with you, you’re doing it inauthentically. You’re trying too hard to please people and keep things smooth by offering yourself up as a scapegoat.
But you know what happens to scapegoats?
They’re blamed for everything and tossed out of their social circles.
This definitely isn’t something that’s going to make your life any happier.
4) Going along with the group
You’ll always see people-pleasers going along with the group that they’re in or at least trying to be in.
How do I know?
This is something that I used to do a lot of myself.
I actually got myself into hot water on several occasions because I didn’t stick to what I thought I should do but instead followed others into trouble.
One time, I was with junior high school friends, and we decided to go visit our old primary school. I don’t remember why.
It was the weekend, so of course, it was shut. Right?
We ended up walking around the school, and someone noticed that one set of double doors was chained shut. I guess the locks were broken, so they chained them instead, except when we pulled on them, the gap was just big enough for us to slip through.
The others wanted to sneak inside and while I really didn’t. It seemed like a great way to get in trouble. But I didn’t argue my position. They all slipped inside, and I followed them.
They ran around screaming and knocking things over until suddenly, they came face to face with two security guards.
In the end, most of us escaped, but two of my friends were caught and arrested. That could easily have happened to me as well, all because I wanted to please the others by going along with them against my better judgment.
5) Not maintaining boundaries
People with low self-worth have a lot of trouble making and keeping personal boundaries.
These boundaries are the lines you don’t want to cross, or you don’t let others cross with you.
That can mean drawing a line between things you would and wouldn’t be morally comfortable doing. It can also mean creating limits on what personal information you might share with others.
Boundaries are important because they help you maintain a respectful sense of self and also prevent others from taking advantage of you.
But when you have low self-worth, you can struggle to put these boundaries up.
So people will ask you to do things you’re not comfortable with, and you’ll do them anyway. Or they’ll get into your private business because you don’t feel empowered enough to deny people access.
6) Making sacrifices
I’m not talking specifically about spraying chicken blood across an altar.
I mean, you can do that if you want, but I’m not sure how many people it’s going to make happy in the first place.
The sacrifices I mean are personal ones.
People-pleasers almost always sacrifice their own needs and happiness if they have to choose between themselves and others.
This may sound kind and selfless, but it only is if you’re empowered enough to make these sacrifices of your own accord.
If you feel pressured or expected to make them, then it’s no longer great for you.
When you say yes to everything and no to nothing (no thing!), how are you possibly going to have any time for yourself?
This happens to people-pleasers all the time.
They have their normal obligations going on in the background, and then other people start to load even more on top.
They’re asked to stay late at work or take projects home with them. They’re asked to do favors that eat up a lot of their time.
And because they don’t have good ways to assert and stand up for themselves, they can end up wiped out and burnt out because of all they’re doing for others.
8) Giving gifts
Gift-giving is a wonderful thing to do, but it’s also a complicated social behavior with a unique set of rules.
What kind of rules, you ask?
Well, things like you should get people gifts to celebrate their important events, and you should get gifts for people that they could realistically reciprocate.
You should also get people gifts that they’ll appreciate and not feel weirded out by.
The problem a lot of people-pleasers have is that while they give gifts readily, they break a lot of these rules.
They might give gifts that aren’t related to any special day or achievement in a person’s life, and these are often seen as gifts to suck up with.
They might give people gifts that are overly extravagant to get attention or make someone feel special. However, this puts an obligation on the other person to reciprocate and can make them feel worse instead of happier.
A lot of these gifts end up being viewed as attempts to “buy friends” rather than to simply reinforce existing relationships like gift-giving is supposed to do.
People with low self-worth often engage in these eight people-pleasing behaviors either because they think it will make others like them or because they simply can’t help it.
But they almost always end up being used and trod on instead of getting the validation they crave. And their self-worth suffers instead of improving.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.