10 reasons being a people pleaser will end badly for you

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Are you constantly worried about pleasing other people?

Maybe you hate to say no. Perhaps you avoid conflict at all costs. Or you can’t stand the thought that someone might not like you.

Being a people pleaser often means putting other people’s interests before yours.

And so in the process, you end up sacrificing your own needs and desires to try to keep others happy.

Here are 10 very good reasons being a people pleaser will end badly.

10 reasons being a people pleaser will end badly for you

1) No matter what you do, you always end up feeling bad

Here’s one of the biggest problems with people pleasing:

You always lose no matter what.

Whether you feel bad because you’re worried about what someone else thinks of you. Or you feel bad because you’re letting people walk all over you.

Whether you’re feeling guilty about turning someone down and saying no. Or guilty about neglecting your own needs.

All people-pleasing roads eventually lead to a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Trying to juggle the feelings and wishes of everyone else is always going to leave you disappointing someone. And when it’s not them you’re disappointing, it’s yourself.

Even though people-pleasing is a tactic we use to try to avoid feeling bad, the reality is that it doesn’t even work.

2) You mistake weakness for kindness

Here’s the most common mistake that people pleasers make. And it’s a really costly one.

Going along with someone else for the sake of keeping the peace isn’t nice, it’s weak.

People pleasers may like to think of themselves as kind, selfless and considerate. And I’m sure they do have these positive qualities.

But that’s not what is going on when they fall into people-pleasing behaviors.

Rather than being kind, it’s really a way of avoiding the discomfort we can feel from disagreeing, saying no, standing up for ourselves, or experiencing any conflict.

But learning how to handle this discomfort is an important part of personal development and having healthy relationships with others.

Getting mixed up between what is nice, and what is weak doesn’t allow us to grow. It keeps us stuck in our comfort zone.

3) You end up living your life by other people’s rules and not your own

When we put other people’s opinions, ideas, beliefs, and feelings consistently in front of our own we end up living our lives according to their rules.

We let other people decide what we should or should not be doing. We let others’ opinions of our lives sway and dictate our decisions.

“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

That is the number one regret that people have towards the end of their life.

Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware recorded the biggest regrets of people on their deathbeds, and this is what came top.

People pleasers are more likely to neglect their own dreams and desires.

As Bronnie Ware puts it:

“When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

Constantly putting your own needs on the back burner may well lead to a lifetime of regrets further down the line.

4) It kills authenticity

We’re forever being told to be ourselves. But that isn’t really possible when you are fixated on people-pleasing.

Because it’s a simple fact of life that you really can’t please all the people all of the time.

You are bound to disagree with some people. You are bound to clash personalities with some people.

When we try too hard to avoid this from happening, we can end up presenting a distorted and insincere version of ourselves to the world.

People pleasers can come across as fake. Because in a way, you are always having to hide the real you.

You feel far too afraid of showing yourself warts and all, and so you try to present a more carefully curated and palatable image of yourself.

But this camouflage that serves as self-defense also means your interactions lack sincerity.

The bottom line is that authenticity matters.

Research suggests it even makes us happier. One study found that the more authentically people felt they were living the more positive emotions and higher their self-esteem was.

5) You lose respect

“When two people always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” — William Wrigley Jr.

For a people pleaser, the subconscious logic goes something like this:

If I disagree, people won’t like me anymore.

But the reality is actually far from this. Whilst we might imagine that always validating others endears them to us, it’s not really the case.

Often in life, the most respected people are the ones who command respect.

That doesn’t mean going around being bossy or rude. But it does mean drawing a line and not allowing people to cross that line without clear consequences.

If people feel like you are being needy, spineless, or being a martyr it can backfire. Rather than respect your agreeable ways, they may just find it annoying.

6) You attract users into your life

Of course, not everyone will find people-pleasing ways irritating. Some will love it.

But you’ve got to ask yourself what type of people they are.

People pleasing can lead to being taken advantage of. It can be a wide-open door for users and abusers to stroll right on in.

Once they get a taste of how you are prepared to bend over backward for them, they aren’t going anywhere.

Leechers and hangers-on love people pleasers. Because they can easily manipulate them into doing what they want.

These are the people in life who ask one favor too many. Who make unfair demands on your time. And who have unrealistic expectations of you.

It’s no coincidence that people pleasers can feel plagued with these types of relationships.

It’s because they allow themselves to be taken advantage of when other people don’t.

7) It’s super stressful

People pleasers may find that they:

  • Don’t take enough time (or any) for themselves or self-care
  • Take on board more things than they can handle
  • Find it difficult to accept help and support

Combine these elements and you understandably have the perfect storm for stress.

You might find you are rushing through the day to get things done for others. You say yes to yet another task or project when you’re already swamped. You struggle to fit in the most basic things that need to be done for yourself.

As well as demands on your time and energy, people-pleasing takes an emotional toll that can lead to anxiety and stress.

Always worrying about other people and feeling the burden of other people’s expectations and thoughts of you is emotionally exhausting. 

No wonder people-pleasing can end in burnout.

8) Resentment eats away at you

The danger of being a people-pleaser is that your relationships become more unbalanced as you give, give, give and they take, take, take.

Even a Saint is going to get pretty fed up with that dynamic.

Healthy relationships are balanced. And people pleasing upsets that balance. This imbalance usually leads to resentment.

Resentment is insidious and can become toxic. It makes you bitter and angry toward those who you feel take advantage of you. Even those who you care about.

That’s because you end up blaming people for the burden that you are experiencing.

Rather than recognizing that you have a choice, you end up begrudging the way your people-pleasing makes you feel.

Because you find it difficult to express yourself assertively, you don’t have an outlet for all that resentment, and so it silently simmers inside, eating away at you.

9) You’re always seeking validation outside of yourself

People pleasing is linked to low self-esteem.

What often causes this desire to try to make others happy is a lack of self-confidence or belief in your own desires and needs.

And because of this low self-opinion, people pleasers go searching for approval outside of themselves.

In this way, getting praise from somebody else through pleasing them compensates for the internal validation they’re not getting from themselves.

We all need validation. In fact, one study suggests that its absence in childhood could lead to the development of mental health conditions like borderline personality disorder.

But the difficulty is that seeking all of your validation outside of yourself leaves you at the mercy of others.

This is why people pleasers tend to stay stuck in unhealthy patterns.

They’re constantly looking to please someone else, but never really finding satisfaction within themselves.

10) It’s bad for your health and is linked to overeating

This last reason may well surprise you. 

We know that stress and anxiety (which people pleasing can cause) are bad for our health and can cause things like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

What may come as news to you is that negative coping styles like people-pleasing have also been linked to poorer health and being overweight.

A 2004 study of half a million people aged between 18-56 discovered a connection between unhealthy lifestyle patterns in diet, exercise, and people pleasing.

Meanwhile, another piece of research found that people-pleasing can directly lead to overeating.

As reported in Time:

“People-pleasers feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable. Almost everyone has been in a situation in which they’ve felt this pressure, but people-pleasers seem especially sensitive to it,” said Exline, whose study was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.”

Top tips to stop people pleasing:

1) Be more vigilant of people pleasing

I firmly believe that all positive change starts with awareness.

Without cultivating mindfulness towards how we behave, we become powerless to alter it. Instead, our subconscious silently pull our strings.

Aim to notice when people-pleasing kicks in.

That way you can more consciously consider your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Even if you end up still going along with the people-pleasing action, the fact that you have noticed it can be the start of cultivating greater awareness.

2) Create conscious boundaries

Working on your boundaries may need to begin with getting to know yourself better.

If you have fallen into a habit of always putting other people in front of you, you may not know what your own needs even are anymore.

Once you figure out what you need, create your own “club rules”.

Much like a private members club, think about what the conditions are if someone wants to enter into your life.

Writing these boundaries down can help to define and cement them for you.

3) Aim to say “yes” more slowly

Suddenly kicking the habit of people-pleasing can feel like a daunting task. If saying no to people feels really difficult for you, start small.

Instead of saying yes straight away, aim to say yes more slowly.

That way you stall for time, and can make a more considered decision about whether agreeing to something will leave you feeling stretched, depleted, frustrated or used.

Instead of saying yes, say something like:

“Let me think about that” or “I’m going to get back to you on this”.

You’re not instantly dismissing someone, but you are considering requests more carefully.

4) Work on your self-love, self-respect and self-worth

Undeniably this can be the most challenging work to embark on to kick people-pleasing into touch.

But it’s also the most significant.

That may mean confronting perfectionism, negative past experiences, and deep-seated insecurities that could all be contributing to any people-pleasing ways.

But strengthening the strong foundations of self-love, self-worth and self-respect is what everything else in your life is built upon.

Learning how to be kinder to yourself will mean you do not feel the same urge to put everyone else ahead of your own wellbeing.

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Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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