9 things “people pleasers” do that usually come back to bite them

Hi. Welcome. I’m a recovering “people-pleaser” – someone who used to do all I could to make my relationships with others as smooth and conflict-free as possible.

If you’re here, it probably means you struggle with people-pleasing, too. You are so terrified of conflict or rejection that you keep your negative feelings tucked away, try to make everyone happy, and forget to take care of your own well-being in the meantime.

People-pleasing may seem like a great way to coast through life without any major issues. Well, until it all blows up in your face.

Let’s have a look at the 9 things people pleasers do that usually come back to bite them.

1) They try so hard to be liked that they lose respect

Approval – the love and the nemesis of every people pleaser.

When I was at school, I was a bit of a teacher’s pet. Actually, I think you could draw direct parallels between me and Hermione Granger. Including the raised arm at every opportunity.

Looking back, I can’t help but cringe.

At the time, though, I thrived on my teachers’ approval. The issue was, the more I tried to gain their respect, the more my classmates looked down on me.

It’s amazing to love learning and ask questions. Not so amazing to burn with the desire to prove everyone how smart you are.

In fact, that’s kind of the opposite of wisdom.

This behavior can easily translate into personal relationships, too. You might be trying so hard to win someone’s friendship or get in someone’s good graces that you come across as lacking in integrity and confidence.

And if there’s something that definitely makes you lose all respect, it’s insecurity and a loose sense of identity.

2) They adapt to every situation and lose sight of who they are

If you always go with the flow, how are you to know who you are when you block out all external influences and focus solely on yourself as an individual?

People pleasers are super flexible – they don’t mind changing their plans at the last minute if the other person can’t make it, they can remodel their opinions to match someone else’s vibe, and they will follow others’ lead if that’s what makes everyone happy.

But while they’re busy making sure everyone around them feels good, they forget to turn their attention toward themselves.

They forget what they want, what they need, and who they are.

3) They feel responsible for how others feel – and the guilt can blind them

The easiest way to lose yourself?

Assign your emotions zero value.

When I was still a huge people pleaser – before I learned to assert myself and prioritize my well-being – I used to get into the occasional fight with my best friend.

We both argued our point, but my arguments felt weak and hesitant. They were easily brushed aside or turned against me because I didn’t believe in their power in the first place.

Once we realized we both needed some space to think things over, I spent the following hours obsessing over how upset she must have felt. Was she still angry? Was she crying? How could I make it all okay again?

The urgent need to end the conflict was so paralyzing I often didn’t do anything at all – I just lay in bed and stared at the ceiling.

Not once did I stop to think about my own emotions. I was hurt, too. I felt things were unfair, too. I deserved to give myself the emotional energy I spent on my friend, yet all I could do was think about her feeling sad in the next room.

I was so blinded by guilt and fear that I completely forgot to validate my own experience.

4) They avoid confrontation and cultivate resentment

The fights with my best friend scared me so much that I did everything in my power to avoid them.

Even if it meant suppressing my anger, irritation, sadness, and pain.

Before long, I felt resentful and bitter. I was walking on eggshells around her, I burned with anger that slipped out in the tiniest passive-aggressive remarks, and I ignored the problem for so long that the friendship ended up collapsing under my feet.

When you’re avoiding conflict, you’re silently building it up. Instead of tackling a small thing in the present moment, you’re setting the stage for a massive argument in the future.

If there’s a problem, it will come out one way or another. And if you ignore it… you will not only feel resentful and angry – both of which take a toll on your mental well-being – but you might also destroy your relationships in the process.

5) They give and give until they end up empty

Another common thing people pleasers do is that they just give too much of themselves to others.

They take on extra work when they’re completely drained, they sacrifice their self-care time just to make someone else happy, and they rarely prioritize themselves.

No wonder so many people pleasers end up burning out. They are simply doing too much, and slowly but surely, it wears them down.

In order to give, you first need to have something to offer. And if you’re not fully recharged and happy, there is eventually nowhere to draw all that energy from.

Put that oxygen mask on first.

6) They agree to take on tasks they aren’t able to accomplish

A side-effect of taking on too much work is that you’re more likely to be exhausted, which means you’re more likely to screw up.

What’s more, your constant need to say “yes” to everybody might just as well be your downfall – what if you agree to complete a task you simply don’t have the expertise or energy for?

Wouldn’t it be better to decline and let someone more suited to the job do it instead?

If you agree to climb a mountain and have close to zero fitness experience, you might have to give up halfway through.

Know your limits.

7) They give up their dreams just to avoid bad blood

Some people pleasers would rather forego success than deal with interpersonal conflicts.

If there are two of you pining for a promotion, you don’t mind exiting the race if it means staying in your colleague’s good graces.

If you’ve been offered an amazing opportunity but it means moving halfway across the world for a few months, you reject it because your partner will miss you.

But prioritizing other people’s wants over your own has its cost. Namely, you might end up living a life you don’t like just because you couldn’t handle confrontation.

What is worth more? A dream come true or keeping up a semblance of peace with a colleague you’ll never see again once you leave for another job?

8) They apologize so often their “sorry” loses all meaning

Words have power. But if you overuse them, their power diminishes, reduced to nothing but emptiness.

An apology should always come from the heart. It should be genuine and it should strike true; it should make the other person feel like you mean everything you say.

But if you say “sorry” each time there’s a cloud in the sky, you will soon run out of ways to apologize for your behavior.

“Sorry” isn’t always necessary. Use it only when it counts.

9) They pull too hard and drive people away

Finally, relationships are about balance. There might be an occasional push and pull, but overall, energy and interest are reciprocated.

But when you’re a people pleaser, you might pull just a little bit too hard, pushing the other person away as a result.

Obsessive doting. Caring a little too much. Reaching out way too often. Buying lavish gifts or being overbearing with your love.

These things can easily trigger someone to withdraw, resulting in a completely opposite scenario to what you had in mind.

The easiest way to be liked and respected is to know your worth. If someone’s not putting in the effort, don’t try to carry the relationship on your shoulders.

Instead, learn to let go. Learn to thrive on your own. Learn that if you love yourself first, love from others will follow.

You don’t need to be someone you’re not just to win the approval of other people. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

Be yourself. The right people will see you and love you. And that’s all anyone could ever need.

Denisa Cerna

Hi! I’m a fiction author and a non-fiction freelance writer with a passion for personal development, mental health, and all things psychology. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature MA and I spend most of my time reading, travelling, and – shocker – writing. I’m always on a quest to better understand the inner workings of the human mind and I love sharing my insights with the world. If any of my articles change your life for the better… mission accomplished.
Get in touch at denisacerna.writing@gmail.com or find me on LinkedIn.

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