Why People Pleasing Can Harm Your Relationships

Why People Pleasing Can Harm Your Relationships

Are you a people pleaser?

A people pleaser is someone who thinks of others before they think of themselves. When someone needs help, they are more than willing to step up. This is a considerate, kind and helpful person, sounds good right? True, it might be good for all the people in the people pleasers life, and it may feel like it is a sure way to get and keep people in your life. But is it giving you the kind of relationships you want? Often, people pleasers don’t take care of themselves because they are so busy taking care of others and this can leave them feeling resentful that no one is meeting their needs. They may feel good about themselves while helping others but end up feeling unworthy of help themselves. Finding it hard to say no when asked for something and find it hard to ask for what they need and want leaves the people pleaser feeling unseen and unheard. They often find it difficult to speak up about what they want and what is important to them.

People pleasers along with helping others often anticipate what others need or want in order to comply or satisfy others needs, for example, when asked, “Where would you like to go to dinner?” The people pleaser remembers the others favorite place and suggests that. When this happens repeatedly the people pleaser is left always doing what someone else wants to do and never the things they would prefer to do. People pleasers are often left feeling like no one knows them and no one cares. They are overly concerned about other people’s feelings and opinions and consequently are left feeling less worthy of others consideration and less able to express what they want. This can seem so unfair to the people pleaser who just wants others to be happy and cared for.

How can asking for what you want help your relationships?

When you know what you want and can begin to ask for those things, you may find you begin to know yourself better and are able to share who you are with the people around you.

Instead of just going along with things, you may be able to find yourself in more of a leading role in your own life. This can lead to:

  • More meaning interactions
  • Feeling better about yourself
  • Feel cared for by yourself and others
  • While still being kind and caring to others
  • When you get your needs met you are happier

How can we be kind and considerate and not fall into the people pleaser trap?

Well first it is important to remind ourselves that we need to take care of our own needs before others. This is not selfish it is necessary, for example: when an airplane is going down, and the oxygen masks fall the rule is always put your mask on before you try to help others put on theirs’s.

Often the people pleaser is so accustomed to thinking of others first that this will be a foreign idea to think of themselves first. So, they may need to practice by asking themself, “What do I want?” So that when asked they will have an answer. Also, when you know what you want you can begin to make those things happen for yourself. This will help you feel happier and more confident. Which starts to make the process easier as you go about your practice. You can be kind and considerate to yourself and still be kind and considerate to others.

How do you start asking for what you want?

Asking for what you want is hard. Few of us are taught how to ask for what we need. Often, we are socialized not to ask for things and are told that is selfish. If you are not accustomed to asking for what you want, you may not even know what you want. A good starting point might be to simply spend some time thinking about what it is that you want, believe or value. Start by simply taking some time alone and remind yourself of the things that give you joy. They can be as simple as the sun on your face, or dream big, dinner in Paris. Take the time to think of yourself and what makes you feel good or what is important to you.

Once you have some ideas about what you want you will have to start stepping up and asking for those things. Think about how good it feels for you to give someone what they want. Give that to someone, the opportunity to share in something you enjoy. Or give that to yourself. Start doing things for yourself. Or letting others know what you like. Start with something simple, for example, be prepared for the question, “Where do you want to have dinner?” Think about what you want so you have an answer ready. Think of things you enjoy and invite others to join you rather than just always going along with what your friends are doing. Your friends will probably be pleased to meet your needs.

As you begin to express yourself make sure you are using plain language to communication, for example “I would like to go to get an ice cream.” Rather than, “Would you like to go get an ice cream?” Start with, I want, I feel, I need.

You want to make sure that you are asking for what you want and not demanding it. If it is OK to say no, you are asking, if not, you are demanding.

If you are really struggling to let go of these old habits, you may need some help. A Halifax therapist can help you build the skills you need to communicate effectively to create the kind of relationships that are more reciprocal and rewarding.


Meet Jane Donovan

Jane Donovan, MEd, RCT, is a relationship counsellor in downtown, Halifax. She helps adults and couples who want to have healthy and supportive relationships but instead find themselves feeling misunderstood, unheard, and unhappy. Click here to learn more about her online Halifax counselling practice!

Insight Mental Health Counselling