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Are you a people-pleaser?

Hey Indie Hackers,

I'm a psychology nerd so I wanted to bring to you an interesting concept I've written about recently: people-pleasing behavior.

  • Do you think you're too nice to say no?
  • Do you avoid conflicts at the risk of being stepped on?
  • Do you often worry about what others think?

These are some of the traits of people-pleasers. Although an easily recognized behavior, the causes of people-pleasing are not widely spoken of. Like many other behavior patterns, it has roots in childhood.

What's people-pleasing?

People-pleasing is the need to please others to build relationships.

It involves fear of rejection or fear of saying no or both.

Common qualities of people pleasers

People-pleasers are often:

  • Afraid of being abandoned
  • Worry about what others think and feel
  • Can't say no or set boundaries
  • Afraid of looking mean
  • Seek validation from others
  • Too busy taking care of others

Is it all bad?

People pleasers have a great work ethic. They are committed to their responsibilities. They usually overdeliver. They are considerate, agreeable, and polite. They take the temperature of the room, blend in, and put others' opinions first.

"What's so wrong about being thoughtful of others?" I can hear you asking. When done in moderation, pleasing our loved ones is nothing but good for us.

But if we put others' needs in front of ours over and over again, its consequences can be harmful. Interestingly, people-pleasers don’t see themselves as such. Their visible complaints can be: being stuck in abusive relationships, low self-esteem, fear of saying no, stress, and burnout.

People-pleasing behavior and depression

People-pleasers bottle up deep resentment because they don't express anger. They are so exhausted from trying to please others, that they lose touch with their authentic self.

People-pleasers are highly self-critical. They rarely ask for help. They tend to be perfectionists. They fear failure and regret missed opportunities. They don't have personal boundaries and their vulnerability is often exploited.

In short, people-pleasers so desperately want to be liked that they cannot "be." They are trapped inside their own expectations of themselves. They are vulnerable to depression when faced with a threat or a loss.

What is the opposite of people-pleasing?

The opposite of people-pleasing is not saying no to everything, being hostile or self-centric. In fact, it's possible to be kind and thoughtful to others, while protecting our own boundaries.

In most people-pleasing behavior patterns, what seems to be missing is healthy narcissism and assertiveness. Let's see what these are:

1) Healthy narcissism

Narcissism has a bad connotation as a word. It can indeed signal a disorder. What is less known is that narcissism exists on a continuum. A few narcissistic traits are considered healthy whereas at the other end of the continuum is a clinical disorder.

Healthy narcissism is taking pleasure in oneself. It can be seen as a “love affair with the world.”

Healthy narcissism is important because taking pleasure in ourselves helps us go through difficulties. Self-love, joy for life, and resilience are some of the results of healthy narcissism. It also protects us from burnout.

2) Assertiveness

There is a soft spot between aggression and submissiveness. It's called assertiveness. Assertiveness is the direct expression of thoughts and feelings in a socially acceptable manner.

Assertiveness involves identifying own feelings, speaking up for self and others, disagreeing respectfully, saying no without feeling guilty, and negotiating.

Like many other social behaviors, assertiveness is best learned by imitation.

The original title of my article is How to avoid turning your child into a people-pleaser.

Take a look at the article if you're curious about how people-pleasing behavior relates to childhood experiences.

Thanks so much for reading!

  1. 2

    Thank you for this well detailed article, you helped me alot!

    1. 1

      Just saw this! Thanks for reading and dropping a comment. I'm so happy you found it helpful.

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