People-pleasing is a camouflage act where we defer to other people’s opinions and desires, trying to be liked, blend in or avoid controversy. It’s a huge pitfall, because the relationship can never reach it’s potential if there’s a people-pleaser involved.
Early in a relationship it feels easier to people-please so everything goes smoothly. But feelings and needs eventually rise to the surface. The people-pleaser feels anxious, stressed and resentful. The other person in the relationship feels blindsided, because the people-pleaser never opened up to them in the first place.
If you tend to be a people-pleaser, the first step to break the habit is becoming more aware of your feelings and needs. I have my clients keep a log every hour where they write down, “Right now I am feeling … and I need ….” It’s important to be as specific as you can, because most people-pleasers are completely out of touch with their needs and feelings. I’ve included a feelings and needs list if you’re finding that it’s hard to uncover exactly what’s happening inside your head.
As you start to be more honest with yourself, also look at the people around you. Notice how their moods shift, and how they have nothing to do with you. Your son might be mad at his teacher. Your friend might be worried about a job interview. Disconnect yourself from their emotions. A people-pleaser tends to take things personally and feels responsible for other people’s moods. You can show empathy, but it’s not up to you to monitor and regulate their feelings. You are only responsible for your own feelings and how you react to them.
Finally, understand that your needs are equal to other people’s needs, and your feelings are equal to other people’s feelings. There is no hierarchy here; we all have equal value. You have a right to your feelings and needs just as the other person does. In a good relationship there’s balance between both people’s feelings and needs that provides synergy and support — the sum becomes greater than the parts. And in a relationship with a people-pleaser you can never get there.