People Pleasing:When Kindness Turns Into Self Neglect


What is PEOPLE PLEASING and how do we know if we are people pleasers?


In today’s world, we teach and preach kindness to our children and each other all day, everyday. It is easy to get caught up in “being kind” and becoming a people pleaser because that is what seems to be the right thing to do. Like anything else, there are limits. Many of us may not be at risk of becoming a people pleaser. However, some individuals go too far and need to be aware of the negative impact this can have on their mental and physical well-being.


There is a difference between being nice and being a people pleaser. When you start doing things for others solely because you’re afraid of being judged, disliked or seen as ‘not nice’, then you may be a people pleaser. There comes a time when setting boundaries, like saying NO, is a much needed, healthier choice.


People-pleasing involves putting someone else's needs ahead of your own. People-pleasers are often seen as helpful and kind, however these individuals often go too far and can be at risk for anxiety, exhaustion and self-neglect.


Individuals struggling with people pleasing often struggle with anxiety, codependency or have experienced some type of trauma in the past.



Signs that we struggle with “people pleasing”

  • Difficulty saying NO? No Is a Complete Sentence!

  • Worrying about what other people will think if you say no

  • Feeling responsible for things that are not your fault

  • Saying”I’m sorry” too often

  • Difficulty setting and maintaining boundaries, which often can lead to resentment towards others

  • Putting “ too much on our plate” or agreeing to too many plans


None of these things are “bad''. It is when they go to extremes that they can be difficult and interfere with relationships, stress levels and overall emotional wellness. People with poor self esteem and insecurities might try to please others because they worry that other people won't like them if they don't make them happy.



Tips For People Pleasers

Here are some strategies to protect yourself from going too far and sacrificing your own happiness:


  • Pick a “doable” boundary. Focus on the little things and work up to the bigger, more difficult, things. Be clear and specific about your boundaries and communicate them frequently.

  • Pause - Don't answer things right away. “Let me get back to you on that”.

  • Use NO as a complete sentence. “No, I'm sorry I can’t make that party” without explaining why.

  • Remember that all relationships require give and take, you cannot always be the one giving.

Remind yourself that you can’t please everyone. If being a people-pleaser is interfering with your daily life, talk to a mental health professional. One of our licensed clinicians can help you manage and prioritize your own needs along with helping you establish healthy boundaries.


Submitted by Gordon Gooding, LCSW and Liana Ross, LMHC



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