Everyone loves a people pleaser. You know who we're talking about: That person who always volunteers to help with a project at work even if it means they have to stay late, will sacrifice sleep to answer their friends' frantic phone call at 3 a.m. phone call, and offers to take on the bulk of housework at home.
While there's no question that people pleasers having some positive qualities and can be incredibly giving, it's often to their own detriment. Here's what it actually means to be a people pleaser, the tops signs that you are one, and how to work on setting better boundaries so everyone's happier.
People Pleaser Definition
According to Cambridge Dictionary, a people pleaser is defined as someone who "cares a lot about whether other people like him or her, and always wants others to approve of his or her actions."
There's nothing inherently bad about being a people pleaser, and there are a handful of reasons why people become people pleasers in the first place. This tendency can date back to childhood—maybe you got a lot of praise from your parents when you were agreeable—or can even be rooted in a bad career experience, when a boss was only happy with you when you did absolutely everything they asked of you and never pushed back.
It's also only natural that you want people to like you and care about what others think of you. We all feel like that sometimes! But there's a difference between seeking the approval of others and living your life to make sure others are happy—that's when people pleasing becomes really problematic.
Signs You're a People Pleaser
It's not always easy to know if you're a people pleaser—the term can feel a little vague, after all. If you're wondering if you're a people pleaser, here are the top signs to look out for.
You apologize a lot
There's nothing wrong with saying sorry when you did something wrong or hurt someone. But when you're constantly apologizing for things that don't actually warrant an apology or apologizing for things you didn't even do, that's a sign you're a people pleaser.
You don't feel great about yourself
In general, people pleasers tend to have a low opinion of themselves, which is why they're constantly seeking external validation in the form of people pleasing.
You never (or rarely) say no
Do you burn the candle at both ends, attending every single party you're invited to, taking on absolutely everything that's asked of you at work, and taking on the bulk of the housework and parenting duties? You may be a people pleaser.
You agree even when you don't mean it
If you constantly find yourself validating the feelings of friends and family members with a string of "you're rights," even if you don't always think they're right, that's a big sign of people pleasing.
You're tired all the time
Even if they're getting enough sleep (and let's be honest, people pleasers rarely are!) they tend to be very drained, because they're busy taking care of others all the time instead of themselves.
You don't tell people when you're upset with them
People pleasers have a hard time letting others know when something they've said or done hurt them, so the tend to bottle up their feelings, hoping they'll pass. Spoiler alert: They usually don't.
You feel resentful
To piggyback on the above point, bottling up emotions tends to make them grow bigger, leading to feelings of anger and resentment. People pleasers are familiar with this! They also tend to be resentful because they don't make enough time for themselves.
Your friends start to become frustrated with you
Most people love a people pleaser. But if you're really, truly close to a people pleaser, it can be frustrating. A friend may become frustrated because they feel you're not honest with them, or they can become frustrated on your behalf because they wish the person close to them would look out for themselves more.
How to Undo People Pleasing Tendencies and Set Better Boundaries
If you found yourself nodding along as you read the above signs, try not to get discouraged. While people pleasing tendencies aren't great, there's a lot you can do to undo them. The good news? Gaining the understanding that you're a people pleaser is the first (and arguably most important!) step.
To undo some of these tendencies, start by establishing a solid, actually doable self-care routine. This means that every day (or every week, at least!) you set aside time to do something that nourishes you, and not others.
For some this will be a long, luxurious bubble bath, for others it will be a walk around the block, for still others it will be a Netflix marathon. Self-care is not one-size-fits-all!
Finally, boundaries don't come easily to people pleasers, so you may need to ease into any you set. You can start by practicing saying "no."
If you don't feel comfortable saying no at work just yet, try it with a fried when they invite you to a party, or vice versa—say yes to the party and no to the work task that will have you working all weekend.
If you're a people pleaser, rest assured that it's not the worst thing in the world—and that there's a lot you can do to undo these tendencies and take better care of yourself. If you're really struggling, consider talking to a mental health professional. They have the tools and training to help you and make a significant difference.
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