Recovering people pleasers sometimes post on the internet about the excessive lengths they have gone to in order to accommodate others.
One woman said the night after she gave birth she gave her ex-husband the hospital bed because he kept complaining how uncomfortable the chair was.
Another woman took out a loan to support her boyfriend’s business dreams. “His credit was awful so he’d asked me to help him and sign the papers, promising he’d make all the payments,” she said. “You can imagine how that turned out.”
Another woman said she studied a four-year career to please her mom. “[I] didn’t receive the appreciation of love that I expected.”
While the above situations might seem somewhat extreme, there are a number of less outrageous signs that you could be a people pleaser.
If you display at least seven of these ten behaviors, well, then we’re sorry to break it to you, but you’re a bonafide people-pleaser yourself.
1) You put other people on a pedestal
One Quora user says he would put people on pedestals because he was trained as a child to be submissive for safety.
People-pleasing was a way of self-survival and it followed him into his relationships as an adult.
“I also thought if I could be perfect for someone they might love me, and fill my aching need for a sense of belonging and love I had never felt as a child,” he says. “Someone could love me if I earned it by being the perfect partner. I wanted to heal everyone so that they would love me.”
He realized that the unconscious reason he was putting his partner on a pedestal was because he actually needed to love himself.
“I needed to feel lovable. I needed to learn to appreciate my uniqueness and preciousness as a living being on his own path.”
2) You’re a “YES” person
People-pleasing doesn’t necessarily mean you go out of your way to get into people’s good books. It also means not being able to say no when you’re asked for favors, invited places, and asked to be a shoulder to cry on.
“When you can’t say ‘no’ to people asking for favors, bosses giving you more than your fair share of work, or even to a lunch invite from a friend sent out at the last minute, you’ll find yourself scrambling from one place to another,” says writer Michele Koh Morollo in her blog, “Stepping on Stage: The Ugly Truth About People-Pleasing.”
You might say to yourself, “Well, I can’t help it if I’m a nice person,” like the world is supposed to give you some sort of award for being so amicable all the time.
Reality check: People who say “yes” to everything don’t excel in a single, solitary thing, emphasizes Morollo.
“They are no fun to be around because they are often distracted. (You know that friend who is always responding to emails or text messages while you’re at lunch together). Because they’re doing so much, they are often unfocused and not fully present to the task or person they are engaged with.”
This is because they are juggling too many things, don’t get enough sleep, and can easily become clumsy, inefficient, and unpleasant to be with.
3) You glamorize being the good girl (or guy)
Maybe the “good girl” label was given to you in childhood.
You were the ten-year-old who took on clearing up after dinner because Mom was too tired. By the time you turned 12, helping out translated into doing loads of laundry and even making dinner.
It didn’t bother Mom that you were falling behind in your homework or weren’t getting enough time to study for tests. Extra-curriculars also seemed out of the question because you knew you were expected to help out at home.
But you didn’t mind because you were the good girl (or guy).
By the time you became an adult, you became the person who took on the brunt of the work at home so that your husband could concentrate on his career. The good girl has morphed into the “good wife.”
You attach yourself to this label and push away any thoughts of dreams and goals of your own.
4) You turn yourself into a mirror
Mirroring is when you reflect back to people what they want to see or what they want to hear, regardless of your true feelings.
Here’s a strange but interesting example from Reddit but it shows how this form of people-pleasing pops up in day-to-day life.
A woman got a new job at a nice restaurant. She loves the job but says she’s “literally just lying my way through the job.”
Many people at her workplace are Trump supporters while she says she’s “thrilled about him.”
“But when somebody brings it up, I will agree with them and even go on to add statements that I don’t even believe myself just so they like me and think we have things in common.”
She says she never plans for it but that it “kind of just happens.”
“I naturally falsify my life and dodge any biases and fit perfectly into the environment.”
This example might seem a tad on the extreme side, but there are variations of this scenario that many of us won’t find surprising.
We have all probably been guilty of going along with the crowd at some point in our (most likely young) lives. But for many, it’s a way of life.
5) You fear burdening people with boundaries
People-pleasers have a hard time establishing and maintaining boundaries.
This could be catering to the needy mother who expects you to drop everything to listen to the latest round of drama that’s been happening with your sister. So you resign yourself to hearing all about it despite the fact your house looks like a train went through it.
It could be the demanding boss who springs a late last-minute meeting on you when you know you have to get home to bake 100 cookies for your son’s school Christmas bake sale. Instead of annoying your boss by saying no, you decide you’ll just lose some sleep that night instead.
Even though it may seem like it, the problem is not the people springing things on you at the last minute or at inconvenient times.
The real problem is your agreeing to be something of a doormat whose life seems to revolve around other people’s needs and desires, rather than your own.
6) Any sign of conflict creeps you out
Because people-pleasing might have been a coping mechanism as a way of avoiding conflict as a child, it can also be a survival tactic in adulthood as well.
This usually means backing down or not disagreeing even if the other person is wrong, says K.J. Hutchings from Tiny Buddha.
“When you fear upsetting someone and causing an argument, you don’t speak up about what’s bothering you or hurting you, and you don’t reveal your true feelings. You do all you can to keep the peace, believing mistakenly that conflict of any kind is bad relationships.”
Hutchings shares that as a people-pleaser, she always wanted to find instant solutions to problems in order to minimize any potential conflict, retain harmony, and soothe any negative feelings.
“I rarely took my time to find an effective solution, and as a result the problems were never fully resolved.”
Hutchings was also afraid of her own anger and repressed it or directed it at herself. “This no doubt contributed to my anxiety disorder,” she says.
“I mistakenly believed that nice people didn’t get angry, not realizing that we cannot change our behavior for the better or improve our well-being unless we feel and recognize all our emotions.”
7) You say sorry like there’s no tomorrow
Many people tend to be overly apologetic for any little perceived slip up. Many also are on-the-ready to take the blame for “mistakes.”
If you find yourself constantly apologizing—saying “sorry” for taking up space, attracting attention, or rocking the boat, for example, you might be saying sorry as a way of dealing with Imposter Complex, says leadership coach Tanya Geisler.
Geisler says that imposter complex (she specially says imposter complex instead of imposter syndrome) is more like “self-doubt on steroids.”
“You experience massive stress despite your proven track record and consistent validation and capabilities…that’s when you’re in the land of the imposter complex.”
Before automatically defaulting into an apology, stop and ask yourself if you’re actually sorry. If you’re not, don’t say it.
8) You navigate other people’s problems ahead of your own
If you’re putting your issues on the back burner to put out everyone else’s fires, then you’re a people-pleaser running on empty.
People-pleasing involves speaking and behaving to accommodate the emotional needs of others, typically to the detriment of your own well-being, says Silvi Saxena from Choosing Therapy.
Allowing other people to monopolize your time and take advantage of your compassionate nature is a sure sign of people-pleasing, says Saxena.
As we discussed above, work on not being afraid of setting healthy boundaries—even if it means disappointing others.
9) You rely on other people’s opinion of you instead of your own
One of the most common signs of people-pleasing is feeling worried and anxious about the opinions and feelings of others, says Saxena.
The example of the server wanting to fit in with her co-workers can apply here also.
But this could also be anything from how you dress, what career field you want to get into, to who you choose as a romantic partner.
“These feelings often stem from insecurity,” says Saxena. “You may fear people perceiving you unfavorably, so you conform your behaviors to fit into a box and overshadow your true self.”
10) You basically say no to your own needs
People-pleasers are so busy catering to other people’s needs that they either dismiss their own needs or aren’t even in touch with them.
“People-pleasers will often hide their own needs and preferences in order to accommodate other people,” says Kendra Cherry, MSEd from Very Well Mind. “This can make it feel as if you are not living your life authentically—it may even leave you feeling as if you don’t know yourself at all.”
This could manifest in many ways including difficulty opening up, ambivalence, having poor listening skills, challenging intimate relationships, and a lack of physical, verbal, or sexual contact, says Timothy J. Legg, PhD.
Legg says that therapy is the best route for an emotional detachment from self because a trained therapist can help the person learn to open up, find ways to relieve stress and anxiety, and strengthen their sense of self.
Some parting words for all the people-pleasers out there…
In the words of one anonymous person on Instagram: “My life got better when I realized that I didn’t want to be a nice person. Nice got me stressed out and disrespected. I’m a good person, I’m authentic. There’s a difference.”
Nice is overrated. Strive to be true to you instead.