If you recognize these 7 behaviors in yourself, you’re probably a people-pleaser

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. 

The poet John Lydgate penned this and I think most of us would agree with it. 

Yet, so often, we find ourselves trying to do just that – to please everyone all the time. And more often than not, we end up pleasing no one, least of all ourselves. 

Have you ever found yourself agreeing to a favor for a colleague, only to regret it moments later? Or perhaps saying ‘yes’ to a family gathering when your schedule was already bursting at the seams? 

Whether it’s with our parents, partners, or work colleagues, many of us fall into the trap of people-pleasing. 

I know this first-hand; I used to be a people pleaser. 

Have you also fallen into this trap?

Let’s find out. Here are seven signs that this is the case. 

1) You have difficulty saying ‘no’

This might seem obvious, but it’s a cornerstone of people-pleasing behavior: the profound difficulty in saying ‘no.’ 

You know how it is; we agree to tasks, favors, and commitments, not out of desire or ability but out of an ingrained urge to accommodate others. 

Sound familiar?

This trait isn’t just about being helpful; it’s a reflection of deeper issues surrounding self-worth and the desire for acceptance.

In my, let’s say, varied career, from managing a language school to navigating the complex world of venture capital, I’ve encountered numerous moments where saying ‘no’ was not just important but crucial. 

Yet, each time, it felt like a Herculean task. It was a constant battle between my own limits and the desire to be seen as reliable and accommodating. 

That was until I picked up Greg McKeown’s influential book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.  He put it eloquently when he wrote;

 “Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” 

These words were a game-changer for me. They made me realize that by always saying ‘yes,’ I wasn’t just being helpful; I was letting others dictate my life and my priorities. 

The cost of this was not just my time but my well-being and personal goals.

Learning to say ‘no’ is more than just a skill; it’s an exercise in setting boundaries and recognizing one’s worth. It’s about understanding that your time and energy are precious and that not every request or opportunity deserves them. 

Saying ‘no’ isn’t selfish; it’s self-respect. 

2) You constantly seek approval

Do you find yourself frequently checking for nods of approval in meetings or feeling uneasy until you receive positive feedback from others? 

This constant search for validation is a telltale sign of a people-pleaser

It’s not just about being liked; it’s a deeper quest for external validation that often overshadows our own judgment and feelings.

As an entrepreneur, I walked the tightrope of seeking approval and standing by my decisions, especially when they went against the grain. Each step was fraught with internal questions: “Will this be well-received?” or “Am I making a mistake by not aligning with their expectations?” 

This need for affirmation, I learned, stemmed from the fear of being judged or, worse, of failure. And something had to give. 

The ancient wisdom of Marcus Aurelius resonated with me during this period of introspection. He wrote

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people but care more about their opinions than our own.” 

This highlights the irony in our quest for approval. We often value others’ opinions over our own, even though we are the only constant presence in our lives.

Breaking free from this cycle of constantly seeking approval was pivotal. It meant learning to trust my instincts and valuing my own opinion. 

And it didn’t happen overnight. It required a conscious effort to remind myself that seeking guidance is beneficial, but relying solely on external validation is limiting. 

But it was well worth it.

3) You neglect your personal needs

When I first embarked on my career, I was eager to make a lasting impression, as many young people are. Whether it was staying late at the office or taking on tasks well beyond my role, I was determined to prove my dedication. 

But this relentless drive to meet everyone’s expectations came at a cost – my own needs and well-being. I was so focused on being the go-to person at work that I neglected my health, hobbies, and even my relationships.

Sound familiar?

This behavior is all too common among people-pleasers. We often find ourselves so immersed in fulfilling others’ needs and desires that we sideline our own. 

But here’s the kicker. In doing so, we don’t just sacrifice our time; we sacrifice our identity and well-being.

Science backs this up. The National Institute Of Mental Health points out, “self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy.” 

This statement hits home for me, and it might for you too. We simply can’t pour from an empty cup. 

Prioritizing oneself isn’t selfish; it’s necessary. 

4) You feel responsible for others’ feelings

if someone displays these behaviors their self esteem is quite fragile If you recognize these 7 behaviors in yourself, you're probably a people-pleaser

Have you ever found yourself almost losing sleep over a colleague’s offhand comment or a friend’s mood swing? 

If so, you’re likely familiar with the burden of feeling responsible for others’ emotions. It’s a weight that people-pleasers often carry. It stems from the belief that we have the power, or even an obligation, to keep everyone around us happy. 

This tendency to feel accountable for others’ feelings is a heavy burden. 

But here’s the truth: everyone is responsible for their own emotions. 

Sure, we can offer support and understanding, but we cannot – and should not – shoulder the emotional well-being of others. 

5) You struggle to make decisions independently

A less discussed yet equally telling sign of a people-pleaser is the struggle to make decisions independently. This often stems from a fear of making a decision that might displease or disappoint those around us.

This reliance on others for decision-making is a subtle trap. It can lead to a cycle where our confidence in our own judgment is eroded as we constantly look outward for guidance. 

The irony is that in trying to please everyone, we can end up pleasing no one – least of all ourselves.

Breaking free from this pattern involves cultivating trust in our own instincts and abilities. It’s about recognizing that while it’s okay to seek advice, the final decision should align with our own insights and values. 

6) You end up suppressing your true opinions and feelings

Have you ever caught yourself silently disagreeing during a conversation, only to smile and nod in agreement? 

This moment of self-censorship is a classic trait of a people-pleaser. 

I am embarrassed to say there have been times when I chose to mute my opinions, mistaking conformity for harmony. Honestly, it wasn’t a matter of being considerate or tactful; it was an underlying anxiety about causing displeasure or creating waves.

Take it from me; regularly suppressing what we truly think and feel can have detrimental effects. 

Who knew, right? 

Well, it’s an easy trap to fall into. And the consequences of doing so can be dire. 

It hinders genuine interactions, leads to internal frustration, and breeds resentment. Beyond these emotional costs, it stifles our authentic self-expression – a crucial element for personal fulfillment and effective communication.

If you relate to this one, it’s time for a change. 

By choosing to be authentic in our expressions, we not only foster deeper connections and encourage honest dialogue but also honor the most genuine version of ourselves.

7) You often find yourself overextended

What is the end result of the people-pleasing tendencies we’ve discussed?

Well, there are many, but a big one is that we often find ourselves overextended. 

This chronic overextension is more than just exhausting; it’s unsustainable. 

Work is usually the first culprit, but it isn’t the only one. Personal commitments, social obligations, and even volunteering can all add up, creating a scenario where you’re stretched too thin across all areas of life. 

The key is recognizing that while it’s admirable to be reliable and supportive, it’s equally important to set limits

Learning to gauge your capacity and being honest about what you can realistically handle is vital. It’s about finding a balance that allows you to be there for others without losing yourself in the process.

The bottom line

If you are still reading this, I am guessing you relate to one or more of the signs? 

If so, it might be time to take your life back. 

It’s not about disregarding the importance of empathy or the desire to help; instead, it’s about striking a balance where self-respect takes center stage.

As always, I hope you found this post enjoyable to read and that it has given you some food for thought. 

Until next time. 

Mal James

Mal James

Mal James Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business. As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys. In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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