What is people-pleasing and is it a bad habit?

As humans, we are social animals. The majority of us feel the importance of connecting with others, and building strong rapports. One way in which we do this is to demonstrate helping-behaviours and emotional availability. For instance, we may assist a peer with studying, help them move house, or giving them a lift. Moreover, we may provide emotional support by allowing them to open up about any current issues they are experiencing. Alternatively, people pleasing could be considered a step above simple helping behaviours and kindness. It is defined as having an emotional need to please others, frequently at the expense of your own needs.

People pleasing and mental health

Of course there are positives to having the qualities associated with people pleasing. Firstly, it is associated with friendliness and being sociable. There is also the assumption that people pleasers are reliable and supportive friends. The negative side of this however, is the associated issues regarding mental health:

  • Bottling emotions. Sometimes people worry they will burden other’s with their issues, so instead of opening up, they bottle their emotions. This means that a people pleaser will carry their own issues unsupported, whilst dealing with other people’s too. Such a one-way system can lead to physical and mental strain, feeling overwhelmed, and negatively impact a person’s mood.
  • Heightened stress and anxiety. Giving yourself the goal of pleasing everyone regardless of yourself means you’re already losing an unwinnable battle. That is an incredible amount of responsibility to delegate yourself. This can therefore lead to a constant state of stress; anxious to ensure others are okay.
  • Self-esteem issues. Also demonstrated and exacerbated through self-neglect, and a lack of self-care. If you’re so focused on other’s emotions whilst suppressing your own, you may come to rely on other people’s opinion of you to judge your own self-worth. Alternatively, having a sense of unworthiness exacerbates a people-pleasers goal to please, continuing the cycle.
  • Resentment. After a while, this unhealthy habit can lead you to resent yourself and others, especially if you feel your worth is being overlooked.
  • Depression. Previously, people pleasing has been correlated with depressive disorders. A lot of time is spent doing things and making choices that do not benefit the individual. In other words, all this time and energy is used and the individual does not necessarily gain joy from it, leading to low mood and possibly depression.

Tips to avoid people pleasing

  • Saying no. Within any relationship and friendship, boundaries are necessary. Establishing those boundaries can require voicing when you are unable (or do not want) to do something. How a person responds to you saying no is not your responsibility, as long as you do so kindly.
  • Reducing time spent with toxic people. Certainly with people you feel are demanding of your time and energy. It is important that you feel supported. If this is not the case, distancing yourself may be necessary.
  • Avoid over-apologising. Think about the number of times you apologise throughout a week. Does it seem excessive? Do others apologise that much too? If not, then you may be holding yourself to a higher standard than others. This may push you to apologise for your behaviour during times you have put yourself first.
  • Restore balance in caring for other’s and yourself. Take time for yourself and how you feel. Reestablishing your own needs and their importance naturally will improve your self-esteem. It will also help you create healthier relationships with the people around you.

We have also written a blog on how to be more assertive. If you would like to give that a read, please click here.

Can Brighter Life Therapy help?

If you believe you require professional help, by all means contact us! We provide fast access to CBT and counselling treatment, which you can read about here. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 0118 40 50 108, or by emailing info@brighterlifetherapy.co.uk.

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