People pleasing isn’t simply when you enjoy doing things for others.
It hinders your ability to show up for yourself and causes you to neglect your needs.
Though people pleasing is thought to be kind and helpful, it can also be harmful and damaging.
So what makes you such a people pleaser the begin with?
After all, you can only stop people pleasing if you know what is causing it.
Here are 14 potential reasons you are a people pleaser, according to psychology.
1. Your self-esteem is at rock bottom.
Low self-esteem is a major reason to consider if you’re wondering why you’re a people pleaser.
People pleasers tend to ignore their needs and desires to help and support others and be the one to give them what they want.
They believe that their needs and wants aren’t as important as those of others.
A person with low self-esteem will often do things for others in order to find validation and acceptance in themselves. You might be a people pleaser because it makes you feel better about who you are.
Low self-esteem can make people fear rejection or criticism. They may not feel as though they belong or are accepted unless they partake in people-pleasing behaviors.
In addition, a person with low self-esteem can be averse to conflict, which can make them try to please others out of fear of upsetting them.
You might partake in people pleasing because you’re uncomfortable with who you are, and it’s easier and more comfortable being who others want you to be.
2. You suffer from dependent personality disorder.
Dependent personality disorder (DPD) causes a person to feel intense dependency on others.
In addition, people with this type of personality disorder want to be well-liked and accepted, which can contribute to people-pleasing behaviors.
A person with DPD will feel like others will abandon them, criticize them, or engage in other negative behavior toward them if they don’t do everything they ask.
3. You’re terrified of rejection.
Many adult people-pleasers began as people-pleasing children. They were taught consciously or subconsciously that they only earned others’ admiration and affection when they did as they were told.
They were taught that their self-worth and self-identity are directly tied to external acceptance and validation. They could only feel okay, loved, and accepted if the people around them were happy and kept happy.
As adults, the fear of rejection can be a major factor in people-pleasing behaviors. The fear can be so intense that it drives a people pleaser to undermine their authentic self and seek approval, validation, and acceptance from external factors instead.
4. You have perfectionist tendencies.
While perfectionism can be associated with a positive work ethic and ambition, it can turn you into a people pleaser when it goes too far.
You may think you need to reach all the standards others set out for you, regardless of whether they’re achievable.
Perfectionism can also make you believe you’re not as good as others or are unworthy if you can’t achieve perfection in others’ eyes.
When you’re constantly striving to be perfect, you don’t appreciate how great you are right now. And so you try harder and harder to keep others happy so that they think better of you and you can think better of yourself.
5. Your self-identity is non-existent or skewed.
Your self-identity is a collection of beliefs you have about yourself. It’s who you are and how you view yourself.
When you lack a sense of self-identity, you may find a sense of purpose in pleasing others.
Lacking self-identity could make it difficult for you to set and maintain personal boundaries, protect your own interests, and understand your individuality.
Without a strong sense of self, it may be hard to distinguish where you end and others begin.
An underdeveloped self-identity makes a person more prone to want to please others at any cost, seek external validation, and conform to fit in, whether it aligns with who you are at your core or not.
6. You were raised in an unhealthy environment.
A great deal of a person’s personality is developed and formed during their childhood and adolescent years.
Growing up in an unhealthy environment can contribute to the development of people-pleasing traits. For example, growing up with unrealistic expectations or unstable parental relationships.
During childhood, a person may have learned that they only made people happy by doing what their parents wanted. The fear of punishment or abandonment might keep them from focusing on their own needs and desires to ensure other people’s needs and wants are met.
The environment you grew up in, the language that your caregivers used, the safety or lack of it you felt, and whether or not you felt like you were enough, valid, and accepted all affect whether or not you’re a people pleaser.
7. You don’t know how to be assertive.
Lacking assertiveness is a factor in people pleasing. Assertiveness is reflected in the ability to respectfully express your thoughts, wishes, desires, feelings, and so on, while considering other people’s boundaries.
If you lack assertiveness, you may have a more difficult time setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.
You may find it more challenging to say no to things that you wish you could say no to, or that you feel very uncomfortable around conflict, differing opinions, or disagreements.
Lacking assertiveness may cause you to avoid situations that could lead to judgment or criticism and make you hold the belief that other people’s needs and wants are more important than your own.
8. You suffer from anxiety or an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is a powerful psychological factor in being a people pleaser because people pleasing can be a way of coping with anxious and uncomfortable thoughts. It can be a way of alleviating anxieties.
Furthermore, anxiety can stem from the fear of adverse outcomes or the desire to avoid uncomfortable situations, which can breed people-pleasing habits to avoid these things.
Anxiety can be extremely challenging to cope with, and a person may find that people-pleasing lifts some of the weight.
9. You experience extreme levels of empathy and compassion.
Empathy and compassion are generally considered to be good traits.
But, if they are overwhelming and are the driving force behind who you are, they may be the culprits of your people-pleasing tendencies.
Though empathy and compassion are both beautiful, strong emotions, they are not to your own detriment when felt at healthy levels.
When you begin to value others’ wishes, desires, wants, and goals more than you value your own, it turns into people pleasing.
Healthy empathy and compassion stem from a place of connectedness and genuine feeling, whereas when it’s because of people pleasing, it comes from a place of needing validation and acceptance.
10. You just want others to like you.
Humans have a desire to be liked and feel like they belong.
However, when that feeling becomes all-consuming and you can’t function without social approval, then it causes people-pleasing behaviors.
Having a strong desire to be liked and feel like you fit in can make it hard to maintain personal boundaries, healthily acknowledge conflict, approach disagreements with mutual respect, and be able to put your needs at the top of your priority list where they belong.
11. You desperately seek the approval of others.
People pleasing can be tied closely to approval seeking. In excess, both can be unhealthy, complicated, and challenging.
People with a strong desire for external approval do things that they think will win them that approval.
Someone with people-pleasing tendencies can find it difficult to say no, and the desire for praise can feel so strong. These two things combined can be all-consuming and intensely challenging.
Approval seeking can involve over-accommodating others, having a fear of conflict, being overly agreeable, lacking boundaries to protect your own well-being, and engaging in self-neglect.
12. You can’t stand being vulnerable or showing vulnerability.
The fear of vulnerability can have a significant impact on people-pleasing behaviors.
Vulnerability involves being open and honest about one’s thoughts, feelings, and needs, even when it may lead to discomfort, potential rejection, or uncomfortable emotional exposure.
When individuals have a fear of vulnerability, they often engage in people-pleasing as a way to avoid or mask their true feelings or needs.
A fear of vulnerability can suppress your true, authentic self and cause you to hide your feelings, which can lead to inauthentic interactions, and over-accommodating others.
Being vulnerable can feel scary, intimidating, and overwhelming; people-pleasing can make those feelings lighter. It can be a coping tool that you turn to to avoid being vulnerable.
13. You’re co-dependent.
Codependency is closely related to people-pleasing, and the two concepts often overlap.
Codependency is a dysfunctional pattern of behavior and relationships where an individual is overly reliant on another person to take care of their emotional and psychological needs.
People-pleasing behavior is a common feature of codependency and can manifest in various ways within codependent relationships.
Co-dependency can bring on excessive caretaking, which cultivates people-pleasing behaviors. It can bring on a level of self-neglect where you go to considerable lengths to meet others’ needs instead of your own.
Furthermore, being co-dependent and people-pleasing can lead to a fear of abandonment or rejection. These factors are intricately woven together, with one variable playing off another.
14. You have a strong desire for external validation.
We’ve talked about approval, but validation is something quite different.
Whereas approval is being told, “Yes, I approve of what you did,” validation is being told, “Yes, I approve of YOU.”
It is the sense of being “enough” as a person. And if you don’t feel like you’re enough just because of who you are, you might do whatever it takes to have others tell you that you are enough, that you are loved, that you matter.
That often takes the form of people pleasing. You will give and give and give to others in the hope that they affirm your worth. This goes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. If you don’t like yourself, you will struggle to validate yourself as a worthy human being.
So you look to others to validate your worth for you by doing whatever it takes to keep them happy.
Final thoughts on the causes of people-pleasing tendencies.
The intricate and delicate web of psychological factors that underlie people-pleasing behaviors reveals the complexity of this common human tendency.
The above fourteen factors are just the tip of the psychological iceberg. From struggling with low self-esteem to the desire for external validation, from the fear of rejection to the lack of assertiveness, these factors shape how you navigate your relationships and interactions with others.
It is important to remember that, in moderation, people pleasing can be a positive, beautiful, and compassionate trait. However, when taken to extremes, it can lead to a loss of self-identity, compromised boundaries, and a sense of emptiness in one’s life.
It can make you forget who you are and what’s important to you. It can lead you down an inauthentic path and further from being true to yourself.
If you take people pleasing to an extreme, it is a good idea to address the root cause(s) of this behavior so that you can bring an end to it.
The best way to do that would be to consult with a professional therapist who can help you explore why you act this way and offer advice on how to overcome this mindset.
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