There’s one person in all our lives: the one who’s always dependable, who never gets angry, is so easy to talk to, and won’t mind this, that, or the other no matter how inconvenient.
The People Pleaser.
It’s good to want to be helpful. We teach that to our kids the moment their motor skills become halfway decent. It’s good to be patient, generous, compassionate, and selfless. These are hallmarks of civilization.
It is not good, however, to be all these things when their expressions aren’t entirely genuine.
That is the people pleaser’s life.
They take the “good guy” role to an excessive degree. There’s a definite pleasurable psychological hit to being thought of as someone’s go-to, but when a need to be liked, popular, diplomatic, or seen as helpful oversteps the ability to assert one’s own needs, drawbacks emerge.
1. Lack Of Identity
People pleasers are never pleased with themselves because they never get to be themselves. They become expert at mirroring others and suppressing anything that might be taken as contrary to a given situation. If there’s a chance that someone might take offense, a pleaser’s true opinions are likely never to be known.
2. Buried Resentment
The more people a pleaser tries to please, the less time they have for their own pursuits, which can leave them feeling bitter. Also, if they don’t think they’re getting the level of thanks or praise they deserve, there’s the danger of them quietly resenting the people they’re hoping to please, even though they’ll continue trying to please them.
A lot of mental energy goes into a people pleaser working to say what they think others want to hear or do what they think others want done; energy which could go toward fueling their own magnificent personal journey. Instead, they will often retreat into a shell of limited experience/exploration in order to recharge for the next day.
4. Social Distancing
Being a people pleaser means risking being eventually seen as insincere or annoying, and once that happens, no one wants you around. Others can usually spot a people pleaser a mile away and will find several discrete ways to exclude them unless the pleaser happens to be needed at that moment.
Anyone trying to please people all the time had better get used to being used. Those people will be the ones always called on to help with a move, watch the dogs while others are away on vacation, roll out of bed at one in the morning to give a ride home to a friend who’s partied too much, then roll out a few hours later to drive them back to their car… and on and on.
People pleasers will not, however, be the ones invited bowling, jogging, swimming, to Sunday brunch, that cool movie everyone’s talking about, or any number of things that people who actually desire another’s presence do.
Not all of their friends will be fake, but they’ll definitely develop a cluster of manipulative people who appear as if gravitationally attracted.
People-pleasing can be a cutthroat game, and a pleaser finding out that someone was serviced better by someone other than them is practically an act of war. They don’t like to dilute praise given to them by sharing the objects of their attentions, and will be damned if another pleaser gets the upper hand.
People pleasers might often find that they have little idea what actually pleases themselves. Their sense of joy and worth in things or activities comes from mirroring the satisfaction of others. This leads to entertainment, food, and other social niceties coming off as “meh” to the people pleaser who finds themselves alone minus the influence of outside sources.
8. No Respect
As a people pleaser, one’s advice will be discounted; after all, the pleaser is trying to please, not be objective. People might seek them out as a sounding board in order to feel good, but if one can’t be counted on to give an honest opinion, one’s views won’t matter to many.
Also, they tend to back down from arguments, often swallowing their own concerns or complaints. This leads to them being further taken advantage of (and them thinking of themselves as being taken advantage of, which feeds into the underlying sense of resentment).
9. Can’t Please Everyone
No matter how helpful a pleaser tries to be, no matter how pleasant, they’ll run into someone immune to their need for approval, which will throw them into a tailspin because they’re used to – at the very least – being taken advantage of and – at most – feeling useful or needed.
10. Time Management
Time. Time is the most precious commodity because those who know how to use it well exhibit a sense of mastery, whether in their careers, their studies and hobbies, or their lives in general. The people pleaser lives a life interrupted: their needs, interests, and desires take a back seat to the needs, interests, and desires of others. A pleaser’s time is not their own.
11. Financial Hits
The people pleaser’s purse has a sieve. Whether they’re loaning money or paying for lunch or feeling obliged to support every friend-of-a-friend’s Kickstarter that comes their way, they have a hard time saying no to their disappearing dollars.
12. Love Life
If you’re a people pleaser, your relationships are going to be woefully one-sided. Sixty-forty? You’ll be lucky to get seventy-thirty. You will be expected to plan outings, be the sensitive ear or shoulder, be on call, come up with pleasant surprises, and not expect to be on the receiving end of the same.
It’s not hard to see how this would lead to a series of short-lived relationships following a set pattern: joy and fun at first, then creeping feelings of fatigue on the part of the pleaser, then resentment, then mild confrontation, affront on the part of the lover, and inevitable dissolution.
The Pleasure Principle
It’s OK to want people to feel good, and it’s vital that we help each other, but serving as a people pleaser makes any experience feel detrimental both ways. It’s easy for others to fall into needing the pleaser too much (thereby becoming an enabler), and for the pleaser to become a useful tool rather than a real person (thereby continuing a cycle).
Always keep in mind that we must first please ourselves in order to have a truly positive influence on someone else’s life. Satisfaction flows outward, and its effects are contagious.
Saying no doesn’t make one a bad person, nor is the occasional assertion of personal needs in any way selfish.