What’s Wrong with being a People-Pleaser? Mindfulness Guide to Stop it

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Are you worried about what people think about you? You need to stop because the only person that matters to you is you yourself.

Being a people-pleaser will destroy you because you will constantly validate yourself based on other people’s opinions. Through mindfulness practice, we learn to master our own emotions and learn to stay happy in the present moment. Our self-worth is not derived from what other people say or think, but by what we think and do with our own life.

You are a people-pleaser if you do the following:

  • You have trouble saying ‘No’ to people. Despite knowing very well that you don’t agree to what they are demanding from you.
  • You are not able to ‘set boundaries’ with people, even when it bothers you.
  • You are scared all the time that you might end up hurting other people’s feelings.
  • You care too much about what other people think of you.
  • You keep saying to yourself, “I’m too busy to find time for myself as I have so many commitments”.
  • You feel that you can be happy only when you are a part of a particular community or a group.
  • You feel too scared to speak out your own opinions fearing that you might be rejected or abandoned.
  • You say ‘sorry’ too often.

Psychology Behind It

Please-pleasers have this false understanding that by agreeing to other people’s opinion they are creating a positive image of themselves in other people’s eyes. They are scared of confrontation and avoid dealing with conflicting situations.

They have issues related to self-worth. They feel that by making others happy they will get acceptance. They constantly feel the need to get validation from others. What they fail to realize is that their behavior is unhealthy and that they have a psychological issue that needs to be addressed.

They cannot differentiate between pleasing people and treating people with kindness. Whenever you ask them why do they do so, they say things like, “I didn’t want to sound mean”, or at times they cover up the whole situation and lie about it, like they say, “It doesn’t matter. I like working on weekends”.

They try to behave like a perfect partner, child, friend, or an employee. While inside of them, they carry dark feelings. Such behavior is problematic for themselves as well as others. They commit to things they hate and fail to communicate their authentic needs and requirements.

What most people fail to understand is that this issue runs deep into their childhood. It all starts as a child when they faced flak from their parents for not conforming to their standards.

It could be the case that one of the parents responded violently to certain behaviors and as a result, they formed the idea that similar behaviors would invoke the same kind of reactions from other people.

It is generally seen that people who have highly critical parents develop people-pleasing patterns. The fear of rejection or abandonment is so high, that they develop anxiety which they carry around for years altogether. This pattern is so much engrained in the subconscious that they experience anxiety even when the parents are not around.

They don’t realize the fact that people in the work environment and otherwise don’t usually behave as our parents or relatives do, so it’s okay to disagree and say ‘No’ (and even in the case of parents and relatives is ok to say ‘No’).

They fear that if they say ‘No’, they might get the same reaction as they did from their parents or people close to them. They fear being judged, rejected, or condoned for being themselves, and it all stems from the low self-esteem they carry.

One thing we must understand is that people-pleasing is based on false notions we form in your mind. People-pleasers are liars and they lie not only to other people but also to themselves. Unconsciously, they expect similar behavior from others as well, and when they don’t get the same treatment, we get to see their dark side which can be downright nasty.

Consequences of being People-Pleaser

Always trying to put other people’s needs above yours is an extremely unhealthy behavior pattern and can result in various types of ailments.

Anita Moorjani is an international speaker and author of the New York Times bestseller – Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer to Near Death, to True Healing. At the age of 42, she was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system, also known as lymphoma.

Anita fell into a coma and as the doctors tried to revive her she experienced an NDE (near-death experience). She reported that she journeyed into another realm where she learned a few things that changed her life forever. She not only came back but also completely cured her disease.

She understood the reason why she got this deadly disease in the first place. She was a people-pleaser and in that context she allowed people to treat her like a doormat. She used to take the burden of others on her own shoulders. Once she understood the value of self-love, her life changed drastically.

Some of the consequences you face by being a people-pleaser are as follows:

  • You neglect your health – Having concern for other people is not a bad thing. But it should not come at the cost of your own health. People-pleasers are always busy thinking about others, and as a result, they suffer with many health issues. If you don’t find any time (at least once in a week) for recreational activities such as watching a movie, getting a spa treatment, working out, or giving yourself at least 1 hour of time (exclusively for yourself) everyday, it is most likely that you are a people-pleaser.
  • Have stress related health issues – When you take up things that you cannot handle, stress is a natural consequence. People-pleasers often suffer from stress and anxiety, as they have a tendency to commit to tasks which are much beyond their capacity. At times, this type of behavior even leads to depression. Such people generally have gut related health issues such as acidity and indigestion.
  • People take advantage of them – this is something I see every time. People understand what are the triggers of people-pleasers and they try to utilize these triggers for their own benefit. They ask them favors and make them say ‘yes’ to unreasonable requests, and at times, people-pleasers also become a target of exploitation.
  • You tend to apologize often – People pleasers often find themselves apologizing to others very often, even to total strangers. They feel responsible for how others feel and fail to realize that what others feel or think is not at all in their hands.
  • They struggle with their weight – We have already seen that people-pleasing behavior results in stress, anxiety and depression. Guess what? People who are stressed out tend to gain weight. Even when they are doing everything like eating healthy diets and doing high intensity workouts, still they are not able to lose any weight. Even if they manage to lose weight temporarily, they get it all back because they are not addressing the root cause of the problem.
  • They can’t handle rejection – all of their focus is always on what other people think of them. All of their actions and work revolves around pleasing others. They fear rejection and abandonment to such an extent that they are willing to do anything and everything to please others, even at the cost of their own misery. They tend to feel miserable when people reject their ideas, and instead they blame themselves for it.

Difference between an Empath and a People-Pleaser

The reason why people-pleasers like to help others is not that they genuinely care about others but because they want to maintain this facade they have built around their personality. They are insecure about their true feelings and emotions, and that’s what compels them to behave in such a manner.

An empath can genuinely feel your emotions, whereas a people-pleaser will always have some expectation behind what they do. They will seek some validation for their actions. And that’s the reason why they get frustrated and burned out in the end.

To some extent, people-pleasers know that what they are doing is not going to give them any kind of happiness, but they unconsciously operate out of fear and become habitual over time. They are not mindful of their behavior and keep operating the way they are used to.

Remember that even putting up a fake smile to please others (in the guise of social etiquettes) can make you feel stressed out.

So, how does one transform from being a people-pleaser to an empath?

It requires working on yourself and doing some self-observation exercises. It is actually a lot of work and effort and takes time and patience, but it’s totally worth it if you are willing to do it.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is our ability to be fully aware of the present moment. This may sound trivial, but the fact is that being aware is rare nowadays. We are always so preoccupied with obsessive thoughts and feelings that we lose awareness of this very moment.

It’s hard to put into words, but we can say that it’s sort of a practice that allows us to ground ourselves in each and every situation.

It can be practiced at all times; while walking, eating, driving, doing household work, and much more. By centering our self, we disassociate with what’s going on around us. Whatever is happening around us most of the time is not of much use to us.

For example, consider a situation where you are eating your meal and your television is on. If you are not eating with mindfulness, your attention will definitely wander away to what is being shown on the television. This can make you anxious, and you eat in a hurry without properly chewing your food. And later on, that may cause indigestion problems.

When you are mindful, you are not stressed, and your productivity is usually higher because there are no thoughts to cause distraction. Unfortunately, in present times we have become slaves to modern technology and are constantly bombarded with information that is of no benefit to us.

We are multitasking all the time without even realizing it. Even while working, we are constantly checking our social media feeds, emails, and app notifications every few minutes. As a result, we underperform in all areas of life.

Our brains are not designed for multitasking. Those who say they can multitask are actually switching rapidly between multiple tasks. As a result, they fail to properly prioritize their tasks, and the quality of their work is generally average.

Mindfulness has become widely popular in western cultures. It is a scientifically proven fact that mindfulness helps in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

In fact, MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) is a very popular 8-week program (started by John Kabat-Zinn in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center) that offers a practical approach that trains attention and allows people to cultivate awareness and improve their quality of life.

How Mindfulness Stops you from being a People-Pleaser?

The fundamental problem with people-pleasers is saying ‘No’ and setting boundaries with other people. With mindfulness practice such as meditation, you learn to rely on internal rather than external validation. You learn to be more aware of the thoughts and emotions which cause you to behave like a people-pleaser.

With time and practice, these emotions have no effect on your day-to-day life. You just see them from a third person’s perspective without getting involved.

As I said earlier that people-pleasers mostly are stressed people. Therefore, when the stress is gone, the behavior automatically stops. You realize that you do not need validation from other people to make you feel good about yourself.

Mindfulness teaches us to master our emotions which in turn improve our thinking and decision-making capabilities.

For example, when someone at work makes a personal remark on you, just pause for a moment and take a slow deep breath before you say anything.

If you are mindful enough, you will understand the motive behind making that personal remark. You will understand that the person making the remark is himself or herself troubled inside. You will see the situation in a different light, and rather than reacting to that situation, you will choose to respond appropriately.

It is highly probable that the person who made that remark on you is likely to feel bad after a certain period of time. Even if he or she doesn’t apologize directly, they may show some form of gratitude.

Through mindfulness practices, you can get rid of all kinds of fears and increase your self-esteem and confidence. It’s the fear that holds us back. Once the fear is gone you will not be afraid of the consequences and will have no hesitation in saying ‘No’ if the situation demands.

Be committed to whatever you do in life, and don’t be scared to spend time alone with yourself. That way you develop more and more confidence and other people’s opinion will not matter to you.

Final Thoughts

When I say don’t be a people-pleaser, it doesn’t mean that we have to be rude to other people, but we should be firm with our own convictions. Even if it’s your family or close friends, nobody has a right to thrust their opinions on you and tell you what to do.

You should always have the right to either accept or reject other people’s opinions. Nobody should force their opinion on you, and if they try to, you have every right to reject it.

If you put other people’s opinions ahead of you, you will lose out on your own integrity. You will lie. You will be perceived as a fake person with no credibility. And subsequently, this will cause you to feel guilt and shame.

You cannot start loving other people unless and until you learn to love yourself. What I mean by loving yourself is that you work on your mind and body.

Get rid of unhealthy habits, eat healthy food, get good sleep, work hard and do the best of what you like doing, and much more. When you start loving yourself, you don’t fear being judged by other people and learn to be comfortable in your skin.

Learn to practice mindfulness and other techniques to master your thoughts and emotions and eliminate people-pleasing behaviors. It is an unhealthy way of living life, and all of us deserve to live happily, joyfully, and free of any fear.

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