You may have a friend who pushes aside his needs to accommodate the needs of everyone else. The people-pleaser needs to please others for reasons that may include fear of rejection, insecurities, the need to be well-liked. If he stops pleasing others, he thinks everyone will abandon him; he will be uncared for and unloved. Or he may fear failure; if he stops pleasing others, he will disappoint them, which he thinks will lead to punishment or negative consequences.
The tendency to please is related to Dependent Personality Disorder. While the people-pleaser may not need others to do things for them, they do have a need for others, regardless. The pleasing personality is also related to the Masochistic Personality type, which also corresponds with Dependent Personality.
You may recognize the characteristics of an overly giving person. They come across as obsequious and too eager to lend a hand. They do so because they need you to need them.
The people-pleaser may have traits that include:
- Low self-worth
- Accommodates everyone else’s needs
- Undermines her own needs
- Goes with the flow that’s dictated by others
- Is too agreeable, in general
- Does not assert themselves
- Rarely says no
- Feels valuable when complying with others
- Values praise from others
- Says sorry, when no apology is required
- Takes the blame, when not at fault
- Makes excuses for the faults of others
- Has little self-awareness
This person fears rejection or failure, which may be rooted in early relationships. Perhaps, a people-pleaser had a parent whose love was conditional. This child may have had to earn her parent’s love and affection, or her parent was unavailable emotionally, or the parent’s availability was inconsistent.
Seeking approval and validation from others is a hallmark trait of a people-pleaser. This person wants assurance that he matters to the people around him. He doesn’t look for validation from within, he seeks it everywhere else. He wants to be recognized and accepted by everyone. For the most part, if he feels well-liked, he can relax and like himself as well.
Yes, they are largely insecure. They want to be well-liked, feel needed, feel appreciated, feel useful. They do not rely on independent thinking, and they lack the confidence to do so. Often, they do not even recognize how they even feel. If they don’t please others, they worry about being disapproved of and dismissed.
Yes. You may catch your over-giving friend fibbing; he wants to liberate you of information that may feel hurtful to you. Instead of telling the entire truth, you may receive a modified version from your people-pleaser. Generally, he does not want to hurt your feelings because he does not want to create displeasure for you. He does not share how he really feels.
People who are genuinely big-hearted with their time and efforts have a healthy self-regard, they know what they value as well as what gives them meaning. A people-pleaser, however, does not have high self-regard. They need to tend to the needs of others, thinking this will fulfill their own emotional needs. In addition, they spend time worrying about what others think about them; they are not pleasing others out of love or benevolence, they are doing so out of fear.
More women than men do fall in this category. Women are largely humanity’s caretakers, and they are taught to be more passive, less aggressive; plus, a people-pleasing woman will not likely be labeled high maintenance or “difficult.” She would rather bend over backward than appear fussy.
Yes. The person who does everything for everyone takes away the personal agency of others; most of us want to do what is needed for ourselves. And what partner or close loved one wouldn’t get annoyed when their people-pleaser unfailingly helps others beyond what is considered normal? His spouse is so busy helping everyone, she is not taking care of herself—not eating a balanced diet, not staying physically active, not sleeping enough.
The martyr is similar to the pleaser. The martyr makes sure you know she's sacrificing herself for you, and for everyone else too, everyone but herself. People who fall into this category are loud. The martyr is committed to being unhappy and to being the victim. This person does not accept your help, you will do it wrong anyway, she will have to clean up after you, and so on. In truth, she does not want others to have the burden that is hers.
The people-pleaser does not necessarily have a hidden agenda, but he does at times expect something in return. However, the pleaser may not even realize that he has a quid pro quo expectation. At the very least, if he is nice to everyone, he expects everyone to be nice to him.
Often, those in the orbit of a people-pleaser might not even realize that this person is making any sacrifices. In turn, people may unintentionally take advantage of the people-pleaser. They are so familiar with the person’s back-bending behavior that they have no clue.
Of course, there are those who look for people-pleasers to specifically exploit. This less-than-benevolent person often has an agenda, and they prefer to push the pleaser’s limits. The narcissist, among others with dark personalities, is happy to capitalize on the insecurities of the people-pleaser.
Many people-pleasers are unaware of what they are doing; often, they don’t even know what they want or what their own needs entail. That is why it’s difficult for them to put themselves first. This stems from their self-worth being tied to what they do for others. In fact, doing things for others makes pleasers feel important. They need adulation and praise.
If you are a people-pleaser, you will need to get to know yourself. Knowing who you are and what you value will open the door to a better understanding of your beliefs, emotions, and needs. This will also help you value yourself with a dose of healthy self-compassion.
Everyone should learn the value of boundaries. Knowing when to say no and when to say yes is not hard. You will know if the needs and requests of certain others are within the confines of what is reasonable. And you will learn that you are not responsible for their feelings and reactions. People in your life will soon understand where your limits lie.
• Think about your own needs first
• Examine your intentions, ask why you want to help others
• Examine whether something triggers your helping behavior
• Wait for the person to ask for help
• Try asking others for their help
• Realize you can be friendly without being a doormat