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Pernicious People Pleasing


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Have you ever heard people say, “I am such a people pleaser.  I just don’t like when anyone is upset.” Or have you thought of yourself as being a people pleaser and believed it was a positive characteristic?  I have to admit, for the majority of my life, I believed it was a good thing.  After all, what is so bad about helping others, being a team player and making other people happy?  Those are good things, right?


Those are all good things, but being a people-pleaser can create a debilitating pattern of behavior which will cause stress and ruin the productive pursuit of your own goals.

If you are comfortable setting boundaries, and saying no when your plate is already full, then you probably don’t fit into the category of being a people pleaser.  Although you enjoy being there for others, you know how to set your priorities in a way so that it doesn’t interfere with your personal life or cause resentment. If you find yourself doing so much for other people but it’s causing you emotional stress, then it has definitely become a problem.  

A people pleaser says yes when they really wanted to say no.  

Oftentimes after you have done that very nice thing for someone else, you are left feeling resentful.  Next, it leads you down a spiral of thoughts;  “I should have said no, but if I did I’m afraid they would think negatively about me,”  “I would not get that promotion,”  or “I could lose their friendship.”  The constant worry about what other people might be thinking can lead to mental fatigue.  Instead of having the attitude of knowing that you can’t please everyone, you spend much of your time agonizing over your lack of ability to say no.

The inability to be honest and tell someone no, can cause a lot of stress in a relationship.

 It is not healthy in a marriage and it does not teach your children how to have healthy boundaries in their lives.  Parents will often say yes to their own children because they want to be their friend. They want to be liked by them, or be  viewed by them as the “cool parent.”  

 In his book, Boundaries in Marriage, Henry Cloud said, “You get what you tolerate.”  It is easy to blame the other person and direct our frustration and anger towards them, but we are the ones who are tolerating the behavior.  The people that do the asking, know that you will say yes, which is why they go to you time after time.

So how do you get out of the rut you’re in?  Realize that when you say no to something you can’t or don’t want to do, you are saying yes to something else.  That something can be as simple and enjoyable as a coffee date with a friend, or time to sit home and read a good book. You don’t have to have a good enough reason to say no….it’s ok to just say no.

Take time to think about why you have a hard time saying no. What are you afraid of?  What might be the result of you pulling back more often and not agreeing to things all the time?  Are those really going to affect your life negatively?  Are the people in your circle positive and enriching to your life? Will the people in your life continue to value your friendship, even if you said no?  

You have to really know the answers to those questions so you will be armed with confidence and assurance. It is important that other people know you have boundaries and limits; the important people in your life will respect you more if you are honest with them.  

Maybe this is the year to say, “I will stop being a people pleaser!” 

Singer Ed Sheeran said, “I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”



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