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The Psychology Behind People-Pleasing

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Do you put others’ needs before your own or try maybe a little too hard to make the people around you happy? Have you wondered why people engage in such behaviour? Well, this article will help you understand the ‘why’ behind people-pleasing.

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When understanding the psychology of people-pleasing, it is critical to be aware that there is no one sole explanation for it. The reason behind people-pleasing might be different for different people. However, there are a few key explanations as to why a person engages in such acts.

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People pleasing can also result from having gone through negative experiences as a child. Some patterns of behaviour learnt in childhood can be carried over to adulthood. And individuals tend to engage in people-pleasing because of this carryover. In such cases, the act of engaging in behaviours aimed at gratifying others is known as fawning. This usually happens when the person, as a child, learns to cope with the dysfunctional environment at home by taking care of the emotional needs of their parents. This is a strategy the child adopts through which they try to appease and please someone who they consider a source of threat to them, to prevent attacks from them and protect themselves. When this gets carried into adulthood and is unresolved, it leads to negligence towards one’s own needs and creates a tendency to put others before self for the sake of the relationship one has with them.

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People-pleasing can be considered as having 3 different components namely, a people-pleasing mindset, people-pleasing habits, and people-pleasing feelings.

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People-Pleasing Mindset: Some individuals try to please the people around them due to the rigid thought that they need everyone to like them. They determine their self-esteem based on how much and what they do for others and believe that others’ needs must come before your own. The drive to please others comes from the false mindset that being extremely nice to others offers immunity from being rejected and any possible hurtful and negative treatment from them. Contrarily, they impose rigid rules and standards for themselves and have high expectations for themselves while simultaneously longing for acceptance by the world. Individuals who engage in people-pleasing activities due to this owe their tendencies to distorted thinking patterns and are considered as having a people-pleasing mindset.

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People-Pleasing Habits: Others may have what is considered to be a people-pleasing habit, caused due to their pattern of behaviour, rarely saying “no”, doing too much too often for others even though it affects your health and increases your stress. They stick to this habit of people-pleasing because of the intense desire to have everyone’s approval. Then some people have the 3rd component, the people-pleasing feelings. These individuals are driven to engage in activities aimed at appeasing others because of their need to avoid uncomfortable and even frightening experiences caused by confrontation. They please people as a strategy to avoid all possibilities of conflict and confrontation.

People-Pleasing Feelings: Individuals can have more than one reason or component that pushes them toward pleasing people. Though it may have its benefits, people-pleasing is exhausting and stressful, even causing one to freeze up when some action is required due to the fear of real or anticipated disapproval. Some may argue and describe people-pleasing as being nice. The distinction is that at the center of the ‘niceness’ of people-pleasing is negative emotions and those actions described as being nice are driven ultimately by fear. Moreover, this tendency to please leads to a dangerous cycle of self-defeat. It reduces the time and energy for the self.

How to stop being a people-pleaser.

  • Learn to prioritise yourself: helping others is in fact a good habit. However , it should not be at the expense of yourself.

  • Say no: learning to say no to others may seem hard. But, it helps reduce the stress and is a way through which you can stop yourself from being a push-over. Asking for time to think about whether you are willing to help and then deciding after considering all the pros and cons can help in making it easier to say no.

  • Do not let others dictate your worth: Understand that others’ view of you does not affect you. It is not necessary for all those around you to like you.

  • Be aware: that your view of yourself should be considered more important than others’ view of who you are.

  • Set boundaries: do not let anyone cross the fences that you set. Set clear boundaries and ensure that no one, including you, crosses it.

  • Realise that not everyone will like you: We, as humans, meet many in our lifetime. thinking that everyone should like you is irrational and would only cause distress. Out of all the people we meet, some are bound to not like us. it is inevitable and thus, it would be better to know that not all will like you, and that is ok.

  • Be mindful: of manipulative flattery aimed at making you do their bidding. Such people are not your friends. They aim at taking advantage of your kindness. Be wary of mindless flattery.

Most of all, remember, your opinion of yourself is the one that should be valued the most. Learn to prioritise yourself and say no when necessary. Live your life the way you want without having to worry about others. So, are you a people-pleaser? What drives your need to please others? And should you reconsider your views and beliefs? We would like to know what you think, pin them down in our comments section below.

Kaizen Wellbeing is an online therapy platform in Dubai, UAE that caters to South Asian community. There is a dearth of good therapy establishments that accommodate the mental health needs of the brown community. We aim to bridge that gap by providing you quality and affordable care by qualified and warm therapists. Reach out at or +971 50 961 8796 and book your first session towards understanding yourself and other’s better.

If you have any queries please put them down in the comments section and we will try our best to answer them and help you out.


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