A person chained to a chain with a laptop.

Why We People Please and How it Hurts Us

Have you ever felt caught between helping others and dealing with your own fears? It’s important to ask if your actions help yourself and others. People-pleasing is when you prioritize others’ happiness over your own.

As a life coach for entrepreneurs, I see how this can hold business owners back. This article explains why setting boundaries is necessary, even if it’s hard to say no, and how to avoid prioritizing others at the expense of your values.

The pain of giving rejection

Let me share a recent experience to explain why it may be difficult to reject working with someone. I was preparing for an upcoming interview with an author whose book I had read. While her story was undeniably dramatic, filled with heartache and pain, it struck me that she seemed to land on a safe and somewhat incomplete conclusion, stating, “I’m an X, but I’m getting better at it.”

However, as I delved deeper into her narrative, it became evident that there was so much more left unsaid, lurking beneath the surface. I could sense it, and I suspect she did as well. Her defensiveness about her past during our initial conversation seemed to contrast with her active efforts to promote her book.

I found myself at a standstill, torn between my desire to eventually share my own story and insights with the world and my fear of potential criticism. I realized that if I were to interview her, I might feel obligated to shower her work with praise, as criticizing someone’s book to their face hardly seemed constructive or fair.

To gain perspective, I sought the advice of several trusted individuals. However, in my heart, I knew that moving forward with the interview would be inauthentic. It was this moment of truth that led me to send a polite rejection letter.

People pleasing is a projection of ones fears

My experience with this author sheds light on a common struggle—projecting our fears of rejection onto our actions. Many of us find ourselves doing and saying things that contradict our authentic desires, all because we fear the sting of rejection. In the process, we tolerate situations that we should never endure.

Sometimes, instead of saying we don’t like something, we try to force ourselves to like it. This can make us feel really bad inside, like we’re not being true to ourselves. It’s like a sickness that slowly takes away our energy and makes us act in a way that’s not really us.

It’s time for a change. I, for one, can no longer participate in activities that don’t resonate with my true self. I implore you to do the same.

So, can you relate to this struggle? If not, it’s a lesson worth remembering—a reminder to stay true to your authentic self in all that you do. As you read this, you may doing these things. In the next section, we will talk about the causes of people-pleasing or codependent traits.

The stress response

A client recently asked me: “What behind people-pleasing?” Without missing a beat, my response was “STRESS.”

Now, we often discuss the instinctive reactions of FIGHT or FLIGHT when faced with a stressful situation. However, there is more to it than that. (The image below shows the many ways we deal with stress)

In addition to FIGHT (using physical or verbal aggression) or FLIGHT (mentally shutting down or physically fleeing) as a response to stress, there is another response: FAWN.

But what is fawning? Fawning is when you will go to any lengths to escape your fears, saying or doing anything necessary. It’s important to remember that we are inherently social creatures. Like wolves need a pack to hunt and protect their young, we too need the support of others to feel secure from both visible and invisible threats.

Familial conditioning, such as parents saying “Be nice!” or “Don’t be mean!” when we were children, can cause some people to have a life script that is wired for people-pleasing. 

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Denise is right!” We will discuss how to break free from codependent or people-pleasing behavior in the next section.

A diagram of the five stages of stress responses.

How to break free from codependent or people-pleasing traits 

Here’s some things to do:

  1. Accept the fear. First, recognize that your desire to please others is rooted in fear, which is completely natural. It’s okay to feel afraid, but it’s important not to let fear control your life and decisions.
  2. Face the facts. Accept the truth that pleasing others all the time doesn’t help anyone, including you. This behavior can make others rely on you too much, and they may start to resent you, causing harm to your relationship.
  3. Be honest. Honesty does not have to be hurtful. You can speak your truth in a gentle, loving, and compassionate manner while being respectful of others’ needs and feelings.
  4. Accept or reject situations but don’t tolerate harmful ones. Sometimes, we know we should leave a situation, but the desire to please others holds us back. It’s important to resist this tendency. You can say no kindly and lovingly.
Yes, freedom is only a thought away. Recapture your personal power and enjoy your life. In the next section, I will share my final thoughts.
A person chained to a chain with a laptop.

Final thoughts 

The process of healing from people pleasing may take time, but it offers a far more rewarding path than the draining full-time job of constantly cleaning up other people’s messes. 

Recovery from people pleasing or codependent tendencies is a profound journey, far more intricate than the simple declaration, “They are in charge of themselves!” It necessitates challenging deep-seated life scripts that have long governed your actions and emotions. The steps listed above should help you if you are consistent in chaining your behavior.

If you like my style and want my help, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact me.

Dig deeper by clicking here to listening to this episode from my podcast or press the play button below.