People Pleasers Are Hiding a Dirty Secret

curtseyAre you a people pleaser? As a mom it's easy to slip into that pattern. You're surrounded by people who need you, who depend on you. And you just want everyone to be happy. You can't help it if everyone else is selfish and self-centered. But what if I told you people pleasers are actually the selfish ones?


That's the mind-blowing idea life coach Christine Hassler laid on me when I got to meet with her the other day. "Being a people-pleaser is actually selfish," she told me. As she explained it, when you work for others' approval you're overly concerned with feeling liked, and with avoiding the discomfort of their rejection or conflict.

And the worst of it is, when you're a people pleaser you tend to burn out quickly and wind up disappointing someone, eventually.

Oh, but that burnout feels good, doesn't it? You're such a hero. You sacrifice so much. Watch your self-righteous glow radiating through your fatigue and resentment.

Okay, I'm laying it on a little thick there. But there's a reason people pleasing hits such a nerve with me. It's because I've both been one, and I've known them. And we tend to hate those same traits in others that we hate in ourselves, don't we?

I am all too familiar with that feeling of gratification that comes with other people's words of gratitude and approval. I love feeling needed, essential, irreplaceable. Who doesn't? And wow, nothing makes you feel more important than exhaustion, especially when it comes from doing for others.

It's supposed to be a good thing. Our society depends on a certain amount of selflessness and sacrifice from all of us. But how to do we know when we've taking that virtue too far?

I think it's all about our motivation, and that can be painful to examine. We want to believe we do for others because it's the right thing to do. It's harder to admit it's actually because we're addicted to approval. But imagine for a moment not doing all the things you do for other people, aside from the absolute life-preserving crucial. Imagine people noticing you dropping the ball and being disappointed in you. What's the worst that would come of that?

Here's what I've discovered. When you dare to disappoint the "jury" in your life, start taking care of yourself for real, and live life on your own terms, it's thrillingly liberating.

It's hard to do! People will let you know when they think you're doing life wrong. I find it very hard to ignore those messages. But the more you ignore them, the better you get at it. And! The more you'll respect yourself. They may come around to respecting you more, too. Or not! It doesn't matter. Who cares what they think, remember.

And here's the other surprising thing. "The more I take care of myself, in a self-honoring way, and live life on my own terms," Hassler says, "the more able I am to show up for others." And by that she means show up for the people who matter most in your life. You should be very picky about who those people are.

So let this be the day you woke up to the selfishness of being a people pleaser. Get that love from yourself, first.

Do you tend to be a people pleaser? How do you feel about other people pleasers you know?


Image via DarkBird/Shutterstock


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