Enough already with the people-pleasing!

As a life coach and mentor for women I get really close to the struggles women have with their interpersonal relationships and how they continue to show up in their lives. I recently did a survey to establish what behaviours women were battling with and what their pain points were around it. An overwhelming amount of women responded that they struggled with people-pleasing.

People- pleasing combined with over-giving is lethal and normally results in exhaustion, resentment and disappointment.

Many of us believe that saying NO, especially to our family and close friends, is a betrayal. In some instances we agree to help or give even when we are down and out and really need some TLC ourselves. I’ve heard women say things like “I just don’t know how to say NO” or “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done”.

The thing about being a pleaser and/or a giver is that there are always takers who are willing to receive from you.

Blaming them for your behaviour and resenting them for not reciprocating is unrealistic and unfair. Typically, what the giver/pleaser says is “but why can’t he/she see that they are always the one’s receiving and I am always the one giving”.  This statement implies that the receiver should therefore willingly give and not have to be prompted or reminded to do so in the relationship. In a perfect world this would be the ideal but we are not living in a perfect world.


Another reason why we become pleasers/givers is because we are seeking validation and approval.

If you go deep you will find that sometimes your behaviour and actions has nothing to do with helping others but more to do with seeking their approval and being validated for your “goodness”. This is not done on a conscious level so it may take some deep introspection and honest self-enquiry to determine your personal motives for being the pleaser. If you are anything like me, chances are that even once you see these motives clearly, you will rationalise them and turn them into something which counts in your favour. It wasn’t until I got really honest with myself and took full ownership of my real intentions that I shifted this behaviour in a meaningful way.

We all have various relationships that require us to play a role in someone’s life. In any one day we are called upon to step into these roles as the situation requires. They can seem over-whelming at times because we are not always able to switch between roles smoothly and effortlessly. The relationship between us and our children requires a different approach and a different interaction than the relationship between us and our husband/partner or even our parents.We establish patterns within these relationships which becomes our default patterns. Some of these patterns are established at a very early age and many of them are establish unconsciously.

They become our go-to relationship pattern and they are constantly working in the background of the relationship.

All interactions are being driven on a subsoncious level by these behaviour patterns. Our primary pattern is established early in life with our primary care-giver. In most cases our primary care-giver would be our mother but in some cases it could be the father or another person. The primary care-giver is the one who assumes responsibility for our well-being at birth.

In coaching we acknowledge the fact that all behaviours are established in a mutual relationship and we accept that in most cases you were not consciously aware when you were establishing unhealthy patterns of behaviour. Then we give you the tools to go within to identify your own behaviours and recognise how they are showing up in the relationships where you are struggling.

Once you can see these unhealthy behaviours and the role you are playing in perpetuating them, you can start changing them incrementally and thereby shift the dynamics of the relationship.

You have to be careful that you don’t confuse pleasing with over-giving. Although they can sometimes feel like the same thing they normally show up differently in your behaviour.

In both instances however the motivation is the same. If you are over-giving or you are an obsessive people’s-pleaser then you might want to examine whether you are trying to fix your internal sense of self-worth and value by using giving and pleasing as a bartering tool. In other words, if I give or please you, you will love me, approve of me, validate me and make me feel worthy and valued.

Whether you are a people-pleaser or an over-giver breaking this learnt patterns of behaviour and learning new ways of showing up can be difficult and uncomfortable but it is so do-able and so worth trying.

Here’s a few tips to help you break the pattern of over-giving and people-pleasing:

  1. Accept that not everyone is going to like you and that’s ok! – We struggle with this because we’ve been taught from a young age that we should be kind to everyone. Kindness is not the same as pleasing or over- giving though. When our acts of kindness does not include being kind to ourselves, it’s not healthy.
  2. Say NO with honesty, no excuses! – For people-pleasers and over-givers, saying No to someone feels like you are turning your back on the other person. In a healthy relationship though, the other person will understand when you are not able to do something or when doing something makes you feel misaligned with your personal values.
  3. Set boundaries! -Yes, you are allowed to have boundaries and hold them firmly in your life. When you live without boundaries and anything goes, you fall victim to all sorts of abuse and misuse. It’s your life, make sure you are living it within your own integrity and aligned to your personal values.
  4. Let go of vampires who drain your energies! – There are people who recognise your people-pleasing tendencies and capitalise on it for their own gain. They know how to trigger your inner pleaser and they will hook you every time. Let them go! If they are people who you cannot let go of because they are family then try and distance yourself from them as much as you can and when you do have to interact with them, make sure you’ve checked in with yourself and you are clear about your boundaries before you engageyes

In the process of unlearning patterns that do not serve your greater good you may slip back to the old way of doing things, but do not despair and don’t be too hard on yourself. As long as you trying you are already one step ahead of your old self.