Liz Morrison, LCSW
7 Signs You May Be a People-Pleaser (Without Even Realizing It)
It’s normal to care about the opinions and feelings of others. But when you constantly put other people’s needs and comfort above your own, it can lead to big problems in your life and relationships. People pleasing is the urge to satisfy others – often to your own detriment.
People pleasing isn’t easy to overcome. But if you continue on down this path, you might find yourself habitually abandoning yourself in favor of everyone else. And over time, that’s likely to hurt your mental health, your relationships, and even your job.
At Liz Morrison Therapy, we work with a lot of young adults who don’t even realize they’re partaking in people-pleasing behaviors. So here are some signs you may be a people pleaser, even if you don’t realize it.
7 Signs You May Be a People-Pleaser
There are many sneaky ways people-pleasing behaviors can show up in someone’s life. Here are 7 common signs you may be a people-pleaser.
1. You feel resentful.
You do a lot for other people, and they don’t seem to notice or appreciate it. If you find yourself resentful at work or in your relationships, this could stem from a people-pleasing place.
People pleasers tend to feel resentful for two reasons.
Reason one is that they aren’t setting clear boundaries, which means they’re giving too much of their energy to others.
And reason two is that people-pleasers tend to beat around the bush about what they need and want.
It’s common for people-pleasers to want other people to read their minds and automatically know what they need. This is usually an unconscious desire, and you may not even realize you aren’t being clear with others about your needs. But if you expect people to automatically know what you need without explicitly telling them (no, dropping hints isn’t enough), you’re setting yourself up for resentment.
2. You avoid confrontation.
Conflict? No thanks. If a problem arises at work or in a relationship, you’d rather quietly hope it goes away than speak up directly about it. You see confrontation as inherently rude, mean, or scary. You’re afraid of what other people will think of you if you directly confront them.
The problem with this approach is that it can cause you to stuff down or ignore issues that need to be dealt with. And it often leads to a slow and steady build-up of tension, anger, and resentment.
3. Disagreeing with others feels scary.
Just as you avoid confrontation, you’re also likely to avoid disagreements. Disagreeing with people feels dangerous.
You might associate disagreements with big, scary emotions like rage. You’d rather go with the flow than seem oppositional because you don’t want to start a fight or risk aggravating anyone.
The problem with never openly disagreeing with others is that you end up hiding your true opinions and feelings in the process. If you never speak up, people won’t know the real you – which means you’re more likely to feel disconnected and misunderstood in relationships.
4. You have difficulty setting and maintaining boundaries.
Your boundaries might be nonexistent, or they might be “wobbly” – meaning they’re easily swayed by someone else’s behavior.
Boundaries can be as simple as saying no to a request that you don’t have the time or energy for. But they’re often less clear-cut than that. Another example might be that you tell your friend you need to stay in and rest instead of going out, but when they pout you change your mind.
5. You feel “on edge” or anxious.
You put a lot of effort into keeping everyone around you happy. So you get really stressed out when you think someone might be upset with you. And the problem is, you think someone might be upset with you all the time. Any tiny change in someone else’s demeanor makes you anxious, because you assume it means you’ve done something wrong.
You’re always on the lookout for things that might go wrong. These kinds of thoughts and behaviors lead to a lot of anxiety.
6. You take on responsibility for other people’s feelings.
People and their emotions are unpredictable and flighty. If someone around you is happy, you’re happy. But if they’re hurt, sad, moody, or some other tough emotion, you feel like you must have done something to cause it. You feel responsible for making them feel better or “fix” their feelings.
7. You’re a high achiever and/or a perfectionist.
Perfectionists, high achievers, and people-pleasers all have some traits in common: they want to be seen as helpful, valuable, and successful.
You might worry that if you aren’t performing well enough or doing enough, you won’t be seen as a worthwhile person. You might be unconsciously afraid of being abandoned or rejected.
But this can lead to a lot of anxiety, because you’re putting a ton of pressure on yourself to be perfect and agreeable all the time.
Is Being a People-Pleaser Bad?
There’s nothing wrong with you for being a people-pleaser. You probably learned these behaviors in order to adapt to a hard situation when you were young. People pleasing doesn’t make you a bad person, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to make other people happy.
But when you engage in people-pleasing behaviors, you’re hiding your true feelings, needs, and desires from others. This might seem like a good way to keep yourself from getting hurt, but it can cause a lot of problems in your life.
Let’s say you got into an argument with a friend. Maybe they yelled at you or said something hurtful. Your feelings were hurt, and you both ended the argument feeling angry. But you’re worried they’ll get mad at you again if you tell them they hurt your feelings, so you don’t bring it up.
In this situation, it might seem like you’re taking the high road by “letting go” or brushing off the difficult encounter. But by not talking to your friend and telling them the truth that their comments hurt you, you’re setting yourself up for more hurt feelings down the road. You might think to yourself, “How can they not see how mean they were to me?” and build up resentment toward them. But your friend may not think anything of their comments. If you keep quiet, they might think that continuing to treat you like that is okay with you and isn’t hurtful.
Ultimately, people-pleasing can harm your mental health and quality of life. You’ll probably experience anxiety, resentment, and misunderstandings in your life and relationships. And you’re more likely to hinge your worth on other people’s opinions about you, instead of your opinion about yourself.
Therapy Can Help if You’re Struggling With People-Pleasing Behaviors
If you think people-pleasing behaviors might be hurting your life and relationships, we’re here to help.
We’ll support you in understanding why you’re engaging in these behaviors – and help you figure out how to stop. You’ll learn to let go of the responsibility for other people’s emotions, set better boundaries, and speak up for what you need.
Feel free to get in touch with us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can answer any questions you have, see whether we’re a good fit, and start working toward a better future today.