The People Pleasing Disease


Imagine this: You are at work and you see someone you like walking down the hall. You aren’t romantically interested, but you like them simply because of their fun personality. You see them pass other co-workers and notice that everyone they meet seems to like them too because they give a big smile or a pat on the back. Are you likely to respect this person more or less because they are well liked by everyone?

Most of us would answer “more” to that question. Most would also say that we tend to admire that person because of their skill in establishing positive relationships with most everyone. Why wouldn’t you? I mean, who doesn’t want to be well liked? The fact is, we love to be loved!

Then we have people who announce, “I’m a people pleaser!” in a “pretending to be guilty” sort of way. Why is it that we look on with admiration? I think the same logic applies. Being liked by people is a desirable trait. We admire those people who have mastered the art of pleasing people. The real question is this: Do we admire them because of their skill? Or do we envy those people because we just want to make people around us happy too? The question is simple enough, but the real answer can be hard to find at times.

You might ask, “What’s wrong with wanting to make everyone happy?” I have also heard, “I’m blessed to be a blessing” a lot. What is wrong with that? I’m here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with that. It is a wonderful trait to have, but if it is done in the wrong way, “People Pleasing” can become a disease.

Test Yourself

Here is a quick test to see if you, or someone you know, might be a “People Pleaser”. The test is written as if the person in question is actually taking the test.

  1. Think of some times when someone was disappointed with you. Do you typically:
    1. Allow for the emotion of disappointment to flow
    2. Immediately jump into corrective talk or action to quench the disappointment
  2. When someone is not satisfied with you, do you tend to:
    1. Maintain your sense of confidence
    2. Lose your sense of value
  3. If a loved one is angry with you, do you tend to:
    1. Still know and support your own needs
    2. Lose sight of your needs in order to meet theirs
  4. When you make a mistake, do you tend to:
    1. Apologize once and move forward
    2. Apologize several times, even if an apology might not be needed
  5. When someone asks you for your help, do you usually:
    1. Say “no” when you truly don’t want to or can’t help
    2. Say “yes” even though you don’t want to or can’t help

If you answered “2” to 3 of the 5 questions, you, or the person you know, might struggle with the unhealthy side of “People Pleasing”. If you answered “2” to 4 or more questions, there is likely a struggle with “People Pleasing” present.

Why People Pleasing can be Unhealthy

People Pleasers can become like a chameleon, having no true “color” of their own, but they easily (and happily) blend in to those around them. If they are not around people who are happy with them, they cannot be happy and therefore must try to make those around them happy. This usually has less to do with the other person and more to do with re-establishing their own happiness again. A People Pleaser is, at a very deep level, unable to promote their own feelings independent of the person closest to them, and, as a result, lose their sense of personhood. Their opinions no longer matter, their feelings no longer matter, they are “happy” to do “whatever everyone else wants just so long as we are all happy”. Deep down, People Pleasers are not happy, because it’s simply impossible to makeeveryone around them happy.

You may be thinking, “I’m just being a good wife, husband, parent, sibling, or Christian.” But when you give of yourself too much and don’t give to yourself enough, there is a big problem going on. It’s not nearly as simple as “I’m just a People Pleaser.”

Some of you may have already guessed that another name for “People Pleasing” is the term Codependency. Robert Subby, a pioneer in the field of codependency states that codependency is, “An emotional, psychological and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules – rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.” An example of setting oppressive rules is rarely asking for things for yourself or not setting boundaries when they are needed. Now, this is just one person’s opinion about codependency, but it is also true. There are almost as many definitions for codependency as there are people, thus, many people believe that, to some degree, we all have codependency. The point is that when “People Pleasing” gets to the point where you dread being around people who just take and take, and you think that you simply cannot go on because you can’t give any more, you may want to seek some help. Talking through stuff like this can greatly enhance your lifestyle and it can help you become happy, truly happy, instead of depending on others being happy. You deserve a happiness that comes from inside you, from the core of who you are! Healing from codependency will not make you selfish, uncaring, and un-giving. Instead, you will be able to give so much more because it is coming from a genuine love inside you. Who wouldn’t want to be like that?

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