People-pleasing, overhelping, overgiving—we can give it lots of different names, but the consequences to putting yourself last all the time are generally the same.
It is possible that you have been taught to view giving and helping others as virtues. You’d be wrong to think otherwise. I believe wholeheartedly that it’s a beautiful thing to serve, support, and help others. However, people-pleasers don’t always know when to draw the line; they give and give almost as if they have an endless supply of time, energy, and resources.
People-pleasing can be surprising. It’s often all about controlling. It’s rooted in your need to try and boost your own self-esteem, avoid conflict, and manipulate the environment into what you need it to be to feel at ease.
It is a mistake to try to please or appease everyone. This is what I have seen firsthand. Overgiving, self-centered, or overgiving ways were born out of a deep desire to be understood, supported and cared about. I’ve experienced fried adrenal glands not once, but twice from pushing so hard to say yes to everything but me.
Now, let me tell you about the cost of being too generous or people-pleasing.
To please everyone around you means that you will have less time for you and what you want. This can lead to feeling angry and resentful.
If your needs aren’t being met by those around you (because let’s face it, most people-pleasers aren’t being honest and telling our people what we need), it can cause deep hurt and anger.
It’s not other people’s job to read our minds. It’s our job to speak our truth and be honest, but often, we fail to do so. So when they don’t intuit or “just know” our needs we start becoming resentful toward them too. “Arghhh, how can they be so uncaring?”
Then anger takes root. Resentment is what happens when we stuff or suppress that anger (common for the people-pleaser—remember, we need to keep the harmony at all costs, so speaking on behalf of our anger is major taboo!).
And once resentment kicks in, that’s when the illness of bitterness seeps in and festers. Resentment is what leads to long marriages and relationships of contempt, rolling eyes, and “staying together for the kids.” It leaks out as criticism, defensiveness, and snarky side comments. It explodes in the kitchen at a random comment (that actually isn’t random—it simply pressed on the already existing wound).
The loss of identity
People-pleasers spend a great deal of time editing themselves—so much so that they lose sight of who they really are.
When you’re always trying to please other people you often hide yourself or morph into behaving like other people to get what you want. You’re a master chameleon, an expert at being anyone other than…you.
It was 100 percent my ammunition. I didn’t know who I was because I had spent decades trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. That was all I knew to protect myself. I had spent years feeling like I was unlikable, didn’t fit in, or that I wasn’t smart enough. I just accepted that I needed to do the same to make friends.
This led me straight down a path to never understanding what I enjoyed, liked, disliked, or needed because I rarely made any choices for myself. I didn’t put aside time for myself and explore new things because I had no idea what those things might be. So I just didn’t. My pattern of appeasing others and placating myself continued to my detriment.
Loss in Intimacy/Loss Relationships
A typical person-pleaser will often have one-sided relationships.
Let me guess, you’re the one that:
- Plan outings
- Does the listening ear work?
- Does it make sense to cry?
- Everybody calls whenever they have a need
- Is always “holding space for others”
You feel valued and needed. But when you stop to think about it, you realize you’re not getting the same in return.
It’s not hard to see how this leads to short-lived relationships following a set pattern:
It’s initially joyous and enjoyable, but you soon feel tired and resentful. This is followed up by some mild confrontation, and then the inevitable separation of the paths. This is the pattern that I have used more than I want to admit.
At one point, I was forced to admit the extent of my friendships. Many were enjoyable. However, they did not offer the same support or intimacy I sought. They never asked me about my life and the things I was up to. Nobody ever allowed me to vent about my frustrations or hurts. After spending an evening with my friends, I felt often more empty when I returned home than when I went out.
Fear held me to those relationships for a long time past their end dates. I didn’t walk away sooner because I was too scared to be alone.
I realized that I was avoiding being open and honest with my partner. I didn’t think I could be intimate or vulnerable, so at some point, the relationship simply expired. Like a carton of yogurt pushed to its last date, the end was near.
As I was healing and growing, I realized that those I chose to have relationships with weren’t healthy for me. As my soul began healing, I learned to be honest with myself and find authentic relationships.
Speaking your truth And asking for what you need doesn’t make you a selfish person. It makes you a real person, with real needs, and real relationships are only formed when we are willing to be… you guessed it, real.
It’s okay to want to help and support people. I’m not telling anyone to be a jerk and to never lend a helping hand. However, you need to know where to draw the line; you need to find a balance of helping them and you.
Each of our lives matters. All of us have basic needs. And the only way to get our needs met is to be honest about them—and to set healthy boundaries that honor them.
Boundaries don’t mean saying “no” all the time or demanding that others do what you want. Boundaries help you to know where your line is and communicate that line with compassion and firmness so that you can thrive and prosper.
If boundaries are set properly, they give each person the right to decide what will happen next. It’s okay sometimes to walk away. But it’s also okay to stay in the relationship and practice honesty and intimacy if that feels right. Once you become more familiar with boundaries, intuition will direct your next steps.
Be confident in yourself. I know from being a recovering people-pleaser that this step alone can be so challenging, as we don’t really know who we are, so how do we trust ourselves? However, that still voice in your head has been there always, guiding you and taking the lead. The difference is, now you’re listening.
Krista Resnick, a master coach, specializes in teaching women how to set boundaries and communicate their truth. Her passion is to help women overcome codependency and experience unconditional self-love. You can learn all about boundary basics in her upcoming free workshop, Build Better Boundaries happening May 17th. Also, be sure to download her workbook and mediation, Compassionate Boundaries.
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Tiny Buddha’s first post, 3 painful consequences of people-pleasing and overgiving appeared on Tiny Buddha.