Updated: Jun 8
The interesting thing is, I don't think I have ever heard anyone call themselves a “people pleaser” in a positive way. It is usually presented like an albatross, a sign of people who believe they are too empathic for modern times and who frequently believe others take advantage of their generous nature.
But I'm not convinced that is why people become people pleasers. I often think the motivation to put others' needs before our own is motivated by the fear of potential rejection if we don't.
Often, in truth, we go out of our way to do all these things for others in the hope that they will appreciate our efforts. If that sounds a bit manipulative, I think often it is. If we are not hoping for recognition (or, at the very least, quietly feeling a bit hard done by), we would talk about something we've done for someone else, like an errand, a favour, or a task, rather than calling it “people pleasing”.
Calling it “people pleasing” shows others you side-lined yourself for someone else's perceived needs. And the fact that we parade this hardship around like a medal shows we're doing it in the hope that someone will see us do it.
If this feels like there could be a grain of truth in this for you, I think it is really important to ask yourself what is really going on here. Why do you want to be seen as someone who goes against your own needs? Why do you want to be perceived as someone who loves others above yourself? Who are you hoping will see that your needs are not as important as everyone else’s?
It may not be how you'd like to frame it, but it is worth inquiring with yourself about what you're hoping to get out of this. Because if we do not prioritise our own needs, we are, by extent, saying that we hope someone else will prioritise us. This quote crosswire mismatch of presumptions leads to all kinds of miscommunication and missed expectations. We've all been there. People doing things for your that you did not ask to do and then being grumpy that you were not grateful enough. It is messy. And we can make it less so by untangling our own motivations.
I don't purport to know what is or is not right for you. But what I do know is that the moments when I stopped second-guessing others began to look after me, everyone benefits.
Whether it is people pleasing or anything else, always think it's wise for us to check our motivations and to do so regularly.
The more we can look after ourselves, the fewer expectations we anvil on others.