lady with hair blown in front of her face

The Price Paid for People Pleasing 

I am a reformed people pleaser. 

I used to say “yes” to everything, even if it meant I was stretched to the limit or sacrificing my own needs.

I used to pick up my friends from the other side of town;

Go to every social event, despite feeling pressure to study;

And, be quick to offer help wherever I could.

What’s worse is I wouldn’t accept others help or generosity when it came my way… it made me feel uncomfortable.

But I realised the more I sacrificed, the more I resented sticking my neck out for others. I also felt constantly stressed and stretched to the nth degree.

And then one day it hit me, there was absolutely NO REWARD for putting in the hard yards for others. 

In fact, it felt like the more I sacrificed for others, the more they expected and the less comfortable I felt asking for favours.

But what I didn’t know was that people pleasing is damaging to self-esteem.

Thanks to a masters in psychology, I stumbled across this information and begrudgingly ruminated about why this isn’t taught in schools?! Well, maybe it is taught in schools, but I missed that day??

So, as it turns out people pleasing has absolutely no benefits except to momentarily make you feel like a “good person”.

And in fact, long term, people pleasing affects self-esteem for a few reasons:

  1. It creates an unhealthy dynamic in relationships. In particular, one party comes to expect sacrifice from the other, while the other party expects demands. In this way, the people pleaser is left feeling used and unappreciated. Relationship insecurity and anxiety can also develop as a result of people pleasing.
  2. If you are a people pleaser, you’re mostly left with unmet needs. By not asking for your needs to be met, you’re reinforcing a self-belief that your needs are not worthy.
  3. People pleasing is a bottomless pit that burns you to the ground in stress and exhaustion. This results in low self-care and poor respect for yourself, which in turn greatly impacts self-esteem.

So, how do you combat people pleasing?

First, you need to accept that people pleasing is a problem. If you find yourself justifying that it’s helpful in some way… “but I love helping those I love” or “but I’m that person people go to” then you need to reconsider.

Second, you need to pick the least challenging situations where you feel you could say “no” and start practising. At first, you’ll feel really uncomfortable, but keep practising until it gets easier. An easy hack to help you say “no” is to imagine your response to a friend who said “no” to you for the same request – would you think less of them?

Once you increase your confidence, start saying “no” to more challenging situations. And at the same time, start testing the waters with asking for favours. Overtime, you’ll find your confidence in your relationships will improve, you’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll feel more balanced in your life.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help with your relationships?

We have a group of Melbourne psychologists in our practice who take a special interest in relationship difficulties, including self-esteem in relationships and insecurity in relationships. Contact us today to be professionally matched to a psychologist who suits your needs and personality.