The Hidden Costs of Being a People Pleaser examines the negative impact people pleasing can have on one's well-being

Published on August 17, 2023

People pleasing is a common phenomenon in our society today, yet its hidden costs are often overlooked. It can come from our upbringing and cultural norms, and can lead to detrimental effects on one’s mental and emotional well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the costs of people pleasing, how our upbringing and cultural norms can lead to it, and how EMDR can help people work through these tendencies. People pleasing can be a difficult habit to break, but recognizing and understanding the underlying causes and hidden costs can be a powerful first step towards changing it.

Understanding People Pleasing

People pleasing is a behavior pattern that involves sacrificing one's own needs and desires in order to gain the approval of others. While wanting to make others happy is not inherently bad, constantly putting the needs of others above your own can have negative effects on your mental and emotional health.
At its core, people pleasing stems from a fear of rejection or a desire for acceptance. Those who struggle with people pleasing often have low self-esteem and feel that they need external validation to feel good about themselves. They may also fear that if they don't please others, they will be rejected or abandoned.
While people pleasing is often seen as a personality trait, it is actually a learned behavior. Children who are raised in homes where there is a lot of emphasis placed on pleasing others or avoiding conflict may develop people pleasing tendencies as a way to cope with their environment. Similarly, cultural norms and societal expectations can also contribute to the development of people pleasing behaviors. For example, women are often socialized to be nurturing and selfless, which can lead to a tendency to put others' needs before their own.
While people pleasing can sometimes result in positive outcomes, such as maintaining healthy relationships, it can also have serious negative consequences. People pleasers may become so focused on pleasing others that they lose touch with their own wants and needs, leading to feelings of resentment and burnout. They may also experience anxiety and depression as a result of constantly trying to meet the expectations of others.
In addition to these emotional costs, people pleasing can also hurt one's physical health. Chronic stress, which can be a result of trying to constantly please others, has been linked to a variety of health problems, including heart disease and immune system dysfunction.
So what can be done to break the cycle of people pleasing? One effective approach is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR can help individuals identify the underlying causes of their people pleasing tendencies, such as past traumas or negative beliefs about themselves. By processing these experiences and beliefs, individuals can learn to value their own needs and desires, and to set boundaries that allow them to live more fulfilling lives.

Where Does People Pleasing Stem From?

People pleasing is a common trait that can often be found in individuals who struggle with asserting themselves and setting healthy boundaries. It’s important to recognize that this behavior stems from a variety of sources and can manifest in different ways for each individual.
For some, people pleasing may stem from a fear of rejection or abandonment. This fear may be rooted in childhood experiences, such as growing up in a household where one parent was absent or where there was a lack of emotional support and validation. Children who grow up in environments like this may have learned that the only way to receive attention and love is by pleasing others. As a result, they may carry this behavior into their adult relationships.
Cultural norms can also play a significant role in developing people pleasing tendencies. In some cultures, it is considered impolite or rude to assert oneself and speak up for their own needs. The emphasis on collectivism over individualism can also contribute to people pleasing behaviors. In these cultures, putting others’ needs before one’s own is often seen as a sign of respect and humility.
Additionally, social conditioning can lead to people pleasing. In our society, we are often told that it’s important to be agreeable and that saying “yes” is the right thing to do. We’re taught that being helpful and accommodating to others is the key to success and happiness. Unfortunately, this messaging can make it challenging to set boundaries and say “no” when necessary, as it goes against the social norms we’ve been taught.
Ultimately, people pleasing behavior can have a significant impact on one’s mental health and well-being. The constant need to please others and put their needs before your own can lead to feelings of resentment, stress, and anxiety. This behavior can also lead to unhealthy relationships, as people pleasers may attract individuals who take advantage of their desire to please.
Fortunately, there are techniques and therapies that can help individuals work through people pleasing tendencies and set healthy boundaries. One effective therapy is EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a therapy that focuses on processing and resolving past experiences that contribute to current emotional and behavioral patterns.
During EMDR therapy, a therapist helps individuals identify the specific events and beliefs that contribute to their people pleasing behavior. They then use eye movement or other forms of bilateral stimulation to help the individual reprocess these memories in a safe and controlled environment. Over time, this can lead to a reduction in people pleasing behaviors and an increase in self-confidence and assertiveness.
Overall, people pleasing behavior can be challenging to overcome, but it is possible.

The Role of Upbringing and Cultural Norms in Developing People Pleasing Tendencies

The development of people pleasing tendencies often has deep roots in our upbringing and cultural norms. Children who grow up in homes where there is an emphasis on obedience, conformity, and putting others' needs before their own can often become conditioned to seek validation and approval from others. Similarly, in certain cultures, there is a high value placed on the concept of harmony and avoiding conflict, which can lead to a pattern of people pleasing.
In many households, children are taught from a young age that pleasing others is more important than satisfying their own desires. For example, a child may be rewarded for cleaning their room or doing well in school, but may not receive praise for pursuing their own passions or standing up for themselves. This kind of behavior can set the stage for a lifetime of people pleasing, as the child grows up seeking validation and approval from others to feel successful.
Additionally, certain cultural norms can also reinforce the concept of people pleasing. In collectivist cultures, the importance of the group outweighs the importance of the individual, leading individuals to prioritize maintaining positive relationships with others. In these cultures, conflict is often avoided, and the emphasis is on creating a harmonious environment for everyone. As a result, individuals who grow up in these cultures may become conditioned to seek approval from others and avoid confrontation at all costs.
However, the constant need to please others can take a toll on one's mental health and well-being. The fear of rejection and disapproval can lead to anxiety, stress, and a sense of low self-worth. People pleasing can also be a drain on one's time and energy, as individuals are constantly prioritizing others' needs over their own. It can lead to burnout and leave individuals feeling resentful and unfulfilled.
Fortunately, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy can be an effective treatment for working through people pleasing tendencies. EMDR is a psychotherapy technique that focuses on processing past traumatic experiences that may be impacting one's present-day behaviors. By addressing the underlying beliefs and experiences that are contributing to the pattern of people pleasing, individuals can develop healthier coping mechanisms and learn to prioritize their own needs.

The Cost of People Pleasing

While it may seem like people pleasing is a harmless habit, it can have a serious impact on your mental health and well-being. Constantly putting the needs of others before your own can lead to feelings of burnout, resentment, and low self-esteem. In this section, we will explore some of the costs associated with people pleasing and how it can negatively impact your life.

  1. Anxiety and Stress
    People pleasing often stems from a fear of rejection or a desire to be liked and accepted by others. However, constantly seeking approval and validation from others can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. The fear of saying no or disappointing someone can result in feelings of overwhelming pressure, leading to sleepless nights and a constant feeling of being on edge.
  2. Difficulty Making Decisions
    When you're a people pleaser, making decisions can become a daunting task. Constantly worrying about what others will think can lead to analysis paralysis, making it challenging to make even the most basic of decisions. This can be incredibly frustrating and lead to feelings of powerlessness and helplessness.
  3. Neglecting Your Own Needs
    People pleasing often comes at the cost of neglecting your own needs. When you're constantly putting others first, it's easy to forget to prioritize your own self-care, resulting in a host of physical and mental health issues. This can include things like neglecting to exercise, skipping meals, and neglecting to set healthy boundaries.
  4. Damaged Relationships
    While it may seem counterintuitive, constantly putting others first can actually damage your relationships in the long run. When you're not being true to yourself and your needs, it's impossible to build genuine, authentic connections with others. You may end up resenting those you're trying to please, leading to conflict and damaged relationships.
  5. Loss of Self-Identity
    Lastly, people pleasing can result in a loss of self-identity. Constantly trying to be what others want you to be can lead to a loss of individuality and a lack of personal growth. Over time, you may forget who you are and what you stand for, leading to a deep sense of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment.
    If you recognize any of these costs in your life, it's important to take action. Seeking the help of a trained professional, such as an EMDR therapist, can help you identify and work through your people pleasing tendencies. With time, patience, and support, you can break free from this habit and rediscover your sense of self.

How EMDR Can Help You Work Through People Pleasing Tendencies

People pleasing tendencies are often deeply ingrained and can be challenging to overcome. However, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can help you work through these tendencies and find healthier ways to interact with others.
EMDR is a type of therapy that focuses on processing past traumas and negative experiences. During an EMDR session, you'll be guided through a series of eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation. This process can help reduce the intensity of negative emotions associated with past experiences, allowing you to process them more effectively.
One of the ways EMDR can be helpful for people pleasers is by uncovering and addressing any underlying traumas or negative beliefs that contribute to their people pleasing behavior. For example, if you were raised in an environment where your worth was tied to your ability to please others, this belief may be at the root of your people pleasing tendencies. EMDR can help you identify these beliefs and work through them, allowing you to develop healthier patterns of behavior.
EMDR can also help people pleasers develop better boundaries and assertiveness skills. In EMDR sessions, you may work on visualizing yourself in situations where you would normally feel compelled to please others, and then practice setting boundaries and communicating your needs. Through this process, you'll learn to prioritize your own well-being while still maintaining positive relationships with others.
Finally, EMDR can help people pleasers develop greater self-compassion and self-esteem. People pleasing often stems from a lack of self-worth and a belief that our value lies in our ability to make others happy. Through EMDR, you'll learn to challenge these negative beliefs and develop a more positive sense of self. As you begin to prioritize your own needs and recognize your own inherent worth, you'll find that people pleasing becomes less of a compulsion and more of a choice. If you want to meet with someone for assistance working through this- fill out a consultation form.

Sending Love & Light,

Jamie Vollmoeller, LCSW

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