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September 7, 2022

Are You People-Pleasing Or Just Being Human?

Hannah Ciordas

The barista approaches a group of people seated in the lounge with their coffee order.

What Is A Healthy Relationship And What Is People-Pleasing? 

As adults, it’s important to prioritize our needs, wants, truths, and thoughts. This is healthy!  At the same time, it’s normal to want to make others happy — and feel joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment in return. But when does this dynamic turn into people-pleasing? 

A "people pleasing" dynamic is not:

  • Thinking of other people's feelings and thoughts, and the impact we can have on them.
  • Engaging in acts of service because they make you and others feel good.
  • Wanting to be liked, loved, and appreciated.
  • Being kind and respectful, even when you don’t feel like it or are in a bad mood
  • Feeling a sense of responsibility towards your family and friends.
  • Making sacrifices for your loved ones. 

This is being considerate. This is living relationally, rather than individualistically. For many of us, this is simply being human and loving well. 

Signs of a people-pleasing dynamic

When your care for loved ones turns into fear or worry, it can be helpful to examine those feelings. Here are some signs of a people-pleasing dynamic:  

  • Feeling frightened or like we are not allowed to say "no" to someone
  • Sensing that the love you receive from others is based on what you do for them
  • Relationships that require you to show only the nice or compliant parts of yourself 
  • Feeling resentful from repeatedly over-extending yourself.
  • Constantly thinking of other people before yourself. 
  • Not being aware of your own needs, desires, or preferences. 
  • Prioritizing being liked over being honest when an important truth should be shared

We may have learned to please people from the formative relationships in our childhood. But as adults, we’re responsible to disrupt these dynamics and be accountable for our own actions. It’s crucial to distinguish between people-pleasing and just being a caring person. Otherwise, we can feel the need to “fix” some part of ourselves which is really not broken and never was. 

People-pleasing is not a sickness or a disease — these are common dynamics that most people will experience at one time or another. 

Part of finding our balance in relationships includes experiencing the imbalance, noticing what's no longer working for us, and making shifts as necessary. 

If you’re looking for support, Shift has some great therapists that specialize in relationships who can help! 

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