You’ve probably heard the term “People Pleaser” before, and you may even have a pretty good idea of what it means. After all, it isn’t exactly a creative explanation of the behaviors being described. If you’re curious about if you might be a people pleaser or not, check out my other blog post about my own self discovery of being a people pleaser.
A People Pleaser is a person who feels a compulsive need to please others, who has an intense focus on others’ needs to the point of putting them above their own.
This compulsive behavior goes far beyond the need to be liked, and it tends to feel like a safety issue when another person has negative feelings toward the people pleaser.
In my work (and life) I’ve noticed 4 distinct types of people pleasing behavior, that I want to share with you here.
Type 1: The Go-To Person
A People Pleaser with the Go-To Tendency spreads themselves way too thin. They are typically a busybody who can’t ever seem to slow down until they have to- like they get sick or injured. They are very well organized and have all the best ideas, but they don’t have any time to rest. They might even have anxious thoughts that keep them up at night.
They pride themselves on not needing anything from anyone. But at the same time, they might wonder why no one ever takes care of them like they take care of others. They feel like no one notices when they need help, and it’s probably because they hide it so well and don’t ever ask for anything from anyone.
Type 2: The Yes Person
The People Pleaser with the Yes Tendency doesn’t know how to say “No” and setting boundaries can be really difficult or damn near impossible- it might not even be something they’ve ever tried before.
Saying “yes” to anything always involves saying “no” to something else. Whenever the Yes Person Pleaser says “yes” to a friend when they really want to say “no”, they are just saying “no” to themselves over and over again.
They probably feel burnt out and stressed ,they have no time for themselves, they’re exhausted all the time but they keep going and keep showing up for others.
Type 3: The Chill Pill
The Chill Pill takes being laid back to the extreme, and loses all sense of conviction. They might have really strong opinions but refuse to express them. They have really good ideas but they don’t want to rock the boat or make anyone else uncomfortable, so they just chill in the background. They feel like no one ever asks for their opinions and think that must mean that others don’t care. The worst thing they can imagine is being known as high maintenance.
Instead of letting people down directly, they have built into their personality that they just “don’t always look at their phone”, especially when someone asks something that they don’t want to do or be held accountable for. No response is better than a “no” in the Chill Pill’s mind.
Type 4: Just Really Nice
The Just Really Nice People Pleaser wants to be friendly toward everyone they meet. They don’t want anyone around them to feel uncomfortable in any way, even if that means they have to be in extreme discomfort.
They might be similar to the Yes Person in that they hate to say “no” or have never actually tried. They genuinely get joy from helping others, but they wonder why no one is ever as nice to them as they are to others. They were taught to always be nice to others and live by the golden rule.
Bonus Type! People Pleaser Retirement
The Retired People Pleaser or just a Non-People Pleaser, has already done some of the work or they never had to. Perhaps they were taught how to have really strong boundaries as a child or they've done some healing around boundaries already. The compulsive feelings are not as strong as they used to be, and they understand that their value and worth is not based on what they can do for or give to others. They know that they deserve love no matter what.
Is People Pleasing a Disorder?
Short answer: NO. Not at all. People Pleasing is not a personality disorder or any other type of disorder. It is a way of being in the world that might not feel good to you, especially because it can feel very compulsive and out of your control. The behaviors themselves aren’t negative, they are literally to please others, but the Why behind the behaviors is what makes it not feel so great. If you have a compulsive need to be liked, cannot handle the discomfort of discord or tough conversations, you probably aren’t living your best life. If you are so afraid to rock the boat or make anyone around you uncomfortable because you disagree with them or you might have other obligations when they need you, it is possible for you to have a life without guilt.
How do I stop People Pleasing?
If you have identified yourself or your behaviors in any of the above Types of People Pleasers, you might be asking yourself how you can stop people pleasing.
I want you to know that it will be a process, and that it is not impossible. Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight. Life would be so easy if all it took was some insight into something we didn’t like, and then the next day we could change it. The entire fields of therapy and coaching would quickly become obsolete!
The first step is to identify your WHY. Why do you fall prey to people pleasing? What is your reasoning? What are you afraid will happen if you say “no”?
Second you need to figure out who you are beyond the people pleasing behaviors. What kinds of things bring you joy? What are your beliefs and values?
Once you know who you are (or have a good idea), the third step is to practice self acceptance. It is an unavoidable part of the human experience to make mistakes, experience pain, and be a little messy sometimes. If you learn to accept that, you won’t be so hard on yourself nor will you try so hard to be perfect and pleasant all the time.
Fourth, learn to set boundaries. I will tell you that you can expect this part to be difficult. People have been benefiting from your people pleasing behaviors and when you take that away, they may become upset. That’s ok, it isn’t your fault. You deserve to take care of yourself.
Lastly, keep going. Keep working on self love, filling your own cup, and continue to give to others when it feels good for you to do so!
Remember that the behaviors of people pleasing are not inherently negative. Sometimes it feels good to go out of your way to help others. When the behaviors feel compulsive (like you can’t help it), or when they make you feel worse instead of better, then your people pleasing may be an issue that you want to change.
Curious about which type of people pleaser you are? Take the quiz!
If you are looking for an online, fully self paced course to help you stop people pleasing, get on the waitlist for my upcoming People Pleaser Recovery Program!
Kaylin is a licensed therapist in Orange County, California. She works with people pleasers, perfectionists, and high functioning professionals who tend to suffer in silence with anxiety, stress and overwhelm. Learn more here and schedule a consultation call if you want to work with Kaylin.