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What is People-Pleasing and How Does it Differ From Kindness

Are you unsure what the term 'people-pleasing' really means?
Are you wondering if this even applies to you?

If so, you're not alone.
Being a people-pleaser myself, I can tell you it took me years to identify this tendency and change some of my ways.

I've come a long way, though I'll forever be a work in progress, and want to share with you what I wish I knew 20 years ago.

So, let's begin with a brief definition...

People-pleasing is the habitual act of putting others' needs before your own.
It is an energy-draining pattern where one tends to take on too much in an attempt to avoid disappointing others.

This behaviour is more of a 'reflex response' rather than a 'conscious' choice.
Learned experiences (reward/punishment) that have been stored in the body act as powerful levers that partially dictate one's behaviours.

It often is a coping mechanism learned in early life, that has become so ingrained and a way of being, that it's the default mechanism for how one operates in the world.

So what are some signs that you may be a people-pleaser and how does it differ from being kind?

10 Signs you may be a People-Pleaser

Signs you may be a people-pleaser:

1. You automatically say 'yes' before you even realize it.
2. You apologize when there's no reason to do so.
3. You're always going above and beyond and doing more than your share.
4. You're one of the nicest people you know.
5. You're an expert at anticipating others' needs.
6. You can't stand the thought of others being upset with you.
7. You'd rather disappoint yourself than others.
8. You're always swallowing your true feelings and needs.
9. You feel resentful and irritable from all the pressure and over-giving.
10. You have great difficulty saying 'no'.
11. You feel burdened by all you have to do.
12. You rarely feel anger, but when you do you 'explode'.
13. You end up faking an illness to get out of something you couldn't say 'no' to.
14. You bash and blame yourself for not being 'strong enough' to say 'no'.
15. You push yourself to meet your commitments no matter what.
16. You shy away from sharing your opinions and ideas.
17. You feel responsible for other's feelings.
18. You avoid conflict and confrontation (almost) at any cost.
19. You replay conversations in your head and beat yourself up about how you 'could have' responded better.
20. When you do have a moment to yourself, you feel guilty and can't enjoy it.
21. And lastly, the hallmark feature of a people-pleaser (in my humble opinion): you feel depleted, spent, and drained of energy (probably) all the time.

It's important to understand, people-pleasers genuinely care and want to be there for others.

Seeing a look of disappointment on someone's face, typically elicits a powerful emotional response; one that's stronger than the need to please oneself.

It's not simply a matter of knowing where to draw the line (though this helps), it's finding a way to rewire on a physiological level (more on this in an upcoming article).

The Difference Between People-Pleasing & Kindness:

Learn how to say 'no' without feeling guilt or doubt so you can honour your own needs while still being a caring, considerate person.

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  1. I am glad I have read your website about people-pleasing, and it is very beneficial. I admit that I am still wrestling with some of these issues. I pray that this will give others a breakthrough to release them from people-pleasing. Thank you very much for this website.

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Science-based knowledge combined with mindfulness-based practices that we do together, help you rewire and learn the skills you need to change your people-pleasing ways and build healthier, more balanced relationships - at work, home and social circles.