Conquer your People-Pleasing Patterns

Conquer your People-Pleasing Patterns

People-pleasing is a common trait among codependents. It simply means that you go to extremes to make other people happy, often at your own expense.

Have you noticed that your people-pleasing causes problems for you? Well, logically we all know that it’s impossible to please others all of the time. So, we are doomed to failure when we’re constantly people-pleasing. However, the bigger problem is that people-pleasing hurts you by putting your needs last.

Codependents tend to struggle with asking for what they need in relationships. Chronically having your needs unmet will lead to negative feelings such as anger and resentment. Many people-pleasers grew up in dysfunctional families where love and acceptance were conditional on compliance and pleasing their parent(s).

Consider Crystal who at 30 years old is living at home with her aging parents. She is earning a good living as a software engineer.  She hates her job and dreads going in every morning. She went into computer science because her parents deemed it a respectable profession.Crystal wants to move out and live with her boyfriend. But she feels guilty and fears her parents will disapprove both of her boyfriend’s lack of achievement and living together before marriage. Despite her sacrifices, Crystal’s parents are frequently critical of her choices. Crystal’s younger siblings have moved out and pursued their own interests while Crystal holds onto trying to please her parents. She feels stuck.

If you identify with Crystal, you may notice that you seek approval and validation from others, feel restful or taken advantage of, feel unworthy, fear rejection or the loss of love.

You can change your people-pleasing patterns!

  • Try going to a CoDA meeting.
  • Get treatment for your anxiety. People-pleasing is an unhealthy way to managing your anxiety. As you change your people-pleasing patterns, your anxiety will probably increase. I encourage you to work with a therapist or doctor for help.
  • Identify what you need and begin to ask for it.
  • Being assertive is not selfish.
  • Set boundaries so that others don’t take advantage of your kindness or inability to say “no”.
  • It is OK to have conflicts with others. Appropriately expressing your displeasure or disagreement to someone is a sign of a healthy relationship and healthy self-esteem.
  • Practice doing things your enjoy – pursues a hobby or interest, catch up with friends.
  • Spend time by yourself. Once you are more independent and realize you’re OK by yourself, you will be less afraid of rejection and abandonment.

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.