What Are People-Pleasers? Your Definitive Guide

Are you someone who tends to give too much to others? Dive into this blog post to discover the people-pleaser definition, the dangers of people-pleasing, how to know if you are one, and more.

I lived much of my life as a people-pleaser. I gave too much to those who didn’t value my time or energy, all in hopes of feeling secure or being a “good person.”

Today, as a proud recovering people-pleaser, I’ve been able to slowly deconstruct my people-pleasing ways and uncover where they came from and why I behaved the way I did for far too long. Not only has my happiness improved, but I no longer tie my self-worth to making others happy.

If you’re curious to do the same, you’re in the right place. I hope this blog post is helpful for you as you work to uncover your people-pleasing definition and beyond.

What is a people-pleaser?

While every people-pleaser is different, there are some common personality traits that show up in those who continually give too much to others. The below list is not exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start if you’re questioning how much of a people-pleaser you might be.

People-pleasers often:

  • Engage in self-sabotaging behavior in order to fit in or be liked
  • Act like those around them
  • Take on too much without questioning if they actually want to do what’s requested
  • Feel responsible for how others feel
  • Apologize often and needlessly
  • Feel overwhelmed by the amount on their to-do list
  • Don’t communicate their feelings openly
  • Have an extremely hard time saying No
  • Require praise or validation to feel like a good person

The more you learn about the people-pleaser definition the closer you’ll be to becoming a recovering people-pleaser.

Read next: How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser

woman crying in bed

How do people become people-pleasers?

While there is no cut and dry answer for this question, most people-pleasing tendencies stem from learned behavior and trauma in the early formative years. Pair this with a feeling of low self-worth or self-love, and you have the perfect combination for people-pleasing.

If you grew up in a household that required you always to seek validation or you were told to always give to others before tending to yourself, chances are you have people-pleasing tendencies.

The problem with people-pleasing is that the pleasers have a deep desire to be liked, loved, coveted, and appreciated. Often, they will put others wants before their own needs and receive praise for doing so. The sense of validation is what encourages a people-pleaser to keep on giving – leaving them with nothing but burn out and resentment.

The “disease to please” can, quite quickly, become unhealthy co-dependent behavior.

Listen in: How to Not Be a People-Pleaser with Therapy Untangled

The dangers of people-pleasing

As with anything done to the extreme, there are dangers and consequences when it comes to overly pleasing others.

Believe it or not, I experienced numerous physical side-effects caused by my people-pleasing tendencies, including:

  • Trouble sleeping through the night
  • Crippling anxiety at work and in my relationships
  • Extreme bloat after every meal (caused by poor food choices driven by a lack of fulfillment)
  • Itchy, dry patches on my skin
  • A sugar addiction that never quit

It wasn’t until I stopped my over-giving and co-dependent behavior and simultaneously saw my symptoms disappear that I realized how intertwined my people-pleasing behavior and physical ailments were.

I encourage you to examine what you’re experiencing in your life and see if they can be traced back to people-pleasing behavior in some way. Often, the physical symptoms we experience have an emotional root cause.

People-pleasing and the need for control

Have you ever found yourself pitching in to help someone, and they didn’t ask for your support in the first place?

Often, people-pleasers feel like their way is the best , and they know the right way to get things done. This “helpfulness” is an attempt to regain control in some capacity, as people-pleasers often feel like they’ve lost power in various areas of their life.

Additionally, the quest for control can stem from a deep desire for perfection from ourselves and those around us. It’s important to work to overcome perfection while addressing people-pleasing behavior.

Interesting research on people-pleasing behavior

To help further solidify the people-pleaser definition, I found fascinating research that’s been completed on people-pleasing behavior. This research is aimed to uncover how this behavior affects the lives of those who give too much.

For example, this study found that those who tend to people-please are often overweight due to overindulging in food as a negative coping mechanism. As someone who struggled with a sugar addiction in the past, I can fully relate to the need to use food as a way to cope with my feelings of being constantly emotionally short-changed.

Five common signs you are a people-pleaser

1. You don’t openly express how you feelO

Communicating feelings and emotional needs can feel terrifying for a people-pleaser because you to know what your thoughts and feelings are in the first place. People-pleasers are often so caught up in over-empathizing with others that they don’t recognize their own needs and requirements.

Work on detangling how you feel from the feelings of others.

2. You help others without them asking for your support

If you tend to jump in to save someone without them asking for your help, that’s a major sign of being a people-pleaser. The ironic part about this behavior is that you’re violating the other person’s boundaries by stepping in to “save” them without their consent.

Take a step back and remember that you don’t hold the answers to everything (and no one expects you to!).

3. You harbor resentment towards those closest to you

After weeks, months, and years of needs not being met and imaginary debts not being repaid, resentment is often the most common feeling people-pleasers harbor.

If you’re feeling resentment towards someone or something, take a closer look at how your behavior could be impacting those resentful feelings.

4. You have a tough time saying no

For people-pleasers, saying No is a difficult thing to do. In fact, it can feel next to impossible. Start harnessing your No-power in areas of life that feel the most approachable and go from there.

5. You needs continually feel unmet

I’m here to tell you: people can’t meet your needs if you don’t communicate them in the first place. Although, as a people-pleaser, it can easily feel like you can read the minds of others:

  1. You’re usually not right about how others are feeling, no matter how convinced you are, and
  2. Very rarely can others read your mind and anticipate your needs

To help your needs get met with more ease, work on communicating them to the appropriate parties in the first place. Be vulnerable and see who shows up for you.

woman sitting with a blanket in a white room

The opposite of people-pleasing: transformational self-care

With your newfound awareness around people-pleasing and the people-pleaser definition, there are powerful practices you can begin to integrate into your life to help you overcome your people-pleasing ways.

Using transformational self-care, I encourage you to begin to carve out a few minutes each day to tune into your thoughts and feelings.

Creating mindfulness and awareness around how often you say Yes/No, your feelings when asked to do something you don’t want to do, and what is causing you the most overwhelm can help to uncover specific people-pleasing based patterns in your life.

Once you clue into the patterns of your behavior, you can begin to set healthy boundaries and incorporate the word No back into your vocabulary. Both of these methods will help you to create more time for yourself and leave you feeling happier than before.

Other forms of transformational self-care include:

The more you do for yourself, the more you will begin to see your people-pleasing pattern emerge.


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