Disease to Please

Posted by: Jo Banks

Date: 31-08-2016

Do you have an in-built need to please others?  Is it getting out of control or making you unhappy?  Do you get very little thanks for your efforts?  Read on...


Further to my post regarding the dangers of withholding love (click here to read), I’ve been inundated with messages from people who could identify with the fact that they have become a people pleaser as a result of trying desperately to please others as they grew up.


Many adults unwittingly cause people pleasing in their children when they:

  • Withhold their love (consciously or subconsciously), by ignoring them as a punishment or choosing to look after their own needs ahead of their child’s – this can happen when a parent either suffers from a psychological Illness such as depression or they work exceptionally long hours over a prolonged period 
  • Show favouritism towards a sibling
  • Over criticise
  • Give little/no praise
  • Are absent from the child’s life for significant periods of time
  • Show little/no physical affection


As a result, children often subconsciously adopt ways to please the parent which gives them some again, for example: 

  • They receive love and/or attention
  • They avoid being physically or mentally abused/mistreated
  • It increaseces their self-esteem
  • They feel wanted and significant


The problem with this behaviour is that once it's embedded (conditioned by responding this way repeatedly), the pleaser will almost always bring it with them into adulthood. 


What is a People Pleaser?


People Pleasers put others’ wants and needs before their own and tend to consider themselves to be selfless and self-sacrificing.  They often have quite a distorted view of how their actions are helping others. 


Many pleasers report that the older they get, the more out of control their pleasing becomes.  This can have a significant detrimental effect on their wellbeing. Pleasers tend to feel worn out, unappreciated (their actions go largely unnoticed and with little thanks) which can leave them feeling isolated, unloved and unappreciated.  Quite the opposite effect to the one they typically expect.  People pleasing is often referred to as 'The Disease to Please' because of its debilitating nature. 


If you recognise that you have people pleasing habits, you need first to take responsibility for your actions.  After all, it’s you doing the pleasing, and in my experience, as long as you’re happy to give, people are always going to be willing to take.  Unfortunately, giving on an excessive level can often lead to complacency by the receiver(s); the more you give, the more others expect, leaving you experiencing a series of negative emotions and feeling physically drained.  N.B. 'Pleasers' rarely give unconditionally.  They expect something in return, whether that's love, attention or to be liked, etc., even if they don’t realise it consciously. 


Tips for Changing People Pleasing Habits


I recognise that I'm a people pleaser.  I often go out of my way to help people, whether that's providing professional help for free, going over and above what is expected of me, giving away my belongings and/or money, etc.  However, it's seldom that I even get a thank you for my efforts, which can make me feel aggrieved.  Now, I realise that I have these tendencies, I ask myself the questions below.  They help me to identify whether I'm 'helping' the other person for the right reason rather than to fulfill my subconscious people pleasing needs.

A saying that you’re sure to have heard before, is “Whilst you’re busy trying to please others, you please no-one”.  Take a look at the things that you keep doing for others.  Are you doing them for the right reasons or simply because you think you should, others expect it of you or you think you’ll get something in return?  To help you start to review your 'giving' consciously and establish whether it's in your best interest, here's a list of good questions to ask yourself:


  • “Am I doing this because I want to or because someone expects me to?”
  • “Do I really want to do this?”
  • “Am I doing this because I’m expecting a reward?" (e.g. to make someone like me or compliment me, etc.)
  • “Am I doing this just to please someone else? If so, am I OK with that?”
  • “Will doing this help me?”
  • “What do I get from doing this?”


I want to be clear here; I’m not saying that you should stop doing things for others when it’s the right or kind thing to do.  However, if you’re a 'Pleaser', doing things for others usually goes far beyond that.  If you're happy with the answers to your questions, then continue doing what you're doing.  However, if you’re not, then maybe it’s time to learn how to politely say, "No".  Take some control back.  Some people may be a bit shocked at first, because they won't be used to you not catering to them, however, if they really care about you, they'll understand if you explain your reasons clearly.


There’s more information on how to take responsibility for your life and learn to say, “No” in my book, “Thoughts Become Things” available now in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon.


If you recognise that you have people pleasing tendencies and would like more information on how to deal with it effectively, please contact us for a free, no-obligation conversation about how we can help.


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