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Raised to Be a Pleaser

Raised to be a PleaserDo you have a strong need for approval from others? Do you have difficulty saying no, yet often feel resentful about what you agreed to do? Do you get overly involved with people’s problems, postponing attention to your own?

Try to please everyone and it’s likely you’re operating on overload.

To truly understand what that means, let’s examine what occurs when an electrical circuit is overloaded. The circuit breaker pops. Then nothing works. No lights, no computer, no printer, no microwave, no toaster, no AC, no TV, no nothing. What do you do?

You search for the popped breaker on the electrical panel. You flip the breaker back on and return to doing your thing. You’ve just settled in when pop, you’re in darkness again. Whoops — you forgot to turn off a few machines before you went back to work.

Frustrated, you think “what a pain this circuit breaker is.” Then you remember what it’s designed to do. It’s a safety device, protecting you from the fire that would undoubtedly occur if you continued to operate on overload.

If you’re living a harried, pressured, stressed life because you were raised to be a pleaser, you most likely operate on an overloaded circuit. If you didn’t have so much to do, you wouldn’t be so stressed about the holidays. If you weren’t so stressed about the holidays, you wouldn’t be so nervous about your upcoming evaluation. If you weren’t so nervous about the evaluation, you wouldn’t be so upset with your teen’s nasty quip. If you weren’t so upset with your teen’s quip, you wouldn’t have this pounding headache.

Get the picture? Too bad you don’t have circuit breakers built into your system to alert you of an impending overload. Or do you?

Imagine that chronic stress is a way your body is telling you, “Stop! You’re damaging me. Treat me better or I will break down!” Chronic worrying is a way your mind is telling you, “Stop! You can’t continue to live this way. Give me a break!” Chronic disappointment is a way your relationships are telling you, “Stop! You’re trying too hard to please others.”

If you ignore the warning signals that tell you “enough is enough,” trouble is in the making. Remember, warning signals, like circuit breakers, are designed to protect you from harm. If you don’t ease up on how you deal with life’s stresses, you’ll do serious damage to your mind, body and relationships.

Here are three ways to make your life less stressful:

  1. Reduce your need for approval from others. If you find yourself living life to please others or chasing pursuits just to gain acceptance, stop. Learn to live by the rules that make sense to you, instead of by the dictates of others. Though it may temporarily feel good to win a friend’s favor, it’s not essential to your well-being. Hence, if you do decide to accommodate another, make sure it fits into your time schedule. Nix the guilt if you didn’t do what someone wanted. Nix the fear of offending others. You have a right to pick and choose how you will spend your time.
  2. Make more conscious choices. Day-to-day pressures become overwhelming if you believe that you have no choice in what you’re doing. Shy away from a victim, “poor-me” orientation. Instead, view yourself as the one who is in charge of your life. Do this by recognizing that you are the one who decides what’s important, balances your priorities and manages your time. Though you may not be in control of everything, that doesn’t mean that you’re not in control of anything.
  3. Know when and how to say no. Being able to say no (especially when you’re thinking “no”) will reap unexpected benefits. It will set reasonable limits on your time and energy. It will help you build character. It will help you gain respect from others, for those who can’t say “no” are often treated as doormats. There are many ways to say no, including:
    • Bluntly (i.e. “No, I won’t do it”). As a pleaser, you may want to use this type of no sparingly, saving it for those who brush off your initial no.
    • Politely (i.e. “No, but thanks for asking me”).
    • Accommodatingly (i.e. “No, I have no time today, perhaps tomorrow”).

Grant yourself the freedom to use whatever type of no best fits your mood and situation.

In no way am I suggesting that you become a self-centered, egotistical person. Being a generous, giving person is an admirable quality. But accommodating others just to win their approval or prove your worthiness is another matter.

© 2014

Raised to Be a Pleaser


Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach in private practice who specializes in helping people become the best they can be. You can reach her at [email protected] Visit her website at www.PsychWisdom.com. Follow her on FB: facebook.com/Dr.Sapadin/


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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2018). Raised to Be a Pleaser. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/raised-to-be-a-pleaser/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.