People-pleasing behaviors are often exhibited by individuals who fear abandonment from others. Healing from these tendencies is possible.

Most people want to be liked and viewed positively by others. Some people want to be liked so badly that they will sacrifice their wishes and desires to prioritize fulfilling other’s desires. Excessive self-sacrifice can lead to resentment and an unhealthy dependence on other people.

If this sounds like you, you might have people-pleasing tendencies. Individuals with these tendencies tend to have big hearts and give a lot to others to the detriment of themselves, which can be damaging to their mental health.

If you’re a people-pleaser, you may not even notice the harm that these behaviors can cause.

People pleasers are individuals who often disregard their own needs to please others. You may get caught up in giving all of yourself to others.

People-pleasers may have challenges distinguishing their likes, dislikes, and hobbies from others. Knowing their true desires, wishes, and goals may be hard for them. They may also have difficulty saying no, or they say yes to things they don’t want to do.

People-pleasers will often go to great lengths to be liked, avoid disagreements, and mitigate the feeling that they will be abandoned.

People-pleasing behavior can often lead to resentment and relationship burnout, leaving the person experiencing it feeling drained and exhausted. If you exhibit people-pleasing behaviors, you may also be prone to experiencing other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Examples of people-pleasing behavior

People-pleasing behaviors are the actions a person takes that prioritize others over themselves. If you exhibit people-pleasing behavior, you may notice potential behaviors such as:

  • making attempts to avoid abandonment
  • conforming to harmful behaviors
  • disregarding your self-interests for the sake of others
  • experiencing anxiety about perceived abandonment
  • attempting to maintain closeness by self-sacrificing
  • telling others what they want to hear to avoid conflict
  • accepting invitations to do things you may not want to
  • having challenges with advocating for your own needs
  • exhibiting a lack of personal boundaries
  • perceiving that you’re likable only if you continue to meet another’s needs
  • apologizing excessively to others
  • rarely expressing criticism
  • rarely disagreeing with others
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There are various personality traits associated with people-pleasing individuals.

Some common traits associated with people pleasers include:

  • perfectionism
  • agreeableness
  • conflict-avoidant
  • self-sacrificing
  • having porous boundaries
  • dependent
  • low self-esteem
  • anxious
  • helpful
  • friendly

While some of these traits may be perceived positively, some are exhibited to an excessive level that can be harmful.

The causes of exhibiting people-pleasing behaviors can vary from person to person. Common factors include:

Trauma response

People-pleasing can often be a response to trauma or other life experiences. You may have heard of fight, flight, or freeze, but some people exhibit fawning in response to complex trauma. Fawning is people-pleasing to settle conflicts and maintain the approval of others in relationships.

Research from 2023 suggests that fawning is a trauma response and occurs frequently in individuals who’ve experienced childhood sexual abuse. Appeasing their abuser may help calm down the situation and help the person establish a false sense of safety.

Emotional dependence

People-pleasing can also be linked to emotional dependency. Emotional dependency occurs when a person has unmet psychological needs that they may try to satisfy within close interpersonal relationships.

2019 research indicates that those with emotional dependency may fear and avoid being alone, engage in people-pleasing behaviors, and seek exclusivity in romantic relationships. The authors suggest that people who are emotionally dependent long for another’s presence.

This longing may lead an individual with emotional dependence to abandon their wishes to fulfill their partner’s desires. If this sounds like you, it may feel like you have an emotional void.

Reducing people-pleasing behaviors takes time and effort. Since people-pleasing often can begin in childhood as a reaction to people who aren’t emotionally safe, you may consider working with a mental health professional to reduce people-pleasing behaviors.

Mental health professionals such as therapists can help you work to overcome people-pleasing tendencies. In addition, they can support you in forming healthy and secure attachments with others. You may also learn to work on setting boundaries with others and advocating for your needs.

Some other tips for reducing people-pleasing behaviors include:

  • reflect on your desires, wants, and needs rather than focus on what others want
  • learn to set limits with others about what you will and won’t tolerate
  • say “yes” to things that you want to do
  • decline invitations to engage in harmful behaviors
  • speak up when something is bothering you
  • find hobbies you enjoy

These tips may help you gain independence and confidence in yourself. You can learn how to express your wants and needs in a healthy way.

People-pleasing is a pattern of behaviors you may engage in to get others to like you and avoid rejection, criticism, or embarrassment. It’s linked to traits such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. You can find support if you have difficulty breaking the habit of people-pleasing behaviors.

PsychCentral’s How to Find Help Resource can help you locate a mental health professional near you. If you’re looking for additional support, you may want to try to locate a support group for people-pleasers in your community or online.

Learning to set healthy boundaries and identify and express your needs is part of healing from people-pleasing tendencies.