What is a people pleaser? It is a person who sacrifices their own desires, thoughts, wants, needs, opinions, etc., for the approval of other people. Individuals who want to please often have a poor set of personal boundaries and sense of self. They tend to look to others to define them and for their self-worth. Ultimately, they self-abnegate and abandon themselves.

Traits of people pleasers:

  • Never say No
  • Can be passive aggressive
  • Internalize anger
  • Often takes the blame
  • Works hard
  • Are easily satisfied
  • Carry a lot of stress
  • Struggle with being authentic
  • Quick to agree with others
  • Accommodating
  • Loyal
  • Team players
  • Are often overweight
  • Can be over-responsible in relationships.
  • Hate conflicts

People pleasers often lack assertiveness, possess a dormant fight response (in the fight-flight system), and are susceptible to being exploited, abused, and neglected. They tend to manage their personal relationships by listening and eliciting from the other person, rather than expressing themselves confidently. They operate on a certain set of guidelines:

  1. Prefer listening to talking about the self.
  2. Will often agree rather than argue.
  3. Do not ask for help.
  4. Will provide care to others.
  5. Allow the other person to make the decisions rather than offering personal preferences.


Why would someone become a people pleaser? Most likely it is the result of upbringing. Usually, when someone is a people pleaser, it is because they grew up with a parent that was hard to please. The child determined that he could gain favor if he learned how to satisfy the difficult parent. Usually, the child would receive inconsistent reinforcement, which helped continue his pattern of external validation.

People pleasers often do not know who they are or what they want from life because they are too busy assessing other peoples behaviors. They tend to find their personal value in the value others place on them.

This happens because of early childhood conditioning; often, very early in life. Imagine the toddler who was taught at an early age that “talking back” was to be extinguished. The unintended consequences often are the extinction of that child’s voice, preferences, self-expressions. This child has forfeited his needs for those of the parents, in the hope that without having preferences and opinions, they might gain the parents’ approval.

Tips for overcoming people pleasing:

  • Learn to say no to the things you need to. Its all right to say no if what is asked of you doesnt fit your priorities, timing, etc.
  • Suspend your imagination. That is, dont think of the worst possible outcome of a situation, rather, dont assume anything. This will help you take risks.
  • Learn to value your own opinion over those of others.
  • Accept who you are.
  • Dont apologize for everything. If it is your fault, promptly admit it, but you are not responsible for the other persons reaction, response, or feelings.
  • Dont be afraid to stick up for your values. Dont let other people belittle you.
  • Dont be afraid to admit your feelings. Tell the other person how you feel.
  • Give up perfectionism. It’s okay to make mistakes, be silly, step outside the lines. Allow yourself to complain sometimes, be irrational, inconsistent, and playful.
  • Set personal boundaries. Dont morph yourself into the other person. Establish firmly where you end and the other person begins. It helps to ask yourself, Whose side of the street am I on right now? Remind yourself to stay in your own lane.
  • Give yourself permission to change and grow.

Overcoming people-pleasing is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. It is a type of self-honoring and self-care. Once you realize you have lost yourself in a lopsided relationship and that you are becoming frustrated with yourself, then learning to change yourself will make a huge difference in your life. When you learn to look within, rather than without for your sense of self, you will know you are truly on your way to recovery.

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Raypole, C. (Dec. 5, 2019).How to Stop People-Pleasing (and Still Be Nice). Healthline.com. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/people-pleaser

Pagoto, S. (Oct. 26, 2012).Are You A People Pleaser? How the inability to say “no” can lead to health consequences. Published by Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/ blog/shrink/201210/are-you-people-pleaser

Seltzer, L. F. (July 25, 2008). From Parent Pleasing to People Pleasing, (Part 2 of 3). Published by Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/200807/parent-pleasing-people-pleasing-part-2-3

Walker, P. (2013). Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. An Azure Coyote Book.