People-pleasing involves more than just being courteous. It encompasses a range of emotions and behaviors, including feelings of displacement, emotional suppression, and the quest for approval.
Growing up in households marked by neglect can lead to the development of deep-seated trauma and a fear of abandonment. In response to this fear of abandonment, individuals often resort to people-pleasing as a defense mechanism. This pattern is especially prevalent in those who have experienced childhood trauma linked to abandonment. They constantly strive to meet the expectations of others and seek external validation, frequently relegating their own needs to the background.
Therapist Klara Kernig aptly expresses the hidden costs of this behavior, saying, “Many of us feel the need to please others. Pleasing others gives us a sense of approval and a sense of belonging, and who doesn’t want to feel that way? However, we often don’t see the costs of people-pleasing, which are much higher than you might think. People-pleasing may seem like innocent behavior, but over time, it becomes self-destructive, leaving us feeling drained, anxious, and disconnected from our true selves.”
Here are some key elements that characterize people-pleasing
- Motivation: People-pleasers are driven by a strong desire for acceptance and validation from others. They often prioritize the needs and desires of others ahead of their own.
- Lack of Boundaries: A hallmark of people-pleasers is their difficulty in establishing personal boundaries. Fearing that setting boundaries might offend or alienate others, they frequently find themselves unable to say no.
- Emotion Suppression: People-pleasers tend to neglect their own emotional well-being and avoid confronting difficult feelings, resulting in the suppression of their own emotions.
- Anxiety and Stress: The constant need for external validation and the stress associated with vigilant people-pleasing can lead to heightened levels of anxiety.
- Feeling Lost: When external validation is lacking, people-pleasers often experience a profound sense of being adrift and purposeless. They grapple with uncertainty and a loss of trust in their own capabilities.